After surviving rocky week, MLB still has D.C. in a real hard place

December 22, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

THIS IS WHAT passes for a compromise in Washington. The District of Columbia will guarantee all the money to build a $534 million ballpark on the Anacostia waterfront and Major League Baseball will get to sell the once-beleaguered Expos-turned-Nationals for about $350 million -- way more than the team would have been worth if a large portion of its revenues had to be directed toward stadium bonds.

D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp certainly drove a hard bargain. She spent a week grandstanding, then ends up paying for all the grandstands anyway.

Only in D.C. Where else would the local government agree to a deal that "suggests" that half of a huge municipal project be privately financed? Most places, it is customary for legislation involving hundreds of millions of dollars to actually spell out the actual source of the money -- not just speculate about it.

Of course, city officials are already talking about all the people who are lining up to get involved in the project, but MLB's stadium revenue package is so sweet that it's hard to imagine anyone putting up real money without striking some kind of sweetheart deal with the city that just launders funds from some other quasi-public source to guarantee the private investors a profit.

Mayor Anthony Williams floated the possibility of a $100 million parking deal, but why should anyone believe he can squeeze that kind of money out of local developers when all he could get out of MLB was a few bucks for cost-overrun insurance to finalize a half-billion-dollar public project? Sorry, but this deal still doesn't smell right. I'll believe it when I see them put a shovel in the ground.

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I've spent the past two days trying to determine the odds of the Ravens playing the Redskins in the Super Bowl, and here are the results of my highly sophisticated mathematical calculations.

The Ravens have to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road on Sunday to stay alive, so the odds against them remaining viable beyond this week are probably about 2 1/2 -to-1 -- based on the estimated Vegas money line. They also need some outside help, which has to push the negative probability closer to 5-to-1 against getting into the postseason.

The Redskins are 5-9 and somehow remain alive in the weak NFC. They need to win their last two games (actually, quite possible) and get a lot of help from the crowd of mediocre teams that still are mathematically in the hunt. Let's put their chances of getting out of the regular season at 8-to-1.

Now, multiply those two numbers and factor in each team's chances of winning three playoff games on the road and there you have it: The odds against the Ravens and Redskins playing each other in the Super Bowl are 2.3 billion-to-1 ... or about the same as the odds against Brian Billick admitting the Ravens could have used a little more experience at quarterback this year.

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No-gloating zone: I know that Eagles fans are waiting for me to say something insensitive about Terrell Owens, and they're going to have a long wait. Nobody wants to see a great player get hurt, especially on the cusp of the postseason. All this means is the Eagles are going to have an excuse when they blow the NFC championship game. That takes all the fun out of it.

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I've been hard on the Orioles lately, but I can't discount the deal that put left-hander Steve Kline into the bullpen. He's a quality setup guy who creates options for manager Lee Mazzilli in the late innings. Key move. Now, sign Derek Lowe and I'll stop whining.

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The Wizards delivered another clutch finish on Monday night in Oakland, Calif., holding off the Golden State Warriors to win for the second time in the first three games of a very tough Western swing. It's starting to look like Washington may have a baseball team and a basketball team. Now, if only it had a football team.

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Really enjoyed Kevin Van Valkenburg's take on the BCS conundrum in yesterday's paper ... particularly the revelation that he played linebacker at Division I-AA University of Montana.

Note to boss: In the future, please don't run the pictures of handsome, young former athletes in this column hole. It's much better for my ego if I only have to compete with Ray Frager for best-looking Page 2 columnist.

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

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