November 30, 2005

MoneyPark: The Art of Analyzing an Unfair Lease

Moneyball was the book that really brought me back to baseball. I read it on a plane headed to Vegas (along with Bringing Down the House, which brought me back to gambling and near financial insolvency, but that's a seperate post.) While I enjoyed the underlying theory, and still more or less worship at the shrine of OBP, what I really liked about the book were the individual stories: Bill James, Voros McCraken, Paul DePodesta, and the legions of mathematicians, economists, financial analysts and general wingnuts who contributed to the development of "new baseball knowledge."

Likewise, never before has so much legal, political and cultural analysis been devoted to parsing the nuances of an as-yet-incomplete stadium lease agreement. Capitol Punishment, working off info from Brian at the BPG forum, uncovers a potentially fatal chink in Bud Selig's armor. Turns out the Commisar has no clothes (just try getting that unfortunate image out of your head). Federal Baseball chips in the CliffsNotes version. Highlights of the highlights:

While MLB has the right to go to arbitration to "enforce" the stadium agreement, the damages (in the form of lost revenue) won't kick in until the stadium doesn't open in 2008;

If MLB voids the stadium agreement before then they could relocate the team, but they'd have no right to damages at all.

The general consensus is that MLB won't move the team. There's no other market that will be close to as lucrative as DC, and with the Marlins shopping for a new home locations are limited. (I think contraction is still a possibility, but unlikely.)

I won't credit the City Council with being canny enough to have seen this coming, but they are professional politicians, and can exploit an opportunity with the best of them. For months MLB had the city over a barrel, but couldn't close the deal. Now it may be the Council's turn for revenge. As I said before, MLB may finally have gone too far out on a limb. With no right to specific performance of the stadium agreement, and no realistic chance of relocating the Nats again, Bud may shortly find himself pining for the days when a $24 million guarantee would have gotten him a $535 million ballpark.

None of this means that the stadium debacle and the attendant national disgrace won't drag on for months yet but hey, anything to forestall the Juan Encarnacion signing, right?


Anonymous said...

There's sort of a "motivational balancing act" I do struggle with here. I mean, what's the point of the DCCC, already having committed to $535M, haggling over stuff on the fringes? Then again, what's the point of MLB, having already secured $535M (I'm guessing its largest public financing coup, at least in raw dollars), going all nuclear over some good-faith gestures?

The obvious answer to the latter is "setting a precedent," although I think the ballpark agreement itself is an overwhelming demonstration that the guys haven't lost the touch.


Nate said...

I'd be okay with seeing both Bob DuPuy and Linda Cropp bound, gagged and poured into the new stadium foundation a la Jimmy Hoffa at The Meadowlands. If only wishing made it so.