With D.C. Council playing hardball, Northern Virginia can step to plate

December 16, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

YES, NORTHERN Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

The dithering D.C. Council has left an opening that may be wide enough for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority to drive a team bus carrying the Washington Nationals all the way into the suburbs, and I can't wait to see how this latest twist in the District stadium drama plays out.

The Anacostia waterfront ballpark may still get built, but the hopes of baseball fans in Northern Virginia and even Las Vegas have been buoyed by the apparent disarray in D.C. - disarray that should not come as a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the strange politics of the District.

Major League Baseball thought it had a deal, and what a deal it was. The District was going to give the Expos, er, Nationals a brand-new, $534 million waterfront ballpark and near-total control over the revenues produced by it. Now, that busybody council chairman Linda Cropp has thrown a big, ol' monkey wrench into the works - delaying approval long enough for the waterfront plan to get watered down to the point where MLB might not accept it.

No doubt, they're building a small altar in her honor at the Law Offices of Peter Angelos right now. The council passed an amended plan that requires substantial private financing for the ballpark, financing that will be hard to get without major financial concessions from baseball.

Meanwhile, there's still a small window to put together an alternative stadium proposal in Northern Virginia, though the public financing plan approved by the state will expire Jan. 1 and would be difficult to renew. It's a huge long shot - as is Las Vegas - but suddenly anything seems possible ... including a crazy, old fallback solution called contraction.

Who knows what's going to happen, but to slightly paraphrase MLB's promotional slogan for this year's playoffs, I live for this stuff.

My position on the current inactivity of the Orioles already is on record, but here's a totally Panglossian view of the situation:

Maybe if the Orioles wait long enough, the early signers will suck so much money out of the free-agent market that the remaining pitchers - and there still are a few left - will have to gravitate toward the team that still hasn't spent any money.

We're talking playoffs, baby!

Another far-fetched possibility: Could this be the culmination of a wily seven-year plan by the Orioles to wait until the Red Sox pitching staff finally disintegrates? Don't laugh. If the Sox fall far enough, it may actually create the illusion of upward movement.

Gotta give the National Hockey League credit for having some chutzpah. The players union offered a new labor proposal that called for it to accept an across-the-board, 24 percent salary rollback in an attempt to push management off a salary cap, and the owners responded with a plan that included a modified salary rollback and a salary cap.

The only good news is, I don't have to write about hockey indefinitely, so you won't be able to point out how little I know about it.

Watching Southern Mississippi manhandle North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl on Tuesday night only reinforced my opinion that California got a raw deal from the Bowl Championship Series. The Bears beat Southern Miss in their final game and lost points to idle Texas in the polls, costing them a trip to the Rose Bowl.

The Golden Eagles stifled the nation's leading rusher (Jamario Thomas) on the way to a lopsided victory over the Not-So-Mean Green on Tuesday after giving up more than 500 yards in total offense to Cal.

Final thought: When you're through raising your eyebrows at the Red Sox for signing David Wells, I'll make you a wager. I think he'll win more games than Pedro Martinez next year.

Contact Peter Schmuck at peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

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