- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

It’s all over but the printing of the tickets, right?

Major League Baseball’s relocation committee, after nearly two years of meetings and research, is expected to recommend to the owners’ executive council today that the Montreal Expos be moved to the District. The council then is expected to give its approval.

Baseball soon would announce the decision, and all of this would be done over the objections of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a member of the executive council.

This is what it comes down to, isn’t it? The team would be relocated to the District, and the proximity of the Orioles to Washington would not be a deciding factor.

Baseball needed two years to come up with this?

If Angelos’ franchise is not the most significant factor in the decision to return baseball to the District after 34 years, baseball could have moved the Expos three years ago.

It could have avoided the sham of the Expos playing part time in Puerto Rico for two years.

It could have avoided the millions of dollars in losses incurred by each of the 29 team owners who own a piece of the franchise.

It could have avoided the three-way deal three years ago that allowed Jeffrey Loria to sell the Expos and buy the Florida Marlins and Marlins owner John Henry to buy the Boston Red Sox.

Why did baseball bother with this exercise? To build up its case if Angelos tries to go to court?

Please. The question never has been whether the owners would win a lawsuit filed by Angelos. These outlaws just don’t want to be dragged into court by one of their own and made to testify under oath about their business practices. That is their worst nightmare.

A few years ago, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon sued partner Nelson Doubleday. Doubleday answered the suit by accusing Cadillac Bud Selig of being “in cahoots” with Wilpon to put an artificially low value on the Mets so Wilpon could buy out Doubleday. Doubleday also accused Cadillac Bud of conspiring with the appraiser to “manufacture phantom operating losses” in the sport’s books.

Cadillac Bud worked out a settlement quicker than you can spell subpoena when those allegations were made in court documents. The image of Cadillac Bud in a courtroom, hand on Bible, defending his business practices is a frightening proposition for baseball.

You have seen Cadillac Bud’s act in Congressional hearings. Can you imagine him under questioning by the Law Firm of Peter Angelos?

No, this process was not about being able to back up a decision in court, so, again, why bother?

Baseball could have negotiated a ballpark deal like the one presented for the M Street site in Southeast a lot quicker and easier. The process will look particularly foolish if Cadillac Bud turns around and says, “Thanks but no thanks — we’re going to put the team where I want it.”

Within the District’s circle of those close to the process, there’s a fear that Cadillac Bud will dictate that a deal be made to put the Expos in Northern Virginia to ease the impact on the Orioles.

“I think it’s about 60-40 for the District,” said one source involved in the effort to bring baseball to the city. That 40 percent represents a lot more uncertainty than is being publicly presented.

It would be uncharacteristic of Cadillac Bud to go against any recommendation made by his friend Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and chairman of the relocation committee. Selig doesn’t like conflict. But it must be clear to Cadillac Bud by now that there will be conflict no matter what he decides, and he just needs to determine which conflict would be less painful.

Reinsdorf desperately sought a ballpark in Northern Virginia fully financed by the public like baseball got from the District. He pressured Virginia officials to push for the Arlington site, not the proposed location near Dulles Airport, sources close to the process said.

Reinsdorf got neither, which then put the District on top.

Now the question is will Cadillac Bud take the best deal or the deal that best suits him?

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