February 8, 2006
"After further review," the D.C. Council approved Chairwoman Linda Cropp's emergency bill by the required 9 to 4 supermajority at about 12:45 after midnight. I learned of this on WTOP Radio reported at 12:50 AM, barely awake. The bill limits the District's spending to $611 million, but it remains to be seen whether this provision is practicable. Council member Adrian Fenty said, "I hope everyone who voted for this gets a thank you note from baseball... We are voting on a very unfair deal that every member of this council would say is a bad deal." OK, guys, you made your point. Despite Phil Mendelson's earlier claims that he supported baseball, he voted "no" even with the cost cap provision, on the grounds that it is not "iron clad." For the full story, see the Washington Post. [This story was too late for our Virginia edition!]
Well, of course the cost cap isn't "iron clad." Controlling costs on such projects depends much more on relentless vigilance and resistance to the corrupting influence of lobbyists than on legalistic mechanisms. It's like when a legislative body votes for a balanced budget amendment rather than just buckling down and hammering out a balanced budget. Indeed, the more such "fine print" terms are added to such an agreement, the more likely it is that the parties really don't trust each other -- or themselves -- to abide by the terms!
So, will this lease agreement fly with the Lords of Baseball? "MLB President Bob DuPuy was non-committal about the deal..." according to MLB.com. That story indicates that March 6 is the "drop dead" date by which MLB must agree to the lease agreement with the cost cap provision.
This agreement will require careful study by all interested parties, and is by no means the final act in this farce-drama. For the time being, I have lowered the probability of relocating the Nationals from 20 percent to 5 percent; it was 10 percent since last month. Also, the Baseball in D.C. page has been updated with those votes, and a separate new page has been created for the Baseball in D.C. news chronology. I had estimated a 70 percent probability that Linda Cropp, Kwame Brown, and Vincent Gray would vote "yes" on the stadium, and a 40 percent probability that Carol Schwartz would. Who would have thought that Marion Barry (whom I had estimated a 20 percent probability of voting "yes") would cast the decisive affirmative vote? Phil Mendelson (estimated as 40 percent "yes") voted "no," once again.
I just noticed that four members of the D.C. Council have colors for last names, including Schwartz (German for "black").
It is interesting that this vote took place just as MLB announced that it would take part in the effort by the Marlins to search for a new home city more amenable to funding a new stadium. See MLB.com. Shouldn't they be neutral?
The Caracas Leones (Lions) have won the Caribbean Series, defeating the [Dominican Republic Licey Tigres (Tigers)], the first time a Venezuelan team has won the coveted championship since 1989. Alex Gonzalez (the new Red Sox shortstop) got a clutch RBI single in the bottom of the ninth, and his team went on to score the game-winning run. For details, see ESPN.com (English via David Pinto) and eluniversal.com (Spanish). President-for-Life Hugo Chavez will no doubt bask in the glory. I wonder if any of CITGO's petrodollars get channelled to baseball in Venezuela? For background, see Latin America baseball leagues [revised link].