Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Plot Thickens

Stadium Shenanigans

Who said that the Nats offseason had to be dull? The past two days have brought a flurry of developments in the struggle to build the Nats a new stadium. The first announcement was that Wall Street would not give DC a bond rating due to "technical" problems with the stadium lease. This means that the lease goes back to the D.C. Council for amendments. Some council members, including Vincent Orange, mentioned the possibility of re-opening the entire lease agreement for revision, including a potential motion to build the stadium at the RFK site. The paranoid elements of the Natosphere went nuts, predicting doom and gloom as usual.

On Saturday, Linda Cropp announced that she would support the Waterfront stadium site despite her earlier reservations: "Heaven knows, I did want it at RFK. But now the council has voted for the other site, and that is where we are moving forward." As council chair, it appears that Cropp has the power to limit amendments on stadium lease legislation to "technical" amendments only, or "three tax-related issues, which city financial officials have described as mistakes in wording that do not alter the council's intent to finance the stadium." This move would neatly bypass Orange and others who might want to open Pandora's Box on the issue. The Washington Post reports that the council will vote on these issues "over the next two months."

I've written extensively in this space about not giving in to paranoia and panic over every snippet of news that comes out about the stadium. What we've seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. The politicians on the council are going to be playing musical chairs on this issue up to the last minute as they all struggle to gain favor with key constituencies. Their actions are going to be guided exclusively on which way they feel the political winds are blowing that week. Isn't it interesting that Cropp, who almost prevented the Nats from coming here at all, is now prepared to use parlimentary procedure to keep the team in Anacostia. It's simple: now that Tony Williams has announced his intention not to run, Cropp no longer needs to play the role of spoiler to make a name for herself. Just wait until sometime in December when Cropp delivers the stadium lease in Anacostia and paints herself as not only the savior of DC baseball but the Woman Who Saved Southeast. Think that might win some votes? Does a bear crap in the woods?

The stadium issue will undoubtedly be a huge factor in the 2006 D.C. elections. But think about it, does any of the candidates actually think that he/she can win by deep-sixing the Nationals? Never in a million years.

Bowden's Pizza Heating Up?

The Nationals' official website reports that the team has given the Arizona Diamondbacks permission to talk to Jim Bowden about their GM vacancy. Uh, now when you say "the team" has given them permission, that almost certainly means Tony Tavares. Why, just this week Tony was encouraging Bowden and Frank to pursue other opportunities if they came along...interesting. Tavares supplied a ringing endorsement of Bowden in the interview but the events of this week may have prompted him to take an "every man for himself" approach to front office personnel for next year. In any case, if Bowden gets an offer from Arizona, he'd be nuts not to take it.

Y'know, this could mushroom into a larger issue for the Nats. Almost everyone but me seems to hate Bowden, but there's this universal assumption that we could just get some other, effective GM. But think about it, if you were a "free agent" general manager, why would you come to the Nats? Let's say you are out looking for a job and there's an opening at this company you like. But wait, your co-workers are all temps and your boss has a contract that is set to expire in two weeks. Do you take that job? Hell no!

Everyone is quick to want to show Bowden the door, but be careful what you wish for. Do you really think that Brian Cashman is going to come down here and work for this boondoggle? If Bowden leaves, then who do we get? Who's on Cold Pizza these days?