Friday, December 17, 2004

$queeze Play?

I love baseball, and I think the nation's capital should have a Major League Baseball team. The image of a summer night game in a ballpark with the capital building or Washington Monument in the backdrop holds a lot of romance for me. So when MLB reached an agreement to move the Montreal Expos to D.C., I got excited. Bring on the Washington Nationals. This was going to be a very cool thing.

Emphasis on "was," at least right now. Baseball might not be coming to D.C., after all. At the last minute of negotiations, D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp introduced legislation that called for half of the $530 million (!!!) stadium project to be privately funded. And that is a deal-breaker, as far as MLB is concerned. Pissed off by the last minute bait-and-switch, MLB has shut down operations in D.C., cancelled promotions, and offered refunds to new season-ticket holders.

I'm guessing D.C. sports fans, excited about getting baseball for the first time in 30+ years, are mad about this. But the citizens and taxpayers of D.C. that would've had to foot the bill for both the renovations to the Nationals' temporary home, RFK Stadium, and the new, yet-to-be-built ballpark? They might be relieved and eventually grateful to Cropp. The madness of sports teams owned by billionaires demanding money from cities for stadiums has to end somewhere.

Stadiums can be built on private money; SBC Park in San Francisco - home of steroid poster boy Barry Bonds - was funded entirely with private resources. Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is footing the bill for a substantial amount of Comerica Park's price tag (though his debt on his share of the ballpark might eventually lead him to sell the team). Right now, Cropp looks like the bad guy (, but I think she should be applauded for standing up for her city.

The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon agrees with me - at least in spirit. His colleague, Thomas Boswell? Not so much.

And here I was, hoping to apply for a job with the Nationals after graduation. Oh well.