- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 21, 2002

Well, well, well. The self-styled grand poobahs of the erstwhile national pastime have deigned to grant an audience to D.C. officials early next year, no doubt in order to gauge just how much the nation's capital is willing to grovel in order to be honored with a big-league baseball franchise.
The operative words in the preceding paragraph are "erstwhile" and "grovel." "Erstwhile," because baseball is self-evidently no longer the national pastime, largely because of the ruinous oversight it has received during the past three decades from the poobahs themselves. "Grovel," because the poobah lexicon has a very precise definition for that word, to wit: The extent to which local officials are willing to "use taxpayer funds to build a baseball palace" for the Montreal Expos, the team likely to be relocated stateside by the 2004 season.
Here's what the poobahs want to know: How many hundreds of millions of dollars $200 million? (miles away); $300 million? (getting closer); $400 million? (in the ballpark, so to speak) are D.C. government officials willing to fork over in order to subsidize the playpen, where the poobahs' hired help ply their trade receiving annual salaries averaging about $2.5 million? Alternately, how many hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are D.C. officials willing to transfer to the pockets of various prospective ownership groups whose principals have net worths in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars and, in one case, a cool $1.3 billion so that these groups can then pay top dollar ($350 million or more) for a franchise so lousy that the poobahs were recently considering eliminating it?
In an effort to extort the highest possible price for a team, the poobahs will be holding what amounts to an auction. In addition to Washington and Northern Virginia, other cities have been invited to grovel as well. They include Charlotte, N.C., and Portland, Ore. After the cities are done, the various ownership groups will be invited to supplicate themselves before the poobahs.
A comparative demographic analysis prepared for one of the prospective D.C.-area ownership groups illustrates the point. With a population of 4.9 million, the D.C. area is the fifth-largest in the nation and is scheduled to overtake Philadelphia in 2005. The median household income in the market, which includes four of the nation's 10 highest-ranked counties in terms of disposable income, is $66,184. It ranks No. 1 among the country's 10 most populous markets. The Washington market's average household effective buying income (EBI), which is a proxy for disposable income, is $59,383, a level that is higher than any Major League Baseball market. With 1.7 million households, the total EBI is $101.7 billion. That's 74 percent higher than the MLB median. And it's get this nearly three times Portland's EBI and more than four times Charlotte's.
Portland? Charlotte? Please.

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