April 3, 2005
Today I hit the road to see the Washington Nationals play at Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park, at 3:00 Monday, joining Phil Faranda, one of the earliest and most regular visitors to this Web site. Along the way I'll pass by RFK Stadium, where the Nats are at this very moment playing their first game in their "new" home. It's just an exhibition game, serving as a charity fund raiser and practice for the ground crew, concessionaires, etc.
The big remaining mystery for the history books is, Who will be the first-ever batter for the Nationals? Endy Chavez was sent back to the minors, so it will probably be either Nick Johnson (first baseman and former Yankee who resembles Babe Ruth) or Brad Wilkerson (versatile fielder and slugger, whom I just saw on a brand new television ad for Chevy Chase Bank). See mlb.com. The Nats' lineup is still up in the air, while their batting performance in spring training has lagged behind their pitching, to everyone's surprise. So how will they do this year? I have no idea, but at the very least I expect the team to show a lot of spunk, trying hard to please their new fans on the Potomac. Like most baseball analysts, David Pinto figures that the Nats will finish their inaugural season in last place in the NL East, but he doesn't rule out a third place finish. Me neither!
"After further review," it now appears that Peter Angelos got himself one heck of a sweetheart deal. The Nats will get a mere ten percent of the new "Mid-Atlantic" broadcast joint venture's profits in the first year, gradually climbing to a peak of 33 percent after twenty years! Thomas Boswell tried to put an upbeat spin on this outcome. He is right to say that teams that get used to plush comforts and safety cushions tend to get lazy and lose, and that Washington's wealth, population, and vitality will more than make up for the handicap, but to me it's like the Nationals are being forced to play with one arm tied behind their back for the indefinite future. I guess this lousy bargain goes to show how ineffective large groups (in this case, the other 28 MLB owners) are in a negotiation with an individual counterpart who is as determined and crafty as Mr. Angelos is. I can't wait till the O's and Nats play each other next year!