July 14, 2005 [LINK]

There's a lot of news to catch up on as we enter the second half of the baseball season:

Nationals trade up

In preparation for what promises to be a hard-fought pennant race, the Washington Nationals have acquired outfielder Preston Wilson from the Colorado Rockies, in exchange for pitcher Zach Day and outfielder J.J. Davis, plus some cash or an unnamed layer. See MLB.com. In his debut as a National in Milwaukee today, Wilson filled the bill by hitting a home run, but the Nats still lost 4-2. Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro [both] went hitless, a major embarrassment. Hopefully this does not portend a second-half slump. Ryan Church pinch hit in today's game, his first plate appearance since being put on the DL after colliding with the wall making a heroic game-saving catch in Pittsburgh two weeks ago. The Nationals also acquired veteran Yankee reliever Mike Stanton (pronounced "Staunton" smile), who will become only the second lefty in their bullpen. Jim Bowden made clear his purpose: "I like his postseason experience." Indeed, hardly anyone on the roster has played in the postseason. The Nats still have a small cash surplus with which they could get more talent this month, but their farm system remains in poor shape, and Ryan Zimmerman (of U.Va.) is one of their few future hot prospects.

D.C. stadium funding

D.C. Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp has changed position once again, coming out in favor of a private stadium financing deal proposed by Deutschbank. The reason for the switch is that many D.C. businesses screamed bloody murder when they got the first tax assessment with the stadium surcharge last month month. See Washington Post. One month ago, the Deutschbank option seemed all but dead; see my June 10 post.

RFK Stadium fixes

Responding to fan complaints, the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission is making several improvements at RFK Stadium: providing 24-hour security (to halt car thefts from the parking lot!), entering a renewed food service contract with Aramark Corporation (which has pledged to widen the variety of food sold), as well as replacing the infield turf and making miscellaneous repairs and touchups. They still hope to get a naming rights contract finalized by August... See Washington Times.

Political favoritism

Former Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry and three other members of the D.C. Council endorsed the bid by Jonathan Ledecky to purchase the Washington Nationals. Ledecky promised to donate $100,000 to renovate recreation facilities in the District if he wins the bidding war. He is backed by controversial billionaire George Soros, whose efforts against President Bush during last year's campaign no doubt play well in heavily Democratic D.C. See Washington Post.

Comcast blasts MASN

Comcast, which provides cable TV service to much of the Washington area, charged that the Baltimore Orioles are conspiring to keep Washington Nationals games off the air. This was in conjunction with a legal briefing they filed as part of their lawsuit against the Baltimore Orioles and MLB. Ironically, the Orioles-controlled Mid Atlantic Sports Network recently ran a full-page ad insisting it wants to make Nationals games available to more fans. (Yeah, right; see my skeptical post of June 29.) Isn't it nice when two monopolies accuse each other of monopolizing business? I saw the Nationals on live TV for the first time last on Saturday (FOX Game of the Week) and then, to my surprise, on Sunday (on Washington's FOX-5 TV, which carried an MASN-produced game for the first time).

Tiger Stadium rusts

One positive spinoff from the All Star game was it brought attention to the Tigers' old home, which is suffering badly due to lack of maintenance. Some of the players did not even know it was still standing! The city of Detroit paid $2.5 million to maintain Tiger Stadium, but the money was entrusted to the owner of the Tigers franchise, Mike Ilitch, who has a conflict of interest. Some say "Ilitch doesn't want to see Tiger Stadium redeveloped because it would mean competition for Comerica Park and the Ilitch family's other attractions near the Fox Theatre area." See wxyz.com, which shows a helicopter view of the interior. At least the grass is being mowed. (via ballparksofbaseball.com) What a shame. I still think the Tigers should play at least one game there every year, or else have a regular Old Timers Game there like they used to in the Old Times.

UPDATE: The MLB Franchises and 19th Century Leagues pages have been reformatted and updated.