- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The list of candidates to become the owner of the Washington Nationals is down to three groups. Or is it two groups? Or is it that guy on the corner over there?

It will be a local owner. No, wait, it will be an American citizen.

The consensus is there will be two vowels in the last name of the managing general partner. But is it really a consensus, or did I just hear that from every bidder with two vowels in his last name?

This is how it works when no one really knows how a situation is going to unfold, except for maybe three people — and that number is a stretch when it comes to legitimate knowledge about the selection of an owner for the Nationals.

The only one who could know the identity of the Nats owner is baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig — and he might not know for sure yet. His closest confidants, baseball chief operating officer Bob DuPuy and powerful Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, may have a pretty good idea or they may have their own preferences.

That’s it.

“This is a very personal decision for Bud,” said one source familiar with the process of selecting an owner for the Nationals. “And he makes these decisions very methodically.”

Any other information passing as intelligence on the Nationals owner is just people talking to themselves. In other words, someone with an interest in the outcome passes on their interpretation to someone else, and that view goes through a chain of people until it gains credibility by simply making the rounds.

What is making the rounds now is the idea that this is a two-group race — just as it appeared to be in August — between the Malek-Zients group and the Lerner family. Former Seattle Mariners owner Jeffrey Smulyan, in this view, has dropped back in the race.

This conclusion is based in part on public comments Cadillac Bud made about his fondness for local ownership and for family ownership.

Talk about grasping for straws. The last place anyone should look for comfort is in the words of Cadillac Bud.

Reinsdorf still is very much a part of this equation. He still is very powerful, maybe even more chesty now that he has a World Series trophy. If Reinsdorf is involved, then Smulyan remains very much in the running. Someone who knows the White Sox owner well said, “If Jerry wants Smulyan, he isn’t out of anything.”

Another sign emerged Monday when former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a member of the Malek-Zients group, visited with District mayor Anthony Williams, who reaffirmed his endorsement of the Malek-Zients bid.

Now, if that is not people talking to themselves, I don’t know what is.

If baseball makes a decision on ownership that is swayed by politics — local or national — it will be a first. Then again, a ballpark never has been built with a Home Depot do-it-yourself kit, which is where things are heading with the new Southeast stadium.

“There is no doubt that the local politics will be a consideration, but the city won’t dictate who owns this club, as much as they want to,” said one industry source.

The local political landscape, though, is the battlefield right now. There are signs there that, if this is the home stretch, Smulyan is hardly running third.

The Indianapolis media mogul has gained some important local support in the approval by D.C. Councilman Kwame Brown and local political commentator Mark Plotkin. He still is very much working the room.

Of course, we haven’t heard Cadillac Bud profess great love lately for former baseball owners who are close friends. So I guess Smulyan is toast.

Go ahead. Talk amongst yourselves.

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