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Cropped Out of the Picture

"I don't like a farce being played," said council member Carol Schwartz. "What [baseball told Cropp] was just a regurgitation of what they have said before."

In other words, baseball wouldn't negotiate with Cropp and her council beyond a certain fairly minimal point.

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But why should they? To baseball, what Cropp has done is the purest form of business deceit. Let the mayor put an acceptable stadium offer on the table, complete with fully negotiated concessions on both sides, then, at the council level say, "Now let's renegotiate everything."

Baseball feels no obligation whatsoever to make a good faith effort to negotiate with Cropp's council. It already negotiated for two years with cities all over America that wanted the Expos to come to their town. The universal assumption was that the representatives of those cities -- such as Mayor Williams -- had the authority to speak for their towns and already had the backing and understanding of their city councils.

Obviously, Williams didn't. Cropp, who has aspirations to be mayor, has stunned Williams time and again. Last week, when asked if he had Cropp's final and solid support, he shook his head and said, "With her, who knows?"

The first person on the line to Commissioner Bud Selig may be Peter Angelos. As soon as he stops laughing, Angelos can assure the commissioner that, if he drops Washington like a hot potato, the Baltimore Orioles' owner will no longer feel the need to sue MLB.

Did Cropp fully comprehend what she was doing? Or was she simply out of her league? Bet on the former. She was told.

"What our city guaranteed baseball was that the city would build a new stadium -- that we would get it built. That was the essential thing to Major League Baseball. They want to sell the team," said Evans. "Tomorrow morning baseball can't sell that team. No owner would have certainty about a new stadium. That was always the fundamental issue in our deal."

Those who believe in the power of baseball prayer had better get to work. Because baseball would have to be run by saints -- not 30 owners -- to respond to this national insult, a direct spit in the face, by saying: "Okay, let's talk. Let's save the deal. We've already negotiated the big stuff. But now we'll negotiate it again."

Anything is possible. Maybe cows will fly soon, too.

In the end, the District, through its council, has shown that it does not want baseball -- at least not baseball in the real world. Cropp and her council are only comfortable playing fantasy baseball.

"If you wanted to kill the deal, why didn't you do it this morning?" council member Harold Brazil said after 10 p.m. "This is like 30 years of work for naught."

It's easier to do dark deeds late at night.

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