September 29, 2004

Washington Senators version 3.0: The Expos go to DC. Angelos gets a floor to his investment. Probably many cheers inside the beltway today. All that's left is to build a $400 million dollar publically financed stadium in the next 3 years (perhaps Marion Barry should consult on the financing). In related news, a 10-year-old child was sentenced to death yesterday for eating peanuts and crackerjack on the DC Metro.

posted by dzot to baseball at 09:13 AM - 29 comments

I wonder if the Rangers will give up the name to the DC team? Of course, they could always call themselves the Nationals. At least this time it'll fit. Still, this is a shame. Montreal deserved better than the screwing they received from the minority owners, Loria, and Selig. This wasn't about fans not supporting the team. This was about MLB keeping the screws on cities who don't offer themselves up for stadium sacrifice.

posted by ?! at 09:42 AM on September 29, 2004

What ?! said. It's been good, Montréal. Thanks.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 10:12 AM on September 29, 2004

I'm really excited to see what uber-capitalist George Will has to say about the decidedly uncompetitive Angelos subsidy. :)

posted by tieguy at 11:27 AM on September 29, 2004

MLB's relationship with the Expos was never one of long-term commitment. They've always been the emotionally unavailable boyfriend in a loveless, open relationship. It's a damn shame. Montreal's not the greatest sports town in the world, but they could have really grown into the Expos and made something special out of the team. Instead, apathy and poor management and foresight killed the franchise. And Olympic Stadium, now that it's finally finished, has no regular tenants at all. Aside from concerts and the occasional convention, what are they going to use it for now? Anyone know?

posted by chicobangs at 11:34 AM on September 29, 2004

The Montreal Bowl, a meaningful December 17 college football contest? I'm glad DC got it but ?! is right that this is not Montreal's fault. I'd be interested to see the attendance #s the team got from 1994, the last time anyone in management actually bothered to try. Meanwhile, the team bought for what, 250 mill by MLB, will go for... 5-600mill now? The Daily Quickie had an interesting suggestion regarding the stadium - that they ought to make it a unique ballpark with a huge percentage of seats being corporate/luxury boxes, to cater to lobbyists and campaign donors and the like, while keeping general tickets to a 10-15k level, creating a bit of competition for the general public to get them (to ensure higher prices and full seats). The unmentioned side benefit would be that it wouldn't steal as many O's fans. I wonder if that would be feasible at all. And what a park like that would look like. I hope they call them the Senators.

posted by Bernreuther at 12:36 PM on September 29, 2004

not a done deal: there seems to be some legal wrangling with the former minority owners and Selig & Co.

posted by garfield at 12:57 PM on September 29, 2004

props to Eric McErlain at offwingopinion. (I just can't take Colby Cosh that often, so I'm glad he filters him for me.)

posted by garfield at 12:58 PM on September 29, 2004

expo's attendance #'s. looks like numbers really didn't start to trail off until '98. (they traded pedro in the '97 off-season)

posted by goddam at 01:13 PM on September 29, 2004

Attendance isn't the real reason for Montreal's failings. I think it's all about the strike, Bud Selig and Loria. All attendance reflects is the prevailing attitude in Montreal post-strike. They had the best team in baseball in '94 and got jobbed. Then Loria came in and pulled the ultimate Art Modell (OK - that's not entirely fair to Modell - the rampant collusion in MLB has yet to be reflected in the NFL). So as soon as Montrealers discovered that MLB owned the team they would simply never give them their money. No one hates MLB as much as former Montreal baseball fans.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:52 PM on September 29, 2004

"Montreal's not the greatest sports town in the world" I take it you've never heard of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the legendary sports franchises in the world?

posted by docgonzo at 04:19 PM on September 29, 2004

I take it you've never heard of the Montreal Canadiens What league will they be in next year? DC will be cool. At the very least there won't have to be any division realignments. The loss of Minaya concerns me though. He and Robinson actually did a pretty OK job considering how hamstrung they are. I wanted to see them get a shot with no strings attached.

