- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

There are a lot of reasons why restoring major league baseball to the nation's capital makes sense, but last week's suggestion by Northern Virginia's Congressional delegation is not one of them.
In case you were busy wondering if the Almighty Redskins could improve their record from 1-5 to a dazzling 2-5, the delegation sent a "strongly worded" letter to commissioner Bud Selig urging that a team be located here as a tribute to victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Huh?
If we needed another example why politicians should keep their snoots out of sporting matters, this is it.
The letter from Republican senators George Allen and John Warner, Republican representatives Frank Wolf and Tom Davis and Democratic representative Jim Moran supported the creation of a "new national landmark ballpark" as "a lasting memorial to American freedom and the men and women of our armed forces who gave their lives in its defense on September 11."
I don't know about you, but to me this smacks of the worst kind of political opportunism and I say this as a native Washingtonian to whom baseball's return is an important issue.
Using the tragedies at the Pentagon and World Trade Center as a device to convince Selig and the baseball establishment that we deserve a team? For shame.
This crude bit of posturing demeans both the depth of our national sorrow and the real fact that we deserve to have a team. I wouldn't be surprised if Selig hardly one of my favorite people tossed the letter in his trash can 30 seconds after opening it. And if he didn't, he should have.
Baseball, which does so many things wrong, has reacted correctly to the crisis. It was right to call off all games, along with virtually all other sports events, for the rest of that terrible week. It is right, and inspiring, to be singing "America the Beautiful" or "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. And it has been proper for teams and athletes to be visiting "Ground Zero" at the World Trade Center, as the Arizona Diamondbacks did Monday, and expressing anew their sorrow and indignation.
It also has been proper for us to return to sports as an escape from such concerns as terrorism, anthrax and the stock market's free fall. No one wants, or should have to, deal with misery 24/7. Is it really important whether Marty Schottenheimer survives the season, whether the older Michael Jordan plays like the old Michael Jordan or whether Jaromir Jagr scores 150 goals this season? Of course not, but it's therapeutic to pretend that they do.
But when we say, in effect, that Washington should get a baseball team because 7,000 or so people died on September 11, that's another matter.
It isn't really that important either, I suppose, whether baseball ever returns to Washington unless you consider it idiotic that the nation's capital has no representative in our national pastime. Obviously, after 30 years of deprival, that doesn't matter to the people who are running baseball (into the ground). Nonetheless, it remains a valid point to many of us, one that needs no reinforcement from politicians seeking to enhance their future electability by advertising themselves as Big Sports Fans.
A while back, the thought was expressed here that it was time to get a little bit excited about the possibility of the Montreal Expos (or Florida Marlins) moving to town. Now I'm not so sure. Events seem to be conspiring against us, which should be no surprise to folks who have kept a candle burning for the return of the Senators/Nationals since 1971.
This ugly business of contraction is strike one. Would Selig and the club owners seriously entertain the notion of folding two or four franchises, thereby opening the door for hundreds of lawsuits and creating a terrible black eye for the game? Apparently.
The specter of another work stoppage the ninth since 1972 is strike two. Could the owners and players association have dillied and dallied all summer on negotiating a new bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires the day after the World Series ends? They could and have.
Sometimes baseball appears to have a death wish. As additional evidence, consider the outlandish player salaries, the lack of a salary cap, the length of games, the ridiculous price of some tickets and concessions and, not least of all, the designated hitter rule. No wonder more and more fans are turning elsewhere for their sporting kicks.
As far as a team returning to Washington, perhaps the most relevant question is whether it will happen before baseball destroys itself. And no request from Capitol Hill, no matter how well-intentioned or ill-advised, is going to answer that question.


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