This will irritate many readers who believe the Baltimore Orioles do not deserve our patronage, or coverage, as long as their owner, Peter Angelos, actively opposes a baseball team in Washington or Northern Virginia, but I went to Oriole Park at Camden Yards Tuesday night to see the New York Yankees play the Orioles.
I left downtown Washington with a witness in the car at 5 p.m. and arrived at Baltimore's wonderful, retro stadium at 6:30. That's 90 minutes, Mr. Commissioner, to get to the ballpark -- too long to drive in the middle of the week to see a baseball game. And I would ask how many Baltimoreans would drive 90 minutes to Washington in rush hour to the Kennedy Center or MCI Center? Or how many Baltimoreans, or Washingtonians, would drive to Dulles at rush hour to see the Expos? Should I leave now for the first pitch in the 2008 season?
The debate over where Commissioner Bud Selig and his relocation committee will place the Montreal Expos in 2005 continues, three years and counting, with a resolution expected in July. The relocation possibilities include D.C., Loudoun County (near Dulles Airport), Norfolk, Portland, Ore., Las Vegas and Monterrey, Mexico. I disqualify San Juan for lack of support in the second year of the Expos' barnstorming tour, so there.
If Angelos wasn't opposed to a team in D.C. or Northern Virginia, all this hand-wringing over Selig's forthcoming decision wouldn't be necessary. Selig would have sent the Expos to Washington and a temporary home at RFK Stadium three years ago. But now with the Expos almost sure to be moved, the big question remains: Will Selig do what's right for baseball and his national capital and put the Expos in Washington? Will he stand behind his own statement of last month that Angelos will not be an impediment to whatever decision he and his relocation committee makes?
On this stormy Tuesday night with 42,846 fans in attendance, former Orioles first baseman Boog Powell, 60-something but 20 pounds lighter these days, was still a big presence sitting in his chair, signing autographs outside his barbecue tent. Boog's high carbs tasted great, as did my friend's microbrew. The Yankees won, 11-3, as well as the other two games, sweeping the three-game series by a combined score of 41-17.
Upstairs, surveying his domain, Angelos said he remains firm in his opposition to the commissioner moving the Expos so close to his kingdom. "Washington has everything," Angelos said. "The White House, the Capitol, Smithsonian, the Redskins. What do we have? The Orioles."
The White House? Angelos wants to keep the Expos from us because the British couldn't close nearly 200 years ago?
"You have the Ravens," I countered.
"You have the Caps and Wizards," he said.
Where was Chris Matthews when I needed him?
For the three games, the Orioles drew 126,738 fans, at least half of them supporting the Yankees. If Washington had a National League team on the road this week, would the crowds have been smaller? I doubt it.
No Defense for 'Smarty'
If he can win the Belmont next Saturday, Smarty Jones will become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Smarty Jones, unbeaten in his eight career starts, has generated enormous interest in the Triple Crown series. Veteran New York trainer Nick Zito might saddle three horses to run against Smarty Jones: Birdstone, Royal Assault and The Cliff's Edge.
"Our sport is not like football or basketball; you can't devise a defense for this horse," Zito said. "It's who runs the fastest and hardest. For this horse to lose, he has to get sidetracked or stumble. He's eight for eight, so what has he done wrong?
"When I saw how the horse ran in the Preakness, I was excited, like a fan. I want to do well against him, but this horse is special. He's electric.''
Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown in 127 years of the series, with only one undefeated, Seattle Slew in 1977.
No Big Loss for Wizards
The Wizards wound up with the fifth pick in next month's NBA draft, but with the draft lacking a potential superstar such as Cleveland's LeBron James or Denver's Carmelo Anthony, not picking No. 1 is no setback. Orlando likely will take Connecticut's Emeka Okafor with the first pick, and he has a bad back. Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld has not expressed a preference for a particular player, or trading the pick. Since Grunfeld's arrival last summer, he's assessed and reassessed his underachieving team. The fans want him to do something -- anything.
Still with the NBA: Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Elton Brand and Kenyon Martin have all dropped off the U.S. men's Olympic team for a variety of reasons. Shouldn't someone have told these so-called all-stars this isn't a barnstorming tour? It's the Olympics.
This and That
* The irrepressible John Feinstein, whose latest book "Caddy For Life: The Bruce Edwards Story" has made most top-10 best-seller lists, will spend the coming season with the Baltimore Ravens reporting his next book.
At Red Auerbach's weekly China Doll luncheon, which Feinstein has turned into a book to be published next fall, he was asked how many Ravens games he'd ever attended? "None," he answered. And how many Ravens games has he seen on television? "One," he replied. My man.
* I wrote last week that I would try to see what happened at last week's Redskins' Organized Team Activity, which in NFL lingo means 14 days of "voluntary" practice, conditioning and meetings at Redskins Park. However, OTA news seems to be scarce, because of a news blackout imposed by Coach Joe Gibbs.
However, it was learned that most players showed up, ran, jumped, perspired and did not get injured. A three-day minicamp starts Friday, followed by eight additional OTA sessions. Are we looking at future embedding of reporters with this team? I volunteer to cover LaVar.
* Low-budget NHL Stanley Cup finalists Calgary, with Jarome Iginla and Tampa Bay with Martin St. Louis, have produced exciting hockey (better than the boring NBA playoffs) but disappointing television ratings. The NHL likely will spin this and claim to be hitting its target demographic, whatever that may be.
Have an opinion, or question? Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Suggestions for Feinstein's next book, after his season with the Ravens, accepted.