posted by pivo at 04:36 PM on September 29, 2004

docgonzo - perhaps you've not paid attention to their alarming attendance drop in the last few years, since they stopped being consistent Cup Contenders? Used to be you couldn't get even a nosebleed ticket less than a year ahead of time. Now they rely on walk-ups (and I don't think that's just due to playing in a bigger arena now). It's not reflected in the numbers, admittedly, but the waiting lists for tickets have gotten a lot shorter in recent years. This, in a city that has no other major sport (pace to the Alouettes fans, who at this point have the only remaining game in town, and who at least have something to cheer for)? A city that prides itself on being the last bastion of true old-tyme hockey fans (the poseurs in Toronto and Detroit have rock-and-rolled their hockey nights up with crazy lights and barrel races and other cheap gimmicks, while the Canadiens glorify the locals who play for them more than any other team -- I'm not saying it's true, I'm just saying the complaints I've heard from Habs fans repeatedly over the years)?The Montreal of The Hockey Sweater and Howie Morenz? If this lockout runs long, and the Canadiens don't get markedly better in the next couple of years, things could get a lot worse there before they get better. And if the Habs get worse, and people stop caring the way they used to about them, which is possible in my mind, then we start thinking about bigger problems, like Montreal becoming ever more isolated from the North American Cultural landscape. I grew up hating the Montreal Canadiens with every fiber of my blue-and-white childhood self, but the NHL and French Canada (hell, the whole country) are richer when they're doing well. I should have spent more time on this post and made a column out of it.

posted by chicobangs at 04:38 PM on September 29, 2004

I thought that DC was about as bankrupt as a city could be. Where do they propose to get this $400 million?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:15 PM on September 29, 2004

In related news, a 10-year-old child was sentenced to death yesterday for eating peanuts and crackerjack on the DC Metro. dzot, care to provide some linkage for this ridiculous, inflammatory statement?

posted by billsaysthis at 08:09 PM on September 29, 2004

In related news, a 10-year-old child was sentenced to death yesterday for eating peanuts and crackerjack on the DC Metro. Yeah, I didn't get it either.

posted by charlatan at 08:35 PM on September 29, 2004

A facetious extrapolation from this: Officer Shoves, Arrests Pregnant Woman Over Loud Call. "a string of other incidents, including the July arrest of a 45-year-old woman for chewing a PayDay candy bar and the 2000 arrest of a 12-year-old girl for eating a french fry" I was sarcastically supposing some child from Loudon County would be riding the Metro back home and absentmindedly still eating the peanuts and crackerjack from the game (after root root rooting for the home team), thus incurring the death penalty from over zealous Metro Cops. I'm sure it's especailly funny now that I have explained it.

posted by dzot at 09:51 PM on September 29, 2004

I got it Dzot. Need to be more in touch with DC news for that one to land, I'm afraid. And can't one be thrown out of Yankee Stadium for using the phrase "cracker jack" in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"? or some such nonsense. I read it on the internet. Really. ;-) I'm going to have a lot to say about this -- somewhere, somehow. I bought today's WaPo to digest the entire matter (although I have been loosely following the tale for... how long has this been a tale now?) My first reaction: I once again am flabbergasted by the numbers being bandied about for stadia and their deals. I designed a ballpark as part of my final year's work in grad school and did a lot of peripheral research about baseball. It's been a while since I put that knowledge to use but my gut reaction is to be troubled by the creation of stadia and the events within as a single commodity. Stadia (especially as urban place settings) had at one time grown organically within the fabric of the city. Now, they are designed and, with the event they house, packaged as a desitnation which only feeds a beast that still pretends to be a "democratic" institution. Don't get me wrong: I love baseball and ballparks. That architects have at least captured the "style" of the ballpark's organic origins is good but they are still a commodity no different in substance (aside from degree -- they are substantially more a commodity now) than the donut ballparks planned in the late 60's. I don't know exactly where I want to go with this but I need to stop now. Best name suggestions I've heard so far: the Washington Grays. Fitting given it really is a team playing in a "home away from home".

posted by Dick Paris at 07:16 AM on September 30, 2004

dzot, I got it too. Those transit cops are Nazis.

