October 15, 2005

When No News Was Good News

For weeks now we've heard nothing substantive about the Nats off-field issues. Nothing about ownership, nothing about the new stadium, nothing about the future of RFK (other than Boz's Bob Villa impersonation). In retrospect, we should have been grateful for the silence. Because today all hell broke loose.

Post has a front-page article on the D.C. Council's plans to reopen the stadium financing agreement. Strictly speaking, the only amendments at issue are technical corrections to the funding mix from the business tax, utilities tax and special business district. But once the financing plan comes back before the council, all bets are off.

Kwame Brown wants to reopen the public funding question. Linda Cropp is refloating the idea of building the new stadium next to RFK. Vincent Orange wants
assurances that the Nats will have local ownership. David Catania, Marion Barry and Adrian Fenty would just as soon kill the whole deal altogether. And Tony Bowtie is in China on business. To say that this has the potential to get ugly, messy and protracted is like saying Custer was a bit overmatched at Little Big Horn.

Meanwhile, Bud continues to fiddle while the Nats burn. An anonymous source
reports (hopefully not to Judith Miller) that two local groups and the Dread Lord Smulyan are the current "frontrunners" in the ownership derby. The Fred Malek-Jeffrey Zients group has substantial local ties, lobbied hard to return baseball to DC and, perhaps least important, has the endorsement of Mayor "Lame Duck" Williams. The Lerner family has deep pockets, deep roots in the community, and the least complicated ownership structure. (They could also arrange a corporate partnership with Lowe's and dramatically increase the music quality at RFK.)

The Dread Lord Smulyan, of course, remains in the hunt for two reasons: He's the designated representative of the
Vince Naimoli school of franchise ownership; and he's holding the deadman switch that triggers the bomb attached to Ozzie Guillen. (I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that the slogan on the White Sox homepage is "Win. Or Die Trying." Priceless.)

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