Strike Two (Maybe Three) on DC Baseball

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Remember that fiscally responsible (if still too small) requirement passed by the Washington, D.C. city council requiring 50 percent private funding for a new baseball stadium in the nation's capital (which as Jacob Sullum pointed out here a few days ago, would amount to only a third of actual costs)?

The Washington Times reports on the reaction from Major League Baseball's millionaire welfare whores:

"It's like a heart attack around here," said one baseball executive at MLB's New York headquarters. "This is definitely serious. If the District thinks we don't have other options or we're engaged in a game of chicken, they're sorely mistaken."

As much as I'd like to see baseball return to D.C. proper–what baseball fan doesn't nurse a certain faux-nostalgia for the legendarily awful Senators?–I do hope the city council sticks to its guns on this one and really refuses to completely roll over for a new team.

Whole Times story here.

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  1. Agreed. I love how MLB is playing the “victim” here, being held up by those greedy ciny councilmen of swimming-in-wealth Washington D.C.

  2. Make that “city”. And 99% of the time I root for private enterprise over government, but this time just is different.

  3. John-David,

    I think that usual ‘private enterprise vs. government’ dynamic doesn’t usually apply here. Usually it’s the government trying to stop private enterprise from doing something, or doing something in competition. This time it’s private enterprise trying to extort government. Not a good way to get support.

  4. It stopped being “private enterprise” when public assistance became a prerequisite of any organization making a move or upgrading their facilities.

  5. Back in the day in Reno, there was a football comercial that went. “Baseball is a boring game, only good for communists” (I think a reference to Fidel Castro’s baseball ability). I thought that was pretty funny.

  6. Thanks, Highway and Junyo. That’s exactly how I was seeing it, I just have trouble expressing myself this early in the morning.

  7. – Love baseball
    – Hate DC taxes
    – Think sports teams should build their own damn stadium
    – Don’t like the deal Williams made with MLB
    – Won’t shed a tear when (and it is when, not if) the deal goes south

    Having said that, if you think that Cropp is holding up passage of the deal because of some civic minded, let’s-save-the-district-some-money fiscal integrity, then there’s a big ass pointy thing on the Mall I’d like to sell you. Cropp’s just playing old fashioned, what can I do to further my career, politics. And you can bet that a Mayor Cropp would do a hell of a lot more economic damage to DC than this white elephant of a project. A pox on all of their houses.

  8. Having said that, if you think that Cropp is holding up passage of the deal because of some civic minded, let’s-save-the-district-some-money fiscal integrity, then there’s a big ass pointy thing on the Mall I’d like to sell you.

    You know what we call it when a politician does the right thing for the wrong reasons? A nice change of pace.

    Now if only there were a libertarian blogger who was all over this issue like spit on a greaseball. Where would one find such a thing?

  9. This is a simple power play by Cropp. She wants to be The Most Important Person in Local D.C. Politics. D.C. came up with a plan to lure the team into the District. Cropp wanted some concessions from MLB and got them. Now after MLB gave said concessions, she switches her position and wants more for less.

    Classic bait-and-switch technique.

    I hate the idea of thousandaires paying for something that’ll help billionaires pay millionaires.

    But that said, the whole deal to get MLB to settle on D.C. in the first place was founded on the presumption that the Nationals would get a stadium funded by the public. If the public was unwilling to fully pay for a stadium, MLB should have been aware of this so they could have weighed this in with the other criteria during the city selection process.

  10. >Won’t shed a tear when (and it is when, not if) the deal goes south

    It’s decidedly unusual, but I believe the right metaphorical direction in this case may be “north”, towards Montreal.

  11. I’m really torn over this one, as I’ve tried to express on my blog. In general, I think stadium boondoggles are a horrible idea. I thought so when Ohioans started paying a “sin tax” to pay for Jacobs Field and Gund Arena. I still think so now. But Linda Cropp has had five years to stand up and say she thought the stadium was a bad idea and the government shouldn’t have to pay for a stadium for multimillionaires to play a game in, making money for other multimillionaires, watched by people other than those who paid for the stadium through taxes. She didn’t do it. Had she done it, one of the other cities angling for the team could have stepped up. Had she done it, maybe they could even have found a source of private funds. She didn’t do it, though. She waited until the absolute last moment, knowing full well the deal the Mayor struck with baseball, and imposed conditions that have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being met, in order to set herself up as the Baseball Killer in the next mayoral election. And she further added to DC’s legacy as a place that makes promises it has no intention of keeping. There are probably anti-statist, fiscally responsible heroes somewhere in this whole mess, but Linda Cropp ain’t it. She just isn’t. Had she the political courage of a sea slug, she would have voted against the stadium deal, killing it outright, rather than killing it through impossible-to-meet conditions that make MLB out to be the bad guy here. DC and MLB had an agreement. It was a lousy one for DC taxpayers, but it was an agreement nonetheless. MLB has every right to call foul under the circumstances even if the end result is a good one.

  12. Someone please comment on the manhattan west side stadium proposal, which went over like a lead balloon yesterday. That is to say, the Gloomberg cronies rammed it through despite public uproar clamoring for a citizen vote on the issue.

    But like Copp in DC, if you think those opposed to it are fiscally responsible I’ve got a bridge to sell you. They want the money for “schools”, “affordable housing”, etc. Mau-mauing the flack catchers, my friend.

    Also interesting is the public choice aspects of Cablevision running ads against the deal (they own Madison Square Garden), and the questionable financing of the entire west side redevelopment plan (basically, we’ll recoup the money borrowed for infrastructure investment through higher property tax revenue in the future — a speculative guess at best).

