February 11, 2006
Major League Baseball officials have taken a look at the revised stadium lease terms with Mrs. Cropp's "cost cap," and they don't like what they see. Right off the bat, no one knows how this provision would actually work, or if it could be enforced. Another problem is that any unspent surplus money must go to the "Community Benefit Fund" rather than the underground parking facility that is urgently needed to accommodate suburban patrons. Even though the South Capitol Street stadium site is two miles closer to Northern Virginia than is RFK Stadium, that advantage would be nullified if there is no place to park. See Washington Post. So what will happen? Some MLB officials, especially Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, apparently want to exercise the arbitration clause, at least as a threat. I assume they'll huff and puff and snort and pout, but in the end will agree to the terms pretty much as they are. Thanks to the $200 million surge in the value of the franchise resulting from the big success of the Nationals' first season, MLB is making out like a bandit the way it is. In Friday's Post, Thomas Boswell wryly observes how clueless MLB officials are about the political and social realities of Washington. I was struck by this quote from Bud Selig:
This team [in Washington] has been a godsend for baseball... Nobody wants to be in Washington more than I do. It's good for my sport.
Well, blow me down! Mr. World Champion Foot Dragger, D.C.-skeptic himself has finally seen the light! Or perhaps he has seen the Nationals' fat bottom line. Anyway, it's nice to have a "convert" on board. Welcome to Washington, Bud!
In Thursday's Washington Post, Dave Sheinin reminds us of one of the ill effects of the interminable delays in reaching a final agreement on stadium funding and leasing: Not having an owner -- because the franchise sale was contingent upon a signed, finalized lease for a new stadium -- the Nats remain severely handicapped, unable to put together a team worthy of the city's economic clout. Tony Tavares, the team's interim president, has no guidepost and very little decision-making leeway. The same applies to General Manager Jim Bowden, though you wouldn't know it by the way he acts sometimes. Just wait 'til next year!?
An arbitrator ruled against malcontent Alfonso Soriano, who will "only" get $10 million this year, rather than the $12 million he demanded; it's still a huge raise. Meanwhile, the Nationals have offered Sammy Sosa a provisional contract, giving him a chance to make the team if -- if -- he does well enough in spring training. David Pinto wonders whether Sosa's arrival may provide an opportunity to trade away Soriano, maybe even to the Chicago Cubs! A week after acquiring shortstop Royce Clayton, the Nationals sold Jamey Carroll, a reliable utility infielder and pinch hitter, to the Colorado Rockies for $300,000. Too bad, he added real depth and provided a lot of team spirit.
Mike Zurawski sends more news about the ongoing renovations to Fenway Park's small upper deck, which will get somewhat bigger, raising total capacity to 38,805, compared to 36,298 last year. Another thousand or seats will be added over the next few years. See MLB.com. On the down side, however, there are fears that high-rise construction in the neighborhood will cause wind currents to become more turbulent, which may make home runs harder to come by. To me that sounds like more superstition; I thought 2004 put to rest all those jinx anxieties in Beantown. See Boston Globe.