If you believe Major League Baseball's timetable for relocating the Montreal Expos for 2005, we're looking at Commissioner Bud Selig receiving a recommendation from his seven-member Relocation Committee within weeks and making a decision next month.
Washington and Northern Virginia would seem to head the list of sites for this lovable (that's what you call a team with the worst record in MLB) club to land, ahead of "What Happens Here, Stays Here" Las Vegas; Monterrey, Mexico; Portland, Ore.; and Norfolk.
With the eighth-largest market in the country, by far the largest of any city without a baseball team, Washington or Northern Virginia offers the best demographics and commitments from government officials to deliver a new stadium. Most important, the transplanted Expos could play in a very acceptable 45,000-seat RFK Stadium next season -- relieving the other 29 teams from paying their bills. That should seem to override most objections, but may not. And discounting a "mystery" city, such as Charlotte, also would be a mistake.
Still, Fred Malek, who heads the D.C. ownership group, said this past week, "This is the most encouraged I've been in the five years I've worked on this." His optimism -- like that of many of us here -- may be misplaced.
Anyone who has followed Washington's quest for a baseball team since the Senators left for Texas 33 years ago knows there are no slam dunks here. Not with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos steadfastly opposing a team in the Washington area, even though he has absolutely no legal or ethical recourse to prevent the move.
But that hasn't stopped the clever Baltimore trial lawyer from lobbying Selig, fellow owners and media toadies -- using the argument that a team in Washington will create two mediocre franchises and reduce the solvency of his club. He makes this argument knowing television executives are on record saying a Washington team will not hurt the Orioles and that horrible traffic and equally horrible play have reduced his business from the Washington area considerably in the last five years.
None of those facts appears to have made much impact on him, although a week ago he told David Ginsburg of the Associated Press that if Washington got the Expos, "unfortunately I have no choice" but to go along, adding "Washington is also my capital." Thanks, Peter.
In that spirit, the Angelos family last week sort of became part of his capital, agreeing to buy Rosecroft Raceway, the harness racing track off the Beltway in Oxon Hill, from Cloverleaf Standardbred Association for about $13 million, with an eye toward one day having a slot machine or two in the grandstand. The ownership group includes Angelos's two sons, Louis and John, and his wife, Georgia. Peter Angelos is only serving as counsel to the group, because baseball frowns on owners' involvement in gambling establishments.
It all comes down to whether Selig has the backbone to tell his friend and ally, Peter Angelos, what he doesn't want to hear: that the Washington metro area, with its 4.5 million people, a victim of two scoundrel owners in the past, with a history of baseball dating from the Civil War, and a suitable stadium available for use now, wants and deserves this ballclub. If he doesn't, and many observers of the game believe he won't, the relocation process has been a sham and embarrassment to the office of the commissioner.
Peter, Washington is also our capital.
With an eye toward whom the NBA champion Detroit Pistons will put on the floor in 2007, I'm very excited about what the Wizards do in the NBA draft on Thursday. I've beaten this like a dead horse for the past month, but when you see former Wizards Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace and Darvin Ham prance around in their "Pistons, NBA champions" hats after winning the title Tuesday night, you want to scream.
But that's negative and in the past. So come with me on our annual June stroll in lotteryland, with the team now under the stewardship of Ernie Grunfeld, holding the fifth pick. Everyone thinks Orlando will tap Emeka Okafor (bad back and all) of Connecticut with the first pick; with the Clippers likely to take Georgia high schooler Dwight Howard (didn't MJ go down a similar path three years ago)?
That leaves Arizona's Andre Iguodala, Stanford's Josh Childress and Duke's Luol Deng (all of them about 6 feet 7) -- in some order -- for Da Bulls, Charlotte and Wiz. Unless Grunfeld packages his pick, maybe with a player, for a proven vet. Regardless, at least the Wizards have to do something Thursday, although if Iguodala lands here I know one scribe who will never spell his name correctly.
For the next two weeks, through the conclusion of the European Championship in Portugal, I'll share my favorite moment of the week from what many knowledgeable soccer buffs call the best tournament in the sport.
You don't care?
Hey, it's June and Coach Gibbs got sick of Organized Team Activity and dismissed his Redskins until the end of July, so get over it. Anyway, did you see Jason Horowitz's story from Rome in the New York Times on Friday reporting the three-game suspension of Italian star Francesco Totti for spitting in the face of Denmark's Christian Poulsen?
"We will not tolerate this kind of behavior," Horowitz quoted tournament spokesman William Gaillard as saying.
Totti's action reminded me of the time old friend Dexter Manley did something equally uncouth in a close game against New Orleans in 1988. Dexter's target reacted by taking a swing at him, in front of an official, resulting in a drive-killing 15-yard penalty against the Saints, preserving a 27-24 Redskins victory and this admonishment from colleague Tony Kornheiser: "Dexter, Dexter, Dexter."
"That was unsportsmanlike on my part," Manley admitted afterward.
Three more races for Smarty Jones and off to the breeding shed?
Come on. This is the most exciting racehorse to come along in years and by the end of the year it's over. I'm sure he'll be a fine stallion, but this horse should race for another couple of years. . . .
What's with World Anti-Doping Agency chairman and IOC drug sheriff Dick Pound? Hasn't this Canadian ever heard of due process? Does "innocent until proven guilty" have any meaning to him? What chance does U.S. track star Marion Jones have, if Pound and his cronies already have her convicted?
Does anyone feel Jones is getting railroaded by this guy?
One question: Has Marion Jones failed a drug test?
Have an opinion or question? Reach me at email@example.com.