  13. Fred:

    I think I can summarize your post vis a vis Linda Copp and the MLB commish:

    “The Bitch Set Him Up”

    (Shades of Marion Barry.)

  14. Cropp definitely sucker-punched the Mayor, who ran out of the room in a hissy, but the fact remains:

    bad day for baseball, great day for common-sense.

    So the Expos will possibly move to Mexico?! Bwa-ha-ha ha ha ha ha

  15. Dave R:

    Goddamn. The bitch definitely set him up. Goddamn.

  16. Dammit, I should’ve worked in a Marion Barry joke. Barry jokes always kill.

  17. Perhaps Cropp calculated that at this moment MLB would be past the point of walking away?

  18. MLB got sucker punched. Bwah haw haw, that’s what you get for climbing in bed with a bunch of politicians. My hope is the DC starts a new trend and all across America cities, start double-crossing MLB.

  19. [comma belongs after ‘trend’ vice ‘cities’]

    And that goes for the NFL too!

  20. They should move the team to San Juan. Construction costs are lower there, there’s a bunch of land available around the new train stations, and it would guarantee sell outs for road games in any city with a significant Puerto Rican population.

  21. Colby,

    The deal COULD go south… to Northern Virginia. 🙂

    And I agree you can’t attribute any anti-statist motives to anyone on the DC City Council. Every statement about the money has included the phrase ‘there are other things that need that money more’.

  22. Actually Colby, I’d lay good odds that they’ll head about 25 miles West to No. Va. That way the team can still be called the Washington Nationals, they can still play in RFK for a few years. Less fuss, less muss (assuming NoVa will vote to pick up the tab).

  23. Does anyone see this as bargaining chips for the next city on the list? (Las Vegas?) Maybe Vegas won’t be as willing to drop to their knees as was DC (originally)?

    “DC didn’t want to pay for your stadium, why should we? The best we can do is road construction. Now tell us what you can do for us.” – Vegas councilman to MLB.

    Sigh. I can only dream.

  24. I wouldn’t give a penny to subsidize private profit even if professional baseball wasn’t a dumb as shit borefest.

  25. Well, MLB can contract after 2006 (according to its contract with the player’s union); and that might be what they do with the Expos (which MLB owns), simply disband the franchise.

  26. I wouldn’t give a penny to subsidize private profit even if professional baseball wasn’t a dumb as shit borefest.

  27. Baseball is screwed. They can’t go back to Montreal and there is no other city ready to take Expos so its Washington or nothing. This whole thing is about getting the city to build the stadium so MLB can sell the team at a bigger profit to the new owners. Its about stealing the taxpayer’s money plain and simple. I love it the District welched on its commitment. MLB has been extorting money from cities all over America. Now finally a city has them by the balls. I hope the District drops the plan even further and really takes it to baseball.

  28. not to rudely interrupt this anti-subsidy snogfest but i believe the good ship lollycropp is showing signs of turning. you have to read between the lines pretty good but the subtext is, “wait. perhaps i am an idiot. give me a month to find out or at least cover my substantial ass from receipt of huge national ridicule.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7175-2004Dec17.html?nav=hcmodule

  29. Now finally a city has them by the balls. I hope the District drops the plan even further and really takes it to baseball.

    Amen! I love it!

  30. Now finally a city has them by the balls. I hope the District drops the plan even further and really takes it to baseball.

    How does the city have MLB by the balls? If it falls though they can go back to Montreal (who will grumble, but will take the $$$CN in stadium rent for the next two years) and either restart the search or contract the team in two years. Or, they can go with NoVA and the only thing that’s different is where the team plays its home games in 3 years. As much as I’d like to see the MLB owners in a bind, they’re in the position of power in this case.

  31. If the Nationals come to Northern Virginia, MLB would still have to work out an agreement with DC to play at RFK stadium. Not sure that is feasible given how well they get along now.

    The Virginia stadium funding plan expires on December 31, and I don’t think the state governmnet, which allegedly just got around to balancing the books, is going to try and come up with another deal for a stadium.

  32. I hope my city’s not an option…

  33. Sad to see such a fundamental misunderstanding of the DC Stadium deal being expressed here. The business community on DC is solidly behind the deal — and it’s only businesses doing $5 million or more that will pay the very light new tax to help pay for the ballpark. The rest of the money will be generated by rent payments by the Naitonals for use of the park and surcharges on tickets and concessions. These revenues will only exist IF the team plays in DC; it’s not like they’re proposing to divert money from existing programs or the General Fund to do this. Cropp is grandstanding in the worst possible way. Let’s hope she pays dearly for her power play.

  34. “The business community on DC is solidly behind the deal –….”

    Of course. “The business community” is almost universally in favor of corporate welfare.

    “….and it’s only businesses doing $5 million or more that will pay the very light new tax to help pay for the ballpark.”

    Until there’s a shortfall in the tax. Then guess who’s on the hook.

    Whether “Cropp is grandstanding” or not, these deals always stink.

  35. I don’t know exactly know what to make of DC baseball history.

    Original Nationals/Senators move to Minneapolis after losing local support and become the Twins who forty years later are on the list to be “contracted” along with the Montreal Expos who are now in line to be the new Nationals.

    Then new expansion Senators move to Texas after losing local support and become the Rangers who are soon in financial trouble until a politically connected syndicate make a deal for a bailout.

    I’m overwhelmed by the cautionary tales here.

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