Yesterday's announcement followed several days of negotiations between Major League Baseball and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, for years Washington's chief nemesis in its quest to reclaim the national pastime. Angelos has long argued that a Washington team would steal fans and profits from the Orioles.
He seemed to soften his stand two days ago, saying that he could live with a team in Washington if baseball would provide financial guarantees to ensure that the Orioles can continue to be competitive. The Orioles play in the American League East Division, home of two of the wealthiest franchises in all of sports, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
Former D.C. baseball announcer Charlie Brotman, center, leads a chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" with Mark Touhey, left, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Council, Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. Council members Jack Evans and Linda Cropp.
(Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)
Selig announced the move to Washington even as negotiations continued between his lieutenants and Angelos. Last night, Angelos released a statement saying, "We have made substantial progress, but have not yet reached an agreement."
Selig said moving the Expos to within 30 miles of Baltimore "was a very awkward position that we found ourselves in and I found myself in."
"I am very sympathetic and sensitive to his concerns, " Selig said. "We don't want to hurt the franchise. But on the other hand, we want to go to the best place we can go to. It's my responsibility to make the best arrangement I can make."
Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who led baseball's relocation committee, said the nation's capital offered a market that was simply too good to pass up.
"We need to be represented in the national capital," Reinsdorf said. "It's the largest market in the country that didn't have baseball."
Williams and other city officials now face the politically perilous task of convincing D.C. residents that building a ballpark will benefit the city. Their financing package relies on annual lease payments from the team owners of about $5.5 million; taxes from in-stadium goods and services, including tickets, concessions and parking; and a gross-receipts tax on the nearly 2,000 city businesses that take in more than $3 million a year.
Staff writers Bill Brubaker, Hamil Harris, Serge Kovaleski, Ovetta Wiggins, Debbi Wilgoren and Yolanda Woodlee and staff researchers Meg Smith and Julie Tate contributed to this report.