(great news for all retailers sitting on Senators overstock. Hello, Kaplan’s of Market Street!)
1: This is not a good team.
The Expos finished 67-95 in 2004, and that’s exactly how good they are. Yes, they were quite respectable in 2002 and 2003, finishing at 83-79 both years. But those teams benefited from the presence of both Vladimir Guerrero and Javier Vazquez. Now they’re essentially down to Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro. What’s more, new (and perhaps temporary) general manager Jim Bowden seems determined to waste money on upgrades that aren’t … well, upgrades. Vinny Castilla for two years (his road stats last season were awful)? Trading Juan Rivera for Jose Guillen? (Guillen’s the better hitter, but he’s also three years older and five times more expensive.) Signing Cristian Guzman for four years and nearly $17 million? (The Expos already had a shortstop who batted .338 in the Pacific Coast League last summer.)
2: If you steal it, will they come?
The District of Columbia’s citizens are, by a significant majority, dead-set against financing a new ballpark, which will wind up costing more than $600 million. The mayor and the city council are about to force through their ballpark plan, against the express wishes of the voters who turned out of office most of the council members who favor spending taxpayer money on a playground for millionaires. (As one resident complained, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. We need schools, jobs, and homes. We don’t need a baseball stadium.”)
Unfortunately, the very fact that those council members have been bounced from office practically ensures eventually passage of the stadium proposal; they’ve already been kicked out of office, so what do they have to lose? The stadium vote is scheduled for next week, and it’s likely that something finally will be passed. But the way it happened will result in a great deal of bad feelings among the citizenry, and it’ll take a winning team and a brilliantly diplomatic owner to smooth over all those bad feelings. Which brings us to …
3, 4, and 5: M, L, and B.
What, you don’t think the Lords of Baseball will figure out a way to screw this up? MLB hasn’t done the best of work when it comes to new ownership. They awarded the Tampa Bay franchise to somebody who argues that Tropicana Field is the greatest ballpark in the world. They awarded the Phoenix franchise to somebody who essentially drove the team into bankruptcy (or would have, if so many rich people weren’t so obsessed with getting their names into the newspapers). They awarded the Miami franchise to a somebody who won a World Series, then betrayed the fans while continuing to make a tidy profit for himself.
Yes, it’s true that two of the last four expansion teams have combined to win three World Series. It’s amazing, the difference a little luck can make. But one of those teams (Arizona) lost 111 games last season, another (Colorado) lost 94, and another (Tampa Bay) lost 91. Only the Florida Marlins managed a winning record, going 83-79 just one year removed from their second World Championship.
Remember, this isn’t simply the free market at work. A great number of people want to own baseball teams, which means the Lords essentially have their choice of billionaires looking for a hobby … and they choose Wayne Huizenga and Vince Naimoli?