Anti-steroid policy is bulked up
The new MLB anti-steroid policy is a belated gesture of serious attention to the festering wound in the sport of baseball which is represented by dope. In the Washington Post, Michael Wilbon gives credit to Congress for frightening the players' union into unconditionally surrendering, after years of stonewalling. He also praises Selig, one of the main beneficiaries, as are "the players themselves." He ridiculed Donald Fehr for pretending that the new policy was the outcome of vigorous bargaining:
Fehr slinked out of Washington, humiliated, and is now left to spin.
Given the union's stranglehold on the owners for the past 25 years, its cave-in is stunning news.
If anything, the new penalties are a little too strong: 50 days suspension for the first offense, 100 days for the second offense, and a lifetime suspension (appealable after two years) for the third. The science of chemistry is not perfect, and tests are likely to yield an occasional false positive, so that needs to be taken into account. As I've said before, however, the key to making the policy work lies not so much in draconian sanctions, but rather in constant vigilance by officials on all sides, and an atmosphere of trust. Apparently, there is not strong enough evidence to charge Rafael Palmeiro with lying to Congress.
Haggling over new D.C. stadium
Mayor Williams has taken the time to meet directly with MLB negotiator Jerry Reinsdorf (yes, the owner of the world champion White Sox) to resolve the impasse over the D.C. Council's demand that MLB guarantee rent payments so that the stadium bond will get an investment grade rating. The city also wants $24 million letter of credit to help pay for parking facilities at the new stadium. See Washington Post. This, of course, is what has been holding up the sale of the Nationals franchise. From what I gather from the D.C. area media, Jeffrey Smulyan is the clear favorite. As an out-of-towner who once threatened to relocate the Seattle Mariners unless a new stadium was built for him, he is the perfect example of why D.C. government officials are so leery of committing public funds without an iron-clad guarantee that the Nationals will stay in Washington in return. Their first year was such a huge success that such a prospect seems outlandish, but Washington was burned twice before, and a third "strike" would be intolerable.
Mike Zurawski alerted me to three stadium news items of interest. Expansion of the bleachers at Wrigley Field is proceeding at a quick pace. Capacity will increase by 1,800 seats next season. Some of the juniper bushes in the center field backdrop will be replaced by an exclusive enclosed viewing area with dark shaded windows, and there will be a small section of wire mesh fence in the right field corner through which passers-by can steal of glimpse of the field. See the Cubs Web site.
Second, at Rogers Centre (ex-Skydome), three rows of seats from the back of the lower deck will be removed to make room for a wider concourse. Also, the club seating area in the stadium's second deck will be reduced in size, and 43 luxury boxes will be renovated. See th Blue Jays Web site
In Kansas City, the Chiefs want to build a new roof to enclose Arrowhead Stadium when the weather is bad, which would make it eligible to host the Super Bowl. The plan is to mount the roof on a set of huge girders rolling along tracks, so that it could cover Kauffman Stadium on rainy days. Whoa! To my surprise, such a mega-roof was envisioned as part of the original 1972 design for the "Truman Sports Complex." See kansascity.com (registration required) This seems like a thinly veiled attempt by the Chiefs to con their baseball neighbors into chipping in for a project they don't really need. The Royals should resist paying any more than ten percent of whatever the Chiefs are paying, if that much.
Finally, the Padres are strongly considering moving the fence in right center field at PETCO Park in, which would cut the distance from 411 feet to about 395 feet. See www.signonsandiego.com. That would be a big shame, if you ask me. In this era of band boxes with cozy power alley dimensions, that extra territory in PETCO Park was a welcome change of pace. What about distinctiveness?? Anyway, thanks for keeping us all informed, Mike!