Now that the back-slapping politicians in red baseball hats mugging for cameras, as well as opponents of baseball in Washington, have slipped into the shadows after the Sept. 29 announcement that the Montreal Expos will be relocated here for 2005, it's clear some things need to be done in the next month.

Such as:

* Major League Baseball needs to sell the Expos, sooner rather than later, although someone might mention to the owners they're not moving the 1927 Yankees here. An ownership group needs to establish a presence in town with an organization (president and GM needed) and marketing plan, with an eye toward fielding a competitive team (free agency begins around Nov. 1 and misunderstood Milton Bradley of the Dodgers might be available), managed by someone of ability and experience, playing in a stadium in need of renovation now, with fans in the stands (people want to buy tickets; they need to know how).

* Mayor Anthony A. Williams has to have the D.C. Council votes lined up for the new stadium, aware that opposing voices must be heard, if not all satisfied. This deal is not going to please everyone. MLB reportedly has a timetable it wants followed, so follow it. And does the mayor need to go to China now?

* Somebody ought to keep a close eye on Orioles owner Peter Angelos until he signs off on that sweetheart "We love you, back up your Brink's truck" agreement from MLB. After he signs, someone ought to monitor that so-called regional sports TV network deal that will pay the O's a lot more than the 'Spos, or any other curveball that might be coming out of that Baltimore law office.

* Someone should be assigned to make sure MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is satisfied every step of the way, until that first pitch in RFK Stadium to an Arizona Diamondback occurs in mid-April. Selig's enthusiasm for the move here at his televised news conference was, shall we note, somewhat restrained and akin to how I'd react if my boss asked me to write this weekly nonsense from Baghdad.

* Sometime in the next month can we pick a name for this team? Nationals, Senators, Supremes, Grays, Pandas, Feds, Bullets, Sioux, Americans, Monuments, Tonys, Potomacs, whatever. But enough with the Expos.

Last week's jubilation was 33 years in the making and justified. But we need action. Now.

A Little Rivalry

Would like to steam up the locals about tonight's Parkway Challenge between the Redskins (1-3) and Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at FedEx Field. Sorry, the anticipation is not there, as it was for the opener against Tampa Bay or the Monday night game against Dallas nearly two weeks ago.

Most people who live around here have no ill-will toward Baltimoreans, except for Angelos and some of his toadies who tried to keep the Expos from relocating to Washington.

Many Baltimoreans, however, feel Washingtonians to be snobby (us?) and oblivious to what goes on in their burg. Some of them don't like us, but some of us don't like us. Some even believe the late Redskins owner, Jack Kent Cooke, tried an Angelos maneuver and sought to retain Baltimore as his NFL turf after the Colts left for Indianapolis.

"Not true," said Art Modell, former Ravens owner who moved the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore eight years ago. "The league expanded to Charlotte and Jacksonville because it wanted a Southeast corridor."

Still, the Squire showed a rare selfish side during that period, in hopes of selling his brand north, until he realized no one was buying. Nor did he welcome Modell with open arms.

On the field, during the '50s and '60s, when Johnny Unitas was in his prime, the Colts beat the Redskins 11 out of 12 times. Some rivalry. The Ravens and Redskins have split two games at FedEx and only play occasionally because they're in different conferences.

"I don't see any angry hordes parading up Charles Street or a groundswell of excitement for this game," Modell said. "It's certainly not Cleveland-Pittsburgh. That was intense; that was a rivalry unmatched."

News flash: Redskins need a win.

Short Hops

* Excuse me, but after the spanking USA Basketball took at the Olympics one would think some NBA teams and players might be rethinking the style of ball played in the league. Not so, from what I've seen coming from training camps so far.

"Basketball has gotten a lot better around the world," Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld said this past week. "And the skill level of our young players is not what it should be. But I don't see any great changes in our game because of the Olympics. Had our team had more time together, and been able to use some of our better guys who chose not to play, the result would have been different."

Grunfeld likes what he's seen of the Wizards after one week of training camp, with Coach Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense taking hold.

John Thompson III, the new men's basketball coach at Georgetown, was a visitor to The Post this past week. The former coach at Princeton was asked to explain the Princeton offense.

"It's more how to play than what to play," Thompson said. "It's based on sharing movement and space and making reads and individual decisions."


* Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki getting 262 hits this year to best the single-season record of 257 set in 1920 by George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns was a remarkable achievement. The same can be said of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots if they beat the Miami Dolphins today for a record-setting 19th consecutive victory. Six other teams have won 18 straight. The last team to beat the Patriots: the Washington Redskins, 20-17, on Sept. 28, 2003, coached by My Main Man, Steve Spurrier. As HBO's Ali G would say, "Respect."

* The U.S. plays Panama on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium in a World Cup soccer qualifying match. I'm going to see Bruce Arena's team, personally inspect the stadium and may wear my Arsenal jersey.

* And talk about overreacting. NASCAR fines Dale Earnhardt Jr. $10,000 and deducts 25 points from him in the driver's championship standings for uttering a profanity after an emotional victory at Talladega last Sunday. Are you kidding?

"It makes it tough on the drivers, catching these guys in the heat of battle," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, who runs Lowe's Motor Speedway outside Charlotte. "I'm going to create a sanitizer, but seriously, hope it doesn't cost him the championship."

Have a question or comment? Reach me at Profanity not accepted.

Wizards' Ernie Grunfeld on the state of the NBA after the Olympics: "The skill level of our young players is not what it should be. But I don't see any great changes in our game."