Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Linda, Linda, Linda. My, my. Look what you have done. You have baseball blood on your hands.

Can we talk?

Seriously. Do you have a moment on your busy docket, loaded as it is with jettisoning the team formerly known as the Nationals and entertaining the notion of a mayoral run in 2006? You must know something the rest of us don’t, which is: Killing baseball increases your political viability. Otherwise, why all the deal-breaking histrionics in the 11th hour? Why all this woman-of-the-people maneuvering that reveals Mayor Anthony A. Williams to be an emperor with no clothes?

Rest assured, Linda, killing baseball in the District is destined to be your legacy. Forget the high-minded details. Who remembers all the details years after the fact? But they will remember you, Linda W. Cropp. Yes, they will remember. They will remember the D.C. Council chairman who told the baseball owners that a deal is not a deal until she sings her approval.

And you are not singing. You have come to be the city’s version of fingernails against a chalkboard. Or maybe you are just the crazy aunt who has descended from the attic of the John A. Wilson Building.

It is all so confusing. We had a baseball team. Now we do not have a baseball team.

Linda, do you hear laughing in the background? We hear laughing in Northern Virginia, Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and in all the other locales that desperately sought the Expos. Mostly, we hear it emanating from Baltimore, where Peter Angelos is shouting your hosannas in private.

Some asbestos lawyers have all the luck.

You know what the city’s former competitors are saying? They are saying, “Oh, thank heaven for Linda’s amendment.” Yes, Linda, that is what they are saying. Look at you. It can’t be easy being the Grinch who stole baseball from the nation’s capital. It can’t be easy snatching defeat from the jaws of a hard-earned municipal victory. It can’t be easy being first in private financing, first on the morning news shows and last in the heart of the Williams administration.

Who knows? Maybe you think you are playing hardball with the owners and that they will capitulate.

Alas, it takes two to play hardball, and the owners do not play that game. They will just move the baseball team elsewhere and call it a bargain.

Then they will not have to confront the prospect of a Washington team eroding the support of the Orioles for another 33 years. By then, baseball probably will have franchises in Emporia, Va., and Taos, N.M.

To be honest, Linda, you have handed baseball a get-out-of-jail card with Mr. Angelos.

You must have overlooked the genesis of this interminable deal.

Baseball did not want to come here, if you recall. It was only with much arm-twisting and financial sweeteners that the city became too hard to pass up.

All this wrangling should have been completed last spring, when the mayor announced his plan to publicly finance the ballpark. You either were with him or against him then. Instead, you wasted his time, baseball’s time and the city’s time.

Oh, well. This is not the first time a clown show has appeared in the Wilson Building, and it won’t be the last. The clown show is our cross to bear, along with an onerous tax rate, a crummy public school system, a proliferating rodent population and the most proficient parking-ticket writers in the nation.

Oops. Almost forgot. All those seemingly intractable issues somehow have been linked to the ballpark. If you don’t build it, for instance, our students’ standardized test scores will skyrocket, no doubt by osmosis.

Here’s to you, Linda.

For better or worse, this one is all yours. It is yours to keep.

Not to change the subject or anything, Linda, but does the W in your middle initial stand for Weasel? Just asking.

Have a good political day.

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