- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Baseball has decided to spend another season in thought on the Expos, a civic embarrassment to both Montreal and Washington.

As grim a baseball market as Montreal is, Washington apparently is worse.

That is baseball's message this week, courtesy of league president Bob DuPuy.

Baseball figures it will lose at least another $30million by allowing the Expos to operate in Montreal next season, as opposed to the untold fiscal damage if the Expos were allowed to move to Washington.

As usual, Washington can't take a hint, destined to be forever on its back, with all four paws up, looking to be scratched on its belly.

So now it is baseball in 2004, the 33rd such cry in these parts, if you are keeping score at home.

The Expos are down to possibly three or four fans in Montreal, and no disrespect intended to the French-speaking denizens there. This is about the dollar, Canadian or American, and baseball's pathological reluctance to plant a franchise within driving distance of Peter Angelos' trough.

By the time Angelos concludes his market analysis each season, Baltimore almost becomes a distant suburb of Washington, and not a financially solvent one at that. If it weren't for Washington's 25 percent, or whatever the level of support is determined to be this week, the Orioles would go belly up.

Here we go again.

Washington delivers a fat pitch to baseball each season and ends up with a fat lip.

Baseball in Washington has been downgraded from "inevitable" to an "option," depending on the financial wherewithal and conviction of Portland, Ore. The three-lettered clarifier beside Portland is the first demographic indictment, Rasheed Wallace the second.

Baseball has found excuses to ignore Washington in the past, and still pays dearly for the oversight in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Miami. Washington is beyond demographic reproach, just not the persuasive powers of Angelos.

The joke is on baseball, all too accustomed to the mockery.

Bud Selig, who makes his living pleading poverty on behalf of the owners, has adopted a curious position with the Expos. The team's red ink is not sufficient enough to spur a resolution. What more is there to contemplate?

Why the indecision while baseball's depleted cash reserves are being flushed down a black hole in Montreal?

This is hardly the typical course of the impoverished, one of baseball's better lies. A bad move at this point is better than no move at all, and that is assuming an awful lot in a city that supports the Mystics in the summer.

The two-strikes crowd, empowered by the memory of the Twins and Rangers, grants a free pass to the ownership then and trivializes Washington's emergence as an urban powerhouse in the last three decades.

What the Twins wouldn't do to be ensconced in the Washington area today, 42 years after leaving the Howard University neighborhood for Bloomington, Minn. Isn't this the franchise that considered a move to the Greensboro-High Point, N.C., area a few years ago? Isn't this the franchise that was placed on Selig's contraction list last offseason?

Baseball is no longer worthy of Washington's robust interest, split among two potential ownership groups, one in the city and one in Northern Virginia. Predictably, both expressed a certain imperviousness to baseball's latest insult, no doubt because both have had so much practice at it.

Yet it is hard to dismiss baseball's ever tortuous posture around Washington.

Here's the deal: The baseball market in Montreal is dead. Dead, dead, dead. That determination was made years ago, even before the owner was permitted to skip town. All that is left is for baseball to point the moving vans to a destination point, logically to Washington.

DuPuy and baseball seem to prefer any option but the Washington option, including the Barnstorming Expos option next season. Send the Expos hither and yon to play their "home" games, even to San Juan, Puerto Rico. How about Mexico City as well? Tokyo, anyone? Seoul, too?

Send the team that refuses to be resolved to any locale but to Washington.

Just keep Washington on eternal hold until another city can brush up its demographics and have an ownership group and stadium in place.

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