IF YOU'RE one of the many people to whom summer means primarily baseball, there'll be a period of nearly a month next year -- covering the last days of July and most of August -- when you may want to avoid the city of Houston. It is during that time that Houston is now scheduled to be baseball-free, the owner of the team having graciously turned the local stadium over to the Republican Party for its national convention.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, he failed to notify either the National League, which has a certain understandable interest in the whereabouts of the Houston Astros during the baseball season, or the players' union, which has for some time had a say in just how long a team can keep its players on the road. "It's a difficult problem," Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent acknowledged this week, adding that for now at least it's something for the league to try to work out. "Absolutely, we object," said Eugene Orza, associate general counsel of the players' union. "It's changing working conditions. They have to talk to us."
"We are aware of everything, and we intend to work everything out to the satisfaction of everyone," said the Astros' owner, John McMullen, making every effort to sound convincing. Those who choose not to blame Mr. McMullen for the mess may dwell instead on questionable trends in politics and/or baseball. In politics, it is the idea that the less decided or accomplished at a nominating convention, the more time must be spent arranging it. Thus the Republicans have booked the 60,000-seat Astrodome (and its surrounding "Astrodomain") from July 27 through Aug. 23 in order to put on a convention that runs barely four days. In baseball, it is the idea of domed stadiums (surrounded by domains).
But regardless of who's to blame, what is to become of the Astros? If they can't play on the road for a month, it's been suggested they may try to move into New Orleans' domed stadium. We've got a better idea: let them come to Washington. After a month of playing under the open sky on real grass before appreciative fans who haven't had a team in 20 years, they'll be new men: tanned, fit and rejuvenated. Houston will never get them back into the Astrodome's air-conditioned perpetual twilight. And even if it tries, we'll have this clincher: In our city (we'll reassure the players), we never get political conventions.