MLB pulls a fast one on District of Columbia

Washington, D.C., is a city of extremes. Dwarfed by the Federal Government and monuments honoring this country’s founders, it’s easy for the millions of tourists that pass through the city to ignore the deep-seated social problems.

The District is one of the most racially segregated urban areas in the nation. It contains some of the fanciest neighborhoods, home to the wealthiest, most powerful men in America, just a short walk away from the most neglected slums in the country. While some of the most prestigious private schools in the nation call D.C. home, the public education system in the Nation’s Capital is routinely underfunded, and the public library system is in shambles.

Enter Major League Baseball. After the 2004 season, Major League Baseball decided to move the struggling Montreal Expos out of Canada and back to the United States. One of the cities vying for the honor of its own Major League Baseball team was the District of Columbia. The District, which last played host to a Major League game in 1971, was chomping at the bit for a baseball team. Little did the residents realize what landing the team would mean.

In their relocation efforts, Major League Baseball, the once and current owners of the Washington Nationals née Montreal Expos, clearly had the upper hand. With four areas competing for a team, the big wigs in charge of relocation could demand certain terms from the city that ultimately won the team. If the city failed to make good on the deal, well, three other areas are still interested in landing their very own Major League Baseball team.

For Major League Baseball, one of the key terms of the deal was a publicly-funded stadium. Never mind that Major League Baseball would be awash in cash from the sale of Washington Nationals. Remember, MLB bought the Expos for $120 million and could sell the Nationals for upwards of $450 million. Never mind that a potential buyer may be willing to split the costs of the stadium.

No, for those running the show at Major League Baseball, the relocation of the Nationals presented these executives with an opportunity to flex their political muscles by demanding that the city to which they graciously award a team foots the bill for the new stadium this team requires. When MLB picked Washington, D.C., MLB executives were put to the test. Could they manipulate the City Council under the shadow of the federal government into paying for a pricey stadium that most economists agree would not return tangible economic benefits to the city?

Boy, were those executives ever up to the task. Originally, Major League Baseball negotiated the agreement with Mayor Anthony Williams. Mayor Williams agreed to the ridiculous condition that the District of Columbia would pick up the entire cost for building a stadium priced at $535 million along with nearly $20 million in renovations to the Metro stop that would service this new stadium. Major League Baseball, the organization that stands to net over $300 million when they finally sell the Nationals, would contribute zero, zilch, nada to this plan.

Well, surprise, surprise, the City Council, um, actually agreed to this deal. Then, a few of the pro-stadium council members were voted out of office, and the stadium negotiations devolved into the soap opera that has played itself out over the last year.

On Sunday, just hours before this stadium case could have gone to arbitration, Major League Baseball signed the latest iteration of the lease. On Monday, the Mayor signed the lease, and on Tuesday, the council, which seems to be receptive to this deal, will vote on the lease. Groundbreaking on the [Insert Corporate Name] Stadium could begin right around Opening Day 2006.

So after all of that political wrangling and back-and-forth between the Council and Major League Baseball, it’s reasonable to assume that maybe the Council worked out a better deal. Maybe Major League Baseball is going to help defray the costs of the stadium construction so that the Council can focus on pooring money into its school system or sagging infrastructure. Right? Right? No, sorry, you’re wrong.

In the latest version of the deal, Major League Baseball is completely and utterly screwing over the District of Columbia. The new lease limits public spending on the project to $611 million. Major League Baseball has offered to throw in a whopping $20 million to aid the project. Meanwhile, MLB was firm on its point that the new owner would not be asked to contribute to the project. Who cares if the new ownership group is willing to help pay? Don’t even think about it, says Major League Baseball.

In another twist, Bob DuPuy, the number two guy in Major League Baseball, asked the council to agree to a provision requiring the city not to enact any legislation that violates the term of the lease. When asked to elaborate, DuPuy could not.

Notably, the lease terms do call for contributions if the project costs more than $611 million. At that point, Major League Baseball or the new Nationals owners or someone else will step in with the money. You can bet that MLB will be putting full pressure on the architects to keep the cost of the stadium under that spending cap. Heaven forbid MLB spend its millions to build its own facilities.

So in the end, Major League Baseball gets its sweet deal. They get their publicly-funded stadium from a city that certainly could use the money for nearly anything else. The owners stand to profit handsomely from the deal, and the jury is still out as to whether or not this new stadium will revitalize an area sorely in need of revitalization.

In my opinion, this saga should have been more of a scandal. While it garnered its fair share of headlines, Major League Baseball was busy dealing with the steroid scandal, and the media glossed over the stadium debate. With this sad chapter in the business of baseball fading into the past, hopefully, Major League Baseball can now get to work on finding an ownership group with pockets deep enough to rebuild the Washington Nationals into a contending baseball team by the time the new stadium opens up in 2008. For $611 million in taxpayer money, the District of Columbia certainly better get a winner and soon.

Advertisements

4 Responses to “MLB pulls a fast one on District of Columbia”


  1. 1 jackynjimy March 7, 2006 at 11:19 am

    Actually, DC spends more per student then any other state or terrirory in the US (12,046 for the 200-01 school year). Spending per student is not a perfect indicator of school performance.

    Also, one of the more pressing social issues of the city currently is the gentrification of the city as the price of real estate skyrockets. Many long term residents of the city, mostly african american, are being forced out of the city and into the surrounded suburbs of Maryland. This is upsetting the political structure of the city.

