- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 4, 2004

Nearly 10 years ago, Peter Angelos was the lone wolf among fellow baseball owners, the single dissenting vote on using replacement players. Yesterday he was howling alone at the moon again, as baseball owners voted 29-1 to approve the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington.

Cadillac Bud Selig did not get the unanimous vote he so loves, but the commissioner got what he wanted. And it was closer to his unanimity goal than it would have been six weeks ago, when there were a handful of owners who felt their interests were Angelos’ interests as well — not enough to stop the move but messy enough to make Cadillac Bud unhappy.

That unpleasantness faded as negotiations with Angelos over a compensation package took place, which may in part explain why baseball has been so generous in its offer to Angelos for accepting the Expos’ move to Washington. It took away the sting — and the fear — for owners like George Steinbrenner in New York and Peter Magowan in San Francisco as they await a similar fate in their perceived territories.

After all, how could baseball make offers to nearly a half-dozen franchises that would give them a guaranteed minimum annual revenue, a lucrative guaranteed resale value and the lion’s share of a regional sports network?

Most owners would gladly take the presence of a competing franchise within striking distance of their own if the whole notion of competition was taken out of the equation. The Milwaukee Brewers would let the Expos play in Miller Park if the rest of the owners were willing to offer the same deal Angelos has been offered. (And after paying $220million for the Brewers, the new owners are going to need a guaranteed revenue deal to run that club.) Heck, Cadillac Bud is probably wondering why he didn’t think of this before.

It is a variation of the Corleone family school of negotiating — make them an offer they can’t refuse. But in this case, it is making an offer they couldn’t possibly do again, and again, in other markets.

What Cadillac Bud has done is set a precedent all right — a precedent that would appear to end right here in Washington. He has created the impression that there won’t be franchises relocating to New Jersey or San Jose anytime soon. If the Baltimore deal, as proposed, is viewed as a precedent, can you imagine the figures for guaranteed income and resale values for the Yankees and the Mets if a club moved to northern New Jersey, as has been discussed among fellow owners? If the Orioles are worth a guaranteed resale value of $360million, what would the resale guarantee be for the Yankees?

That’s an offer Cadillac Bud could not make, but he would be hard-pressed to try to move a team into another franchise’s backyard without making the same offer. After all, a precedent is being set. (Though it is not inconceivable that if there was enough sentiment to slow the Yankees — the driving force among owners for a northern New Jersey relocation — they could simply decide Baltimore was apples and New York is oranges and ignore their own precedent.)

Angelos’ lieutenant, Russell Smouse, general legal counsel for the Orioles, issued a relatively mild statement after the vote: “The Orioles’ view of the Expos relocation to the District of Columbia and the Orioles’ concerns over the dramatic adverse impact of that relocation on our team, the state of Maryland and the city of Baltimore have been acknowledged by Commissioner Bud Selig, President [Robert] DuPuy and other officials of Major League Baseball.

“Major League Baseball said they would devise a plan to address our issues and those of the Maryland Stadium Authority. The Orioles and the Stadium Authority have relied on those representations. Notwithstanding those assurances by Major League Baseball, we remain without a resolution. Nevertheless our discussions with Major League Baseball are ongoing.”

The Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority aren’t the only ones who have relied on those representations. So have a handful of Angelos’ fellow owners, who have taken solace in the idea that they won’t be qualifying for such a welfare deal anytime soon.

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