- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2004

The United States has removed the peace-loving Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, while baseball has labored with the vexing conundrum of the Expos.

Couples have undergone courtships, gotten married and then divorced in the time baseball has examined the national security implications of the Expos.

Life has moved forward in ways that stun the laborious thinkers of baseball. Great ideas have been spawned and bad ones expunged since the Expos hit the road in search of a permanent home.

Joe Gibbs was a great idea, Steve Spurrier a bad one.

The Expos have become baseball’s Cambodia, forever “seared — seared —” in the minds of Bud Selig, Bob DuPuy and the relocation committee.

They promise a decision is coming soon, however you define the meaning of soon.

Washington is accustomed to grappling with obscure definitions, although baseball has taken the concept to the brain-numbing level.

Washington, like it or not, remains the leading candidate to secure the Expos, which remains the essence of the tedium. No one in baseball really likes the notion of challenging Peter Angelos, whose antipathy toward Washington borders on pathology.

As Angelos sees it, Washington cannot support a Little League team, much less one that measures its home runs in meters.

This is his self-serving contention, and he is determined to stick with it.

Last week, as the city released a series of numbers too obvious to ignore, council member Jack Evans issued a threat to baseball, saying he would pack up RFK Stadium and take it home with him if baseball awards the Expos to the open field in the Shenandoah Valley or wherever the proposed site is along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Northern Virginia ownership group undoubtedly could build a sandlot field in time for next season after shooing the cattle to the adjoining pasture. The Expos might even consider it an improvement from Montreal, San Juan and a bag of peanuts at 35,000 feet.

The embittered thinking of Evans is hardly unreasonable. There is a lot of it going around in the city.

If baseball sends the Expos to Luray Caverns, Evans and the rest of the Council members are liable to pass legislation that reads: “RFK Stadium has a headache.” That seems fair enough, given Washington’s long-term migraine from baseball.

It goes back to the Washington Padres of 1974. It was the first of many flirtatious exchanges between baseball and the nation’s capital. All of them have turned out badly for the city.

Washington has entertained so many delegations from baseball over the decades that you could think baseball visits here only for the free food and limousine service. It can’t be because of our proliferating concrete barriers, the unofficial city flower since September11.

As always, Washington is stuck on interminable hold, waiting anew, looking to the skies for a hint, a trace of something, anything that qualifies as hopeful.

Another calendar month has passed, and baseball’s thinkers remain sequestered on the mountaintop, studying the secret passages on their stone tablets as they try to uncover the exhausting mysteries of the Expos.

Time is becoming precious if baseball feels a certain responsibility to complete next season’s schedule. Teams need to start booking rooms at the Comfort Inn in Lexington, Va., if the Expos end up playing in the Greater Lexington Metropolitan area next season.

You almost can appreciate the diligence of baseball’s obtuse thinking process. If you are committed to making one of your teams the laughingstock of professional sports, you might as well go for it.

Selig and his minions have achieved that. The Expos travel with a sign that reads: “Will Play Ball for a Home.”

Quiet, please.

Selig and the relocation committee members are thinking now, measuring the candidates: the nation’s capital, a cornfield that is backed up against the West Virginia border, a Naval base in Tidewater, a place in the desert, a peso-packing enclave and a partridge in a pear tree.

Suggestion to baseball: Try eenie meenie miney moe.

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