- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 16, 2004

Anyone who believes divine forces affect athletic matters requires refresher courses in both sports history and theology. Yet in view of the District’s latest and lousiest baseball fiasco, a suspicion lingers that Somebody Up There doesn’t like us.

The newborn Washington Nationals might be gone before we can memorize all their personnel. It’s looking sickeningly possible that 2005 could be their only season at RFK Stadium, hardly adequate payment indeed for 33 years without the so-called national pastime in the nation’s capital.

If you want my uncensored opinion, we’ll have to meet somewhere.

It’s unprintable.

What in the name of Frank Howard am I gonna do with the three Nationals T-shirts and two caps I’ve already bought? Linda Cropp’s amendment that half the cost of building a ballpark must come from private sources could be disastrous for me, as well as for Major League Baseball.

Then again, if those caps and T-shirts become collector’s items, I could make out pretty well. I’ll have to consult Babe Waxpak, our syndicated memorabilia guru.

As a native of D.C., I’d like to do my part toward financing the proposed stadium in Southeast. Would $5 help?

There’s no one person we can tag as chief culprit, though the hapless Cropp looms as the most logical offender. The blame, you see, needs to be spread around.

Shame on Major League Baseball and commissioner Bud Selig for leaving us dangling so long while trying to find a home somewhere, anywhere else for the Expos.

Shame on District Mayor Anthony Williams for letting himself be repeatedly outmaneuvered by Cropp and her co-conspirators. For years, the inefficient ways and means of the D.C. government have made it a laughingstock, but those of us who love baseball ain’t laughing, baby.

Shame on Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos for holding up baseball for a multimillion dollar payoff before letting MLB move into Washington. Does anybody remember what Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith said when the American League wanted to switch the impoverished St. Louis to Baltimore for the 1954 season? It was, approximately, “Y’all come.” (Then again, the legendary Old Fox was a gentleman and a sportsman, which would make him a definite anachronism in baseball today.)

Shame on Cropp for keeping that possible deal-killing amendment under her shirt — obviously not a Nationals shirt — until so late in the game, thereby removing any chance of compromise before Tuesday’s second vote by the D.C. Council. The rumor is Cropp will run for mayor. If she kills baseball in this town, she shouldn’t be elected chief bug catcher. And if Tony Williams lets her kill baseball in this town, he should be run out of it on a rail.

Which would leave a golden mayoral opportunity two years from now for … Marion Barry?

Cropp has a valid and honorable point in saying the District shouldn’t spend $550million or so to build a ballpark for a bunch of wealthy baseball owners, whoever they might be. She just went about her legislative business in the most dishonorable way imaginable.

So where does that leave us in perhaps the unmerriest of holiday seasons for Washington baseball fans? Many of us gave up hope long ago that a team with “W” on its caps would take the field again. When MLB announced Sept.29 that the Expos were coming, many of the faithful remained skeptical — waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.

Now it has: Plop! As in Cropp.

Should we be surprised?

If it becomes known the Nationals will play at RFK Stadium for only one season, they might draw fewer fans than the Expos did in 2004. Heck, the Nats could have even fewer customers than D.C. United. After all, Brad Wilkerson is no Freddy Adu.

Why should we care about baseball in general and the Nats in particular when no other major sport has sunk so low in public esteem? Does anyone this side of Selig still believe rounders can match pro football or even the NBA in popularity? And now the steroid mess is inflating baseball’s PR problem to new heights (or depths).

You could even make a case Washington will be lucky if the vagabond Nationals don’t stay around. But I grew up loving baseball — even the losing kind usually played by both versions of the Senators — and the recent expectation of having our own team again was the best early Christmas present I could have imagined.

Now, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lump of coal from Linda Cropp in my stocking. In fact, I think it has arrived early.

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