- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Baseball is flirting with Washington again.

You know the drill after 29 years.

Baseball flutters its eyes in Washington's direction, and Washington becomes weak in the knees.

Then baseball resolves the crisis that prompted the interest in Washington, and Washington goes back to following the Peter Angelos-led Orioles from afar.

Bud Selig, the former interim commissioner, is making his usual noncommittal noises. He has a problem with the franchises in Montreal and Minnesota, and there are other problems with the game as well, and he is fundamentally opposed to teams relocating, but you never know.

If things become bad enough in Montreal and they already are pretty bad the Expos may be permitted to move to a new location.

The list includes Washington, Northern Virginia, Charlotte, Peoria, Ill., and Los Alamos, N.M.

Baseball sometimes embraces these improbable wild-card cities, if city is the right word, and Washington somehow is supposed to be impressed.

Baseball speaks of Washington's strengths and then allows a 98-pound weakling into the competition.

This week it is Charlotte.

Next week it could be South Hill, Va.

Baseball plays the demographic game with a straight face, although Washington's demographics are about as compelling as they come.

Baseball probably is conducting a feasibility study on Wapocomo, W.Va., this week. They like baseball in Wapocomo, too, and to be fair, Wapocomo could support the Expos as well as Montreal.

As an added bonus in Wapocomo, you wouldn't have to bother with French or the metric system.

They have lots of issues in Quebec, one of which is how to pick up the province and move it to France. Jerry Lewis never played baseball, which possibly explains why baseball receives only a tepid reception in Montreal.

The Expos are down to three or four fans in Montreal. The ownership there and the ownership is another problem would not have to move the team under the cover of darkness. The Expos could move in the middle of the day, and no one would care enough to notice.

Yet Selig is still trying to figure it all out, and before you know it, Bangor, Maine, will be added to the list of potential sites.

Baseball toys with Washington and then wonders how it has lost its special place in America's heart. Washington is symptomatic of the game's wrongheadedness.

Baseball elects not to see Washington because it prefers to be stuck in the past.

Baseball turns weepy in memory of the town drunk, the late Mickey Mantle, and covets abstractions. Baseball has sold its postseason soul to late-night television and to sappy sentimentalists like Ken Burns.

This doesn't get it done with the juiced-up Internet generation, which recoils in horror at the sight of black-and-white film. Joe DiMaggio? He's too long ago to be even recalled as Mr. Coffee.

This is the game that has left the nation's capital hanging for 29 years.

Washington no longer should have to go begging to baseball. It should be the other way around.

Baseball has a franchise in St. Petersburg, Fla., of all places, and a vacancy in the nation's power center and a thing with Charlotte. This is not funny. This is just dumb.

Selig should be in Montreal to help the Expos box things up in time for the opening of the 2001 season. Instead, Selig is allowing Montreal to drip, drip, drip, and he is exhausting Washington in the process.

This is a familiar game.

To baseball, Washington seemingly exists only to get another ballpark built in a distant city.

Toss out Washington's name and they will build it.

Meanwhile, Angelos remains ever protective of his 25 percent fan base from Washington, threatening to make a fuss if baseball tries to consummate this old affair.

Angelos is buddies with Fidel Castro and antagonistic toward Washington, which kind of says it all.

This is where baseball and Washington are, and ultimately, it is baseball's loss.

One of these decades, Selig or his successor is bound to figure it out.

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