posted by garfield at 08:27 AM on September 30, 2004

Sally Jenkins (who mbd will know I think is a gigantic idiot) actually has a good column for once on the total bill of goods being sold to the city. Money quote: "Basically, you're taxing people who make $30,000 a year to generate a toy for people who make $200,000 a year, and income for people who make millions of dollars a year." --Stanford prof. Roger Noll

posted by tieguy at 08:41 AM on September 30, 2004

yo chico: I agree, things are not all wine and roses when it comes to the Habs. Hockey has changed; I think the best part about Gillette's recent stewardship of the team is that he seems to get it. The glory days are over and now the Habs must, just like every other team, cultivate and manage a fan base, scout good players wherever they are and field a team not based on mother tongue. (Why, oh why, is Patrice "Breeze-by" Brisebois our highest-paid player? Why do we have to pay millions in arena tax, higher than anyone else in the league?) Sure, there are things to worry about: the rising ticket costs -- which surely won't come down after the lock-out/apocalypse -- which lock the working man out of the rink; the loss of Habs broadcasts on over-the-air, "free" television; Montreal's cultural shift from a bissected french/english to a more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural metropolis. But then I remember the feeling in the air, in the bars, in the cafes, when the team was winning -- when Theo was carrying us past the hated Bruins a season or two ago in that thrililng playoff run -- and I think: Can our love for these guys ever really die? Oh, but back to the thread at hand: I don't doubt that low attendance was the proximate cause of the Expos' demise. I have no doubt that if they had kept on drawing 20 - 30k a game -- as they did from the move to the Big Uh-Oh in '77 to the '94 season -- then some local buyer would have stepped in before Loria had a chance to ruin us. But the ultimate cause of the attendance decline is a bit more complicated: - starting in the early '90s recession and accelerating after the '94 referendum (v.2.0), all levels of government poured hundreds of millions (billions?) of dollars into making Montreal one of the premiere tourist destinations in north America. The hotels are now top notch. Our galleries and cultural institutions world-class. The dining and nightlife is, well, legendary. The problem for the Expos is now that from early June until late August, there is a major arts and culture festival downtown every week: Francofolies (the biggest french music fest in the world); Just for Laughs; Montreal International Jazz Fest (the biggest and best in the world); Montreal International Film Festival; DiversCite; Fantasia; the F-1 weekend; the Fringe... - it's been said before, but the stadium really didn't do the team any favours. It's not downtown, it's not attractive, it's not a baseball stadium (in the current, "retro" style). It's not a bad place to see a game when it's full -- it really cooks when there is 30k+ in there -- but it's rarely full. (I still say it's far superior to, uggh, SkyDome.) - the team failed at marketing. There was no english television or radio deal of any real significance for the last couple of years. You never saw an ad for an Expos homestand; never saw an Expos player out kissing babies, doing charity work, etc. - in some ways, yesterday's death was the final result of the mortal wounds suffered from the '94 strike. Remember that baseball took years to recover in many markets; but only in Montreal was there a widespread and justified feeling that the labour troubles stole our world series. Montreal loves sports and loves a winner. The Expos never recovered after that. - for some reason, the current generation of players never caught the francopohone imagination the way Carter, Dawson, Staub and "Rock!" Raines did. Maybe they weren't winners; maybe, like Vlad, they just weren't good at playing that role. Whatever the case, they had zero cultural profile in Quebec's crucially-important "vedette" (star) system. In the end, it came down to the very simple calculations every Quebecker -- and every north american -- does to spend their entertainment bucks: Do I spend more and more of it on a team out in the middle of nowhere, that's burned me before, that's prolly leaving town anyway, with players I don't know or care for, when I can go and drink cocktails on a terasse at the Jazz Fest and listen to (insert name of major/minor act here) for free? (Sorry for the length. I've been mourning nos amours for days, and I needed a chance to vent.)

posted by docgonzo at 08:59 AM on September 30, 2004

I heard that suggestion about calling them the Washington Grays this morning. I love that name. It would be a huge step in the right direction. So it'll never happen. docgonzo, you made a few excellent points. You're right about the economic argument being the deal-breaker for Jean-Francois Sixpack. I mean, why bother caring? They've been out the door for a decade. And the only thing Skydome has over Olympic Stadium is location. That, and free sex shows over the left field wall.

