- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Portland, Ore., has added $150million of muscle behind its bid to secure the Expos, which is a signal to Washington to bury its face in its hands.

Washington knows this game all too well.

If it were not Portland, Ore., it would be Portland, Maine, moving to the head of the relocation class after presenting a shiny apple to Major League Baseball.

Washington has been conditioned to expect the worst after 32 years.

Portland, San Juan, Monterrey, the Yukon Territory, Tahiti.

You name the place and baseball is inclined to listen.

Washington just cannot hold up to the competition.

Each locale has one quality that Washington lacks, which is plausible deniability around Baltimore.

Washington is merely a big, old suburb of Baltimore.

Do not try to understand. There is no logic to it.

There are only hints of the thinking that lurks behind the closed doors of baseball. There is only this tarot card-like propensity to interpret the mood of baseball. What do the cards reveal this week? What do they predict? Is baseball coming to Washington one of these decades?

Please. Here we go again.

Washington and baseball have descended into a low-speed freeway chase.

Baseball is the party in a white Bronco.

Hard as it is to believe, Washington is poised to miss out on the previously can’t-miss availability of the Expos.

Here is this gypsy operation, with no real place to call home, living off the spare change of baseball’s owners, and here is the demographically rich nation’s capital begging to resolve the issue.

What is the problem? Don’t ask.

The Washington region has two ownership groups, a large middle-class population and an elementary belief that Baltimore is Baltimore, regardless of the claims of Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Yet Bud Selig and the owners are thinking.

They are forever thinking. They think so much that it hurts to watch.

You could think they were attempting to reach some important truth.

They have all these needs. They need this. They need that. They are the neediest persons around, with their tin cup in hand. They are gloomy, too, their tin cup half empty, as opposed to half full, as they preside over the great sports mystery of our times.

The Expos did not come to be the sad-sack nomads of professional sports in a season or two. Montreal gave up on the Expos in the ‘90s. The team’s well-documented attendance problems eventually led Jeffrey Loria to take up the cause of the Marlins before the 2002 season.

Selig, with forever to consider the fate of the Expos, has succumbed to an embarrassing bout of inertia, running baseball as if it were a struggling soccer league. He has this charity case that is sentenced to mediocrity as long as it is owned by the competition.

George Steinbrenner is one of the 1/29th owners of the Expos. You think he tosses and turns at night, trying to come up with ways to make the Expos more competitive?

This inherently flawed measure has lasted beyond its shelf life after Selig’s initial impulse to terminate the team fell sway to the game’s political realities.

Plan B apparently is move at glacial speed, reinvent the wheel and allow the affront on the game to persist.

The Expos, surprisingly, have maintained a sense of professionalism amid their unprofessional circumstances. They are not a quality team. But they have been vaguely competent since Selig’s grand experiment went into effect last season.

Meanwhile, Washington is in its customary role of sucker, joined by San Juan on this go-around, as Selig and his minions consider all the complexities. They insist they are not going to be rushed into making a decision, as if making a decision after a couple of years is rushing.

If baseball’s power brokers were moving any slower, they would be labeled clinically dead.

At their pace, even a bad decision would be preferable to their stagnant air.

The Expos function as a brain-numbing ward of baseball, a water cooler topic that evokes bewilderment among baseball’s supporters.

What are they thinking in the commissioner’s office? How difficult can it be to relocate a team? What is it about Washington that leads to paralysis? Is it our body odor, breath, what?

Give us a sign, baseball. Give us something.

Blink once to indicate if we are still viable, twice to indicate otherwise.

Can you do that? Or is that too much?

Sorry. Forgot. Blinking requires a level of conviction that is inconsistent with the commissioner.

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