Yep, ESPN.com rumor-monger Jayson Stark, who deserves little attention, does get credit for reporting that the Expos will still be homeless next year. To quickly re-articulate the reasons why this is beyond ridiculous:
- MLB currently owns the Expos, yet MLB bylaws prohibit any owner from owning parts of more than one team. This prevents an owner from stacking one team with all the good players, not to mention all the accounting scams possible. However, MLB being simply a federation of baseball team owners, every owner actually owns a portion of the Expos. Not surprisingly, the Expos have not increased their payroll since MLB has taken ownership, and they've lost all but four of their players, as Stark reports. More simply put, it's an inherent conflict of interest, whether or not any owner has direct control over Expos operations.
- Throughout this whole debacle, the Commissioner has continued to insist that the Expos will not stay in Montreal, rendering them essentially homeless. Not surprisingly, not many Montrealans seem to be particularly interested in seeing a team guaranteed to leave town. In 2002, after Selig's silly contraction ploy that suggested that would be their last season in Montreal, the Expos saw attendance go up by 33%--to 812, 537, worst in the majors. In 2003, MLB tried to raise attendance again (and it did) by putting some home games in Puerto Rico, increasing their average home game attendance from 10,031 in 2002 to 12,662 in 2003. But those gimmicks are wearing off. This years average game attendance is down to 9092, dead last. Selig continues to be the worst marketer of his own product, professional baseball, when he should be the consummate salesman of the game. He made his money selling cars, and now that he has to sell something that actually is a quality product, he continually bungles it.
- Baseball has several options for where to put the Expos, including the eighth largest market in the nation, Washington DC. Orioles owner Peter Angelos continues to whine that DC is his market, but if you combine Baltimore, Washington DC, and a little bit--say 15%--of the Richmond and Norfolk metro areas (following Mike Jones' example), you get a TV market that is bigger (3,487,995 TV households) than every market except LA (5,402,260) and New York (7,376,330), a market bigger than Chicago and the Bay area. Certainly, there is room for two teams to share this market. Angelos' whining and Seligula's determination to extract every ounce of guaranteed public funding for a stadium is the only thing keeping the team from relocating--it certainly isn't because there are no places to go. Other viable options: Sacramento (1,278,430), Portland (1,073,210), Indianapolis (1,038,370). Las Vegas, oft mentioned, doesn't make sense to me, as it is way down on the list (51st, 601,700).
The solution is to tell Angelos, as they must have told Steinbrenner when they pushed through greater revenue sharing, to take his medicine or feel free to put the Orioles up for sale. Auction the team to the highest bidder in the DC area. Jayson Stark's article mentions possible protections for Angelos' TV rights that seem eminently feasible. There's nobody in power, however, that has the personal integrity and political will to solve this problem, and it continues to be a ridiculous embarrassment besmirching the game.