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12/25/2004 Archived Entry: "LINDA CROPP MAKES SENSE; SO DOES BASEBALL IN WASHINGTON"
LINDA CROPP MAKES SENSE; SO DOES BASEBALL IN WASHINGTON By John B Holway
I'm for baseball in Washingon, but Linda Cropp, the city council chairman who nixed the deal to put baseball in DC, is right: Baseball needs Washingon more than Washingon needs baseball. If, as baseball wails, it doesn't make economic sense for an owner a buy a stadium, then it doesn't make sense for a city to buy one either.
Except that it does make sense. The owners complain that they are losing money, but the players’ union laughs at that, and the owners still pay millions they say they don't have for shortstops they soon say they don't want.
Investors are drooling to buy a big league team. First, the team will play to sell-out crowds for at least a couple years, if not more, and for several more years after a new Stadium is in place. Second, even if an owner takes a loss, he knows he can flip his team in five or ten years at a whopping profit. But they don't. Why? Because they're making too much money.
Mayor Williams and members of the city council, here’s my plan:
Let’s buy the team ourselves. The city can get financing, so it won't be a big cash outlay. Hire the same management Montreal had for years -- men who developed great players in the minors like Larry Walker and Vladimir Guerrero, or picked up bargains like Pedro Martinez, and sold them before free agency kicked in. On a wins-per-dollar basis, the Expos were the best team in baseball, as Minneapolis and Oakland are now. The Expos would have made millions in Montreal except that French-speaking Quebecois didn't cotton to grown men playing the old French children’s game of poisson.
Owning the Nats ourselves will give the city a good cash flow, and, if we want to, we can sell the whole club, with stadium, whenever we're ready at a very tidy profit.
Here’s the best part of the plan: Sell shares to the public. I think the Cubs and/or Giants have done it. Football’s Greenbay Packers are a publicly owned team.
I used to own the Baltimore Orioles. Back about 1970 I bought five shares at $25 each. It entitled me to go to the stockholders’ meeting every January in Memorial Stadium, eat hot dogs, watch the World Series film, and ask manager Earl Weaver why he made this or that move. The Orioles gave us first pick on World Series tickets until the SEC made them stop. Maybe we can get discount parking or t-shirts that say, “Washingon Nationals Owner.” Anyway, it was great fun.
Baseball itself will be the biggest loser if it takes its chips and rolls the dice in Las Vegas (population: 260,000 or one-tenth the DC metropolitcn area).
The other National League teams lost money every day the Expos stayed in
Montreal and San Juan. Visiting teams made about $2 a ticket on 4,000 to 14,000 tickets a game. That didn't even cover their hotel bills. They'll make less than that in the desert. In DC they'll take home $2 on 50,000 tickets.
They want Washingon so badly they're offering Peter Angelos a dream deal to keep quiet. In fact, the Orioles will be the biggest losers if the DC deal doesn't go through. If I were Angelos, I’d buy Washingon a stadium personally.
Who says no one will buy a team without a free Stadium? Have they asked anyone?
The Washingon Post this morning had a piece on the problems baseball faces in making a schedule for next season. Monterrey, Las Vegas, and Portland are too far away and don’t have very large parks. San Juan doesn't draw enough.
One idea: To play in Baltimore when the O's are away. There are 22 overlapping dates, but the Nats could play in the afternoon and the O's at night --over Angelos' dead body.
They can't contract the Expos unless they contract another team too. Which one? Minnesota? Are you kidding? They ran into enough grief the last time they suggested that. Also their agreement with the union won't permit it, and that doesn't expire until 2006. Or Northern Virginia might jump back in the bidding.
But whatever they do, they have to do fast.
Then my wife, Eileen, came up with the solution. It's like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, where the clue is hidden in plain sight.
RFK Stadium in DC!
MLB is pretending to have such hurt feelings that it never thought of that.
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