    I think the baseball owners have done a pretty good job of working through this. They had a signed deal with the city, who then broke that deal after the elections. Aren’t most ballparks taxpayer funded these days. I know the Orioles park was funded through instant lottery ticket revenues, which imo is just a tax on the poor; who most likely can’t afford to go the games.

    My main problem with the owners is that they did not sell the team earlier, and let the new owner deal with the city over the stadium. That has hurt the team’s chances of being competitive this year. Also, giving Angelos the ownership of their broadcast rights makes us mad. The Nats will only be on TV for 32 games this year. That’s absurd.

    We can’t wait for opening day on 4-11. We’ll be there watching our team, which I never thought would happen in my lifetime again.

    Nice blog, we’ll be checking it out during the course of the season.

  2. 2 huskeridiot March 7, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    i like those pictures of barry bonds

  3. 3 Rob McMillin March 23, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    First time reader AND commenter. The Nats are worth $400M? The Angels sold for less than $200M, and they were just off a World Series victory, had a recently renovated stadium, and were in a major market. The Washington Nats are just no way worth $400M.

  4. 4 Benjamin Kabak March 23, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    Rob: I’m with you on disbelief. However, that’s what the DC media keeps reporting. Major League Baseball seems to have bids secured that will guarantee them $400 million for the Nationals. I wonder if this is an East Coast/West Coast issue of an Anaheim/Los Angeles issue.


Comments are currently closed.



RSS River Ave. Blues

  • Two comebacks aren’t enough, Yankees fall 6-5 to Mariners July 23, 2017
    Source: FanGraphs Well that was a rough one. The Yankees showed some Fighting Spirit and rallied to tie Saturday night’s game against the Mariners twice — twice! — but ultimately, the bullpen took yet another loss. The final score was 6-5 in ten innings. The bullpen has been pretty great since the All-Star break, but […] The post Two comebacks aren’t enough, […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 96: Make it Three in a Row July 23, 2017
    The Yankees have won the last two games in convincing fashion, with strong performances from the starting pitching, the bullpen, and the lineup (for the most part, at least). A win tonight would give them their first three-game winning streak since they won six in a row from June 7 through 12, and their first […] The post Game 96: Make it Three in a Row appe […]
    Domenic Lanza
  • Trade Deadline Rumors: Darvish, Gray, First Base, Betances July 22, 2017
    The July 31st non-waiver trade deadline is only nine days away now, and already the Yankees have made their most significant midseason trade in several years. Since … the Bobby Abreu deal? Nothing else comes to mind. Anyway, here are the latest rumors and rumblings. Rangers gauging interest in Darvish According to Jeff Passan, the […] The post Trade Deadline […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Judge’s monster homer leads Yanks to 5-1 win over Mariners July 22, 2017
    Your browser does not support iframes.I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the Yankees have won two straight games and are 5-4 since the All-Star break. Crazy, I know. They might actually win a series this weekend. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. The Yankees took the second game of this four-game set against […] The post Judge’s monster homer leads Yan […]
    Mike Axisa
  • DotF: Robinson hits two homers in Staten Island’s win July 22, 2017
    Here are the day’s notes: Two roster clearing moves, per Matt Kardos: RHP Branden Pinder has been released and RHP Dillon McNamara has been traded to the Giants for … something. Not sure what. Probably cash. Pinder had allowed just one run (unearned) in 11.2 innings back from Tommy John surgery. 3B Miguel Andujar is […] The post DotF: Robinson hits two homer […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Game 95: CC’s Birthday July 22, 2017
    The Yankees opened this four-game series with the Mariners with a nice win last night. Luis Severino outpitched Felix Hernandez and the offense put just enough runs on the board. The Yankees are 4-4 so far on this eleven-game road trip, so they still need two more wins to clinch a winning trip. That would […] The post Game 95: CC’s Birthday appeared first on […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Friday Night Open Thread July 21, 2017
    The Yankees are still out on the West Coast, which means another 10pm ET start tonight. One more of these tomorrow — that’s actually a 9pm ET start, but close enough — and then that’s it. No more West Coast night games this season. After this series the Yankees will play 62 of their final […] The post Friday Night Open Thread appeared first on River Avenue B […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: July 2012 July 21, 2017
    The calendar has turned over to July and it’s time once again to revisit the MLB Trade Rumors archives. Better late than never this month, right? Right. We’re now into July 2012 and, as always, July was chock full of trade rumors. The Yankees went into July 2012 with a 47-30 record and a five-game […] The post Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: July 2012 appeare […]
    Mike Axisa
  • Scouting the Trade Market: Trevor Cahill July 21, 2017
    After Tuesday’s seven-player trade, the Yankees loudly announced they were buyers. The trade solved many of their issues, but they still have a hole in the back of their rotation with Michael Pineda lost for the season after Tommy John surgery. A veteran innings eater who can more reliably provide solid innings than Bryan Mitchell […] The post Scouting the T […]
    Steven Tydings
  • Mailbag: Judge, Mateo, Hamels, Nola, Girardi, Taillon, Betances July 21, 2017
    We’ve got ten questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send us any questions. More than a few were rendered moot by the trade with the White Sox. A few people asked: What could the Yankees get for Judge? Several masochists emailed in asking what sort of […] The post Mailbag: Judge, Mateo, Hamels, Nola, Girardi, Tai […]
    Mike Axisa

Blog Stats

  • 62,492 hits

%d bloggers like this: