Chaos: Cropp throws a spitball
Well, she's done it again! Five weeks ago, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp "threw a curveball" that threatened to derail the process of relocating the Expos to Washington. Then last night,
Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) shocked her colleagues after 11 hours of debate on a stadium package by offering the private financing amendment about 10 p.m., saying she was disappointed by recent talks with Major League Baseball.
(SOURCE: Washington Post) According to MLB officials, this vote "might leave baseball with little choice but to reopen the search for a long-term home for the franchise." (See mlb.com.) This second stunning about-face by Cropp came only one day after she responded favorably to a letter in which baseball officials offered concessions aimed at benefiting the community such as more free tickets for kids and more days of usage by D.C. According to the Washington Post,
Cropp (D) said the letter means she probably will support the legislation today. "I am very positive," she said. "We have things in writing from Major League Baseball."
Is Mrs. Cropp suffering from schizophrenia, or does her inability to maintain a consistent position reflect an affliction of a moral nature? Or was she just misquoted by the Post, perhaps? As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a principled stand against public subsidies, as Adrian Fenty has done. I myself have urged political leaders to resist the tide of "stadium socialism," or corporate welfare, if you wish. (See Nov. 10 and July 10 postings in the Baseball 2004 archives, and March 20 and June 25 in the Baseball 2003 archives.). I think there is little doubt that a new stadium in southeast D.C. would yield vast net benefits to the city, but in the end, it is leaders in D.C. who must make that decision. Given contemporary realities (baseball's legal status as a monopoly), opposing subsidies while pretending to support baseball in Washington is nothing more than two-faced political "grandstanding." Repeatedly playing both sides of the issue in a way that causes doubts about the city's credibility, as Mrs. Cropp has done, is not only amateurish, but highly destructive. I would call such a classless posture "bleachering."
As a result of the vote by the council last night, MLB has postponed the unveiling of the Nationals' uniform that had been scheduled for this afternoon. Likewise, we may expect the sale of the franchise to be suspended indefinitely, making it difficult if not impossible for the team to acquire top-notch talent prior to spring training. Fenty wants to play "chicken" and call MLB's bluff, thinking they have no serious alternative. I doubt MLB officials would want to reopen the agonizing relocation process once again, as they have threatened, but it can't be ruled out. Here is regular visitor T. J. Zmina's take on the fiasco:
It would appear as though too many cooks still spoil the dorm food, as Linda Cropp may have just cost Washington it's franchise. Then again, all may still work itself out. On the other hand (how many hands is that now, five?) the Expos situation has not been resolved, but simply picked up, repainted, and put back down in a different location. It's as if they took a rusted out K car on blocks, spray painted it, duct taped some inner tubes on the rims, and put it on display as a state of the art vehicle. If you want to call the current Nationals situtation state of the art, it must make Rhode Island look like a continent.
There was a photo of Adam Eidinger (the hot-headed stadium opponent who disrupted the unveiling of the Nationals logo last month) in the Post article cited above, along with his young daughter Arundhati. Where did that name come from, you wonder? It almost certainly refers to Arundhati Roy, a young, highly articulate Marxist writer from Kerala, India, who has bitterly denounced the Bush administration over its policies in the war against terrorism. Could such people even fathom what Our National Pastime really means?
MLB has suspended all promotional activities connected to the Nationals team: no tickets, no logo merchandise. That's what we would expect. Nevertheless, Councilman Jack Evans remains confident that a compromise will yet save the day, but Mayor Williams disgustedly warned the whole thing is in jeopardy. Will he and Linda Cropp ever again speak to one another in cordial terms? Another article in Washington Post called attention to "a delicate, chicken-and-the-egg balance that may have reappeared last night. Which should come first? A new owner, who might not provide a new stadium, or a new city, with no committed buyer?" That aptly illustrates the strange, wary "courtship" between D.C. and MLB, which is hard for outsiders to understand. The article also quoted an unnamed MLB official as saying, "I think they just killed baseball in Washington." That could be negotiating rhetoric, however. An online survey included in that article asked, "Does this latest amendment on stadium financing kill the chances of the Expos relocating to Washington?" Of the 4902 responses, 72 percent said "yes." I put "no." Meanwhile, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who just attended baseball's winter meetings, was quick to declare that his city could arrange for a quick relocation if need be. Norfolk, Virginia and Portland, Oregon officials are also busily dusting off their contingency plans. (Further details are found in yahoo.com; thanks to Steven Poppe for the link.)
It's a dirty rotten shame that the ballpark alternative near Dulles Airport is so pathetically lame; if leaders in Arlington or Alexandria were at all amenable right now, Northern Virginia would be in a prime position to snatch the team away. Aware of the clashing interests at stake, I've prepared myself for such last-minute $nag$. Risking death-defying head-on collisions as negotiating deadlines approach is how businessmen, politicians, and even some diplomats advance their careers. (Remember Clinton vs. Gingrich in November 1995?) That is why, in my estimation, the situation is not as bleak as some people think. Generally speaking, rational self-interest prevails over stupidity and short-sightedness. Nevertheless, with the egos and reputations of the key players in this anguishing saga on the line, absolutely anything is possible now. Stay tuned...