December 20, 2004 [LINK]

Down to the wire talks

Chances that the D.C. Council will approve the stadium package increased substantially this evening. The FOX television station in Washington, Channel 5, reported at 11:10 PM EST that negotiations among Linda Cropp, Mayor Williams, and MLB officials had resolved all the differences. Channel 9 reported likewise a little later, via a telephone interview with Council member Harold Brazil. It is so obvious that all parties stand to gain significantly from this transaction that success would seem very likely. But since some of the key actors in this drama have different time frames and agendas, a total collapse is still very much possible. I've raised my estimation of the chances of success from 55 percent to 75 percent.

Hundreds of baseball fans turned out for a rally this evening, a much more upbeat amd polite expression of public sentiment than has been waged by most stadium opponents. Some anti-baseball activists screamed during the last Council meeting and had to be removed, and of course we all remember Adam Eidinger's disruptive stunt on November 22. Yesterday MLB President Bob DuPuy had said, "We have no intention of extending the deadline. We have a few options [referring to putting the Ex-Expos in some other city, apparently], but we're not even going to look at that until the deadline comes and goes." See

Whatever the outcome, years from now people will look back on this strange episode and marvel that one woman had an entire professional sports league tied up in knots. The indignity! One can only imagine the heartburn that Bud Selig must be suffering right now, after years of dragging his heels over the D.C. question, fearing exactly this kind of mess. Who knows, maybe the Lords of Baseball deserve it... In today's Washington Post, sports columnist Tony Kornheiser expressed this situation in very graphic terms, for mature audiences only:

... I hold her primarily responsible for this fiasco. I'd like to see her head on a stick. But let me give Cropp this: She has made herself The Key Player in this game. All baseball roads go through Linda Cropp now, and not the mayor. When you see the mayor squirming, it's because she's got his, um, onions, in her hand, and she is squeezing the Charmin right now. It's hard to believe a smart big-city mayor like Tony Williams could have been punked like this. Marion Barry wouldn't have been.

Mrs. Cropp may not grasp all the tangible and intangible benefits that baseball would bring to her city, but she seems smart enough and politically astute enough to reach a reasonable compromise. The alternative would be a total disaster for which thousands would hate her for years to come, and it would be very hard for her to govern as mayor, if that indeed is her plan. If she can deliver a deal that includes substantial revisions from what Mayor Williams and the MLB agreed to in September, on the other hand, her prestige and electability will soar. The D.C. Council will meet tomorrow, presumably for the last time this year, unless an emergency session is called.

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