- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

Have you been keeping track of our team's spring training fortunes down in Florida this pre-season?
I know the players are still wearing Montreal Expos uniforms and have another summer ahead of them in the land of empty stadiums, but people who know more about these things than I do say on next opening day that team will be calling the Washington area home.
With almost all of Major League Baseball including the Baltimore Orioles holding opening-day festivities today, my thoughts make their annual pilgrimage to the days when the nation's capital had a team playing the national pastime.
A big American city needs a Major League team to make the dog days of summer palatable, to provide the unifying force that urban diversity otherwise lacks. And the old Senators did that in good seasons and bad.
When Bob Short slunk away to Texas with the area's baseball franchise, he harmed all of us here deeply and pinned a bad rap on Washington. This area always supported the Senators better than their talents deserved. And even when Mr. Short was doing his best to keep fans away, Washington never was last in attendance although often last in the American League.
With Commissioner Bud Selig and his team owners engaging in another of their mindless circuses, one might ask: Why get involved with these oafs? Mr. Selig and his confederates threaten "contraction" the elimination of two teams apparently unaware that if they do such a thing they will place Major League Baseball on a par with minor league soccer in the eyes of the sports public.
Mr. Selig and his unmerry crew approved the sale of the Boston Red Sox to a group that included the owner of the Florida team. They solved that conflict of interest by having Major League Baseball buy the Montreal Expos from Jeff Loria, so Mr. Loria could then buy the Florida Marlins, thereby rewarding his inept stewardship with a profit and a second chance.
I am sure the owners will be hoping their Expos will have a winning record against their own teams. Conflict of interest? Us owners?
Of course, Mr. Loria's real function appears to be keeping the Orioles' Peter Angelos from being the worst owner in baseball.
Before Mr. Loria in Montreal, the Expos had a wonderful front office that continually developed star-quality players. Mr. Loria razed that, then took what was left of that staff to Florida and put the Marlins people out on the street jobless.
Fortunately for us, there are still a core of good players left with the Expos to create a competitive team here.
In the meantime, Mr. Angelos appears to be following in Bob Short's footsteps by trying to drive fans away from his beautiful Camden Yards so he can say a Washington team would endanger his attendance base.
But throngs of Washington fans are staying away from Baltimore already in the belief that a day or night at Camden Yard is a vote against Major League Baseball for this area.
Almost matching the destructive narrow-mindedness of the commissioner and the owners are the players themselves with their steadfast refusal to consider any cap on team payrolls, something all the other major and most minor sports have adopted in one fashion or another to foster competitiveness.
So, again, who wants to invite such a bedraggled group into our home town?
The answer is that baseball holds a grip on the American imagination that no other sport can rival; that in all of us there still lives a field of dreams that only it can reach. And it is a measure of that powerful hold that we can ignore all the sleaziness that surrounds today's game and want a hometown team our own.
So bring on Opening Day 2003. I'll be ready to watch the first ball thrown out for our team. Between now and then, I'll be rooting for our team, even if it is wearing Montreal uniforms.

Stroube Smith is a copy editor for The Washington Times and a free-lance writer.


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