- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 3, 2004

Puerto Rico?

If Peter Angelos weren’t practically a whirling dervish of deviousness, there would be ample reason to think he has lost his mind. But I suspect his strange support for a mysterious group seeking to move the Montreal Expos to Fajardo, P.R., is merely one more ploy in his ungallant plot to have the Expos plunked down Anywhere But in the Washington Area.

Puerto Rico, where the nomadic Expos have drawn flies but not many fans during their wanderings in 2003 and 2004? Heck, why not move them to the Antarctic, where there probably are lots of penguins with nothing better to do than watch a bad baseball team?

The best argument for returning the national pastime to the nation’s capital is simply because it is the right thing to do. Even Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley conceded that the other day, which undoubtedly means Angelos will be making his future political contributions to more sympathetic Democrats.

The latest rival group aspiring and perspiring to buy the ‘Spos is backed by several unnamed Puerto Rican businessmen and fronted by a Miami lawyer. Why does it sound like these folks might be selling hot watches on the side?

At any rate, here we go again. Major League Baseball apparently delayed making a decision on the Expos for about the 120th time last week when CEO Bob DuPuy said nothing would be done during the club owners’ meeting in Houston during this month’s All-Star break. Now some people are saying a verdict will be handed down after the All-Star Game (year unspecified).

There isn’t much time left if MLB is to find a “permanent” home for the Expos in 2005, as it has promised the players’ union it will do. You might recall that in 1970, the Pilots didn’t depart Seattle for Milwaukee (where they were rechristened the Brewers) until a week before the season started.

In all fairness to Angelos — even if he doesn’t deserve it — his opposition to a club in D.C. or Northern Virginia is understandable. He’s on record as saying the presence of two teams in the Washington-Baltimore market would result in both being mediocre, although his Orioles clearly have descended to that level all by themselves. Sometimes, it seems like they haven’t had a winning season since Cal Ripken was a second-year man. And the last time they won a pennant, Cal was a second-year man.

Rumors have circulated for several years that Angelos is looking to sell the Orioles; if the District or Northern Virginia gets a team, he might do so immediately if not sooner. I don’t think Peter will starve, especially since his family has just bought Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill.

As someone who has lived in both places, I change my mind every other day whether the restored Nats (after all, they would be a National League team) should be in the District or across the Potomac. If Bill Collins’ Virginia group could have gotten a ballpark built in Arlington, it might have been no contest. But the prospect of a facility near Dulles Airport has raised the specter of fans from D.C. needing to leave Tuesday afternoon for a Wednesday evening game, given the rush-hour traffic out of the city.

Of course, some of the proposed District sites are no better. Can you imagine inching along New York Avenue at 5:45 on the way to a weeknight game? Or maybe watching the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and I-295 back up en route to a site adjacent to RFK?

Just this week, though, the greatest slugger in the history of the expansion Senators cast a vote for the Dulles plan. Of course, Frank Howard wouldn’t have to battle much traffic, because he lives just a hop, skip and a long-legged jump away in Loudoun County.

“There are a lot of pluses to Northern Virginia, such as growth and high income,” said Howard, who was boosting the commonwealth as a logical site as far back as 1972. “I can’t talk about it too much because I work for the Yankees [in player development, which presumably includes teaching young pinstripers how to hit 450-foot home runs]. … I really don’t know what will happen with the Expos. What do you think?”

Since you asked, Hondo, here’s what I think:

How many days until the Redskins play their first game?

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