posted by chicobangs at 10:40 AM on September 30, 2004

Montreal -- the Canadian version of Atlanta? As for the move to Washington, I'm still baffled why someone isn't lighting fire to the mayor's office over this. Public money for a private operation. It's nice to know DC has so much cash to throw around. As for possible names, my top suggestions: 1) Washington Lobbyists 2) Washington DCs (for Dick Cheney, of course) 3) Washington Beltways 4) DC Filibusters 5) Fuck Peter Angelos

posted by wfrazerjr at 11:01 AM on September 30, 2004

Fuck Peter Angelos I promise they will get at least 1 jersey sale. Otherwise, I like the Grays or the Senators.

posted by yerfatma at 11:41 AM on September 30, 2004

How about the Washington Capitols! I mean, if St. Louis could have a baseball team and a football team with the same name (for a while), why can't Washington do it too (hockey instead of football)? Other choices: Washington (insert current terror level colour)s Washington (insert name of current political party in power)s How about all those rejected basketball names?

posted by grum@work at 12:54 PM on September 30, 2004

Washington Terrorists?

posted by worldcup2002 at 01:10 PM on September 30, 2004

decidedly uncompetitive Angelos subsidy. Angelos is a major asshat. With his line of reasoning, should we expect to see George Steinbrenner be compensated because the Mets might steal the Yankees' fans? What a load of crap. The reason the O's have lost fans of late is 1) because Angelos is a jerk, 2) Cal Ripken retired and 3) many of us are still bitter about the stupid '94 strike. I hope they call them the Senators. I hope they DON'T! As Mayor Williams rightly points out, DC residents don't have representation in the U.S. Senate despite paying federal taxes. (BTW, many, many people don't even realise this and think DC residents don't pay federal taxes) So the last thing the team name should do is help continue the myth that all Americans are represented equally in Congress. dzot, I got it too. Those transit cops are Nazis. I don't know who here actually lives in the DC area and takes the Metro, but I would venture to guess that those who agree with the comment above don't live here and don't realise the reason DC has one of the best trains systems (minus their effed up management, which again is mostly Congress' fault) is because DC has actual rules for behaving well in public. The Metro also doesn't allow people to eat or drink in the system and therefore there aren't rats and tossed-aside Big Macs on the floor. So when slanted articles are posted on news sites they inevitably focus on the "she was pregnant" and not "she was swearing loudly and shouting into her cell phone." Or "she was only 12" and not "she was eating fries on the train and verbally assulted an adult Metro employee." I am sure there was a better way to handle the pregnant woman's incident, but the reason folks are all over the Metro employee's case is because the pregnant woman is talking to anyone who will listen (loudly, I assume) while Metro has remained relatively mum. So on those occasions when someone is caught breaking the law by eating on a train, they suddenly become the victim even though they knowingly broke the law. What is usally the truth is they thought they could get away with it, and when they didn't they are suddently the victim and upset because they had to pay the fine or were arrested. Metro may be run VERY poorly, but those of us who rely on it for their daily commutes (and to get around town) like the fact that the trains and stations are clean and safe to use. The trains are air conditioned, carpetted and and for the most part not filled with trash. It may sound like overkill to people who are used to something else, but I will take it over some of the other systems in the US I have used.

posted by scully at 01:31 PM on September 30, 2004

Montreal -- the Canadian version of Atlanta? Oh you big tease. Not in a million-billion years. Hotlanta sucks so much ass it hurts. Montreal is the best fucking city on this continent (well, NYC is very hip). Go stand downtown at 3 AM in either. You'll see. Washington Grays is a great name. But only if they spell it 'Greys'. I also like calling them the Nationals. dcgonzo - I agree with most of your points, but would say that the 'entertainment dollar' question is certainly not limited to Montreal. There's something far deeper than just having to make a choice.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:31 PM on September 30, 2004

I went to the Expos game last Thursday. (that's all)

posted by gspm at 01:55 PM on September 30, 2004

There should definitely be more outrage over public money being spent on the stadium. That is not a sarcastic comment. But it happens all over, as we are finding ehre in Santa Clara County with the Supervisors in the process of selling about $80 million in bonds to finance a 7,500 seat music venue in a terrible location after the House of Blues decided there wasn't a good enough market to pay for the building themselves. Yes, we are very smart in Santa Clara County.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:11 PM on September 30, 2004

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