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Poor, poor Organized Baseball

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Thomas Boswell is an amazing writer.

He can turn a lovely phrase, and inspire passion, and buttress hope, and facilitate the aroma of freshly-cut grass to the most asentimental accountant or stathead. And, when it comes to foam fingers, of course Boz's is the most foamfingerish. Sometimes, he'll still even get around to throwing reason into the mix. Sometimes.

No greater evidence of Boz's rhetorical genius need be displayed than this column, wherein he portrays Bob Dupuy, the majordomo of a judicially-sanctioned interstate quasi-crime syndicate, as a breathelessly helpless, sadly and repeatedly deceived, good faith bargainer.

It's an impressive performance, for sure. A sample:

For many months the D.C. Council has been out of its depth, lost at sea and out of control. Now, in the next few days, we will find out whether the council has regained its senses, due in part to the battering they took in the hours after their initial 8 to 5 vote -- a decision that, in effect, would have doomed baseball's long-term future in the District. DuPuy was so furious that he began referring to the Nats as "the Oshkosh Nationals." . . .
As the sport considers the District's latest version of a stadium lease, it should cut the city precious little slack. If the District does not want the Nats, somebody else will. Maybe even the citizens of a friendly, sensible state just a few miles away.

That friendly, sensible state, in which I was raised and edumacated on the fundamentals and the law and am currently a taxpaying citizen, finally foisted up a lamer attempt than Mike Vanderjagt's forlorn potential game-tying field goal against the Steelers. Say what you will about the DC Council---and there's obviously a lot to say---but I don't see anyone else who promised much less promulgated legislation handing Organized Baseball $535 (or, really, $589) million. I realize cold, hard cash doesn't have the charm of a gravel pit, but . . .

When it comes down to the condescending hand-wringing and puffed-up threats and pejorative references to putting the team in towns of 50,000 people instead of the Nation's Capital, no one forgets the DC Council's passed financial commitment to MLB better than MLB itself---other than the baseball columnists who should be off praising a first inning bunt rather than stirring the chemicals that could set off the DC stadium bomb.

One thing is for sure, though: the four constants of that late-night session were scrivening and editing and striking through and adding to the margins. Dupuy does have reason to question how sound that emergency measure really is, though I swear to the almighty that if Dupuy starts talking tough yet again I'm sending The Jackal to find him.

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Boz's column also provides indirect praise to Mayor Williams for cajoling this thing back into play. A blow-by-blow article in the Post credits Robert Bobb as the MacGyverish hero of the proceedings, learning what the administration needed to do, whipping up the necessary resources, and at one point even barring council members from leaving the chamber.

As everyone knows, 99.44% of your idiot bloggers aren't insiders, and that figure includes me. If a newspaper columnist says Williams stepped to the plate when he needed to, or if a newspaper writer reports that the mayor's aide got it done, then there's good reason to trust those accounts and assessments.

Still, I'd like to toss out two outsider's observations:

  1. Where's the praise for Linda Cropp? Yes, she's a political opportunist, but who isn't? If "We already know MLB is greedy" is a legitimate response to "Man, MLB is greedy," then it stands to reason that "Of course Cropp is an oppotunist" should legitimately counter observations that she's an opportunist. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. But I didn't stay up and watch that mess of a DCC meeting on my laptop for contemplating I know you are but what am I? scenarios. Instead, I went to bed with the distinct impression that Cropp guided this second vote to affirmance. Williams (or Williams via Bobb) may have done it behind the scenes, but Cropp commanded the chamber. She kept up with all of the amendments. She coherently explained what was going on. She didn't explicitly call Marion Barry an idiot. She didn't really tell Phil Mendelson to shut up. Think just anybody could do that? (At the time, the latter appeared to be the potential game-winning vote. But Mendelson forced himself of the basepaths, as it were, and the former ended up swinging the roll call. Oh my God, Marion Barry saved baseball in DC!)
  2. As Capitol Punishment Chris explained during the uneasy interregnum between the two votes, never ever let Anthony Williams off easy here. He'll go down as Washington's version of George Christopher, but Williams deserves absolutely no deference with respect to how things came to be:
DC WANTS to give them $1 billion in assets. They're willing to give them AT LEAST $550 million for a stadium, and MLB has people willing to pay $450 million for the farkin' team. How can MLB possibly turn $1 billion in assets down? . . .

Ripping on the Council is far too easy. Let's not forget that they have a job to do. There weren't too many appeals to women and children today, just reasoned talk about what kinds of cost certainty the city had. When it became clear that there wasn't any, the city voted it down. Would YOU give Bud Selig a blank check?

It's easy to rip the Council, but to me, the real culprit is Tony Williams. His incompetent handling of this process is the sole reason we didn't get a lease tonight.

If he had enacted a lease that actually capped costs, like he thought he had, then the Council would have approved it.

If he had mounted a proper PR campaign (and slapping some peppy slogans on a farkin' website doesn't count), and he had actually used his 'charm' to negotiate internally with the members of the council, things might have gone differently.

If he had negotiated a better deal with MLB two years ago, things would be different today. Let's not forget that it was he (and Jack Evans) who negotiated the original baseball stadium agreement with MLB. That's the document that served as the framework for the lease. It's the document that set the precedent for giving away the farm for seemingly limitless money. . . .

Had Tony Williams demonstrated strong, meaningful leadership, we probably wouldn't be where we are today.

At any rate, Chris ended that post on an optimistic note, and my tone was the same at that point. Back in December 2004, I was bitterly concerned; last night, I was merely somewhat apprehensive, but I figured the DCC would go back to work and the Carol Schwartzes and Kwame Browns of the world would finally and grandly pronounce that now they are satisfied; they had done their due diligence, they'd proclaim, and they coud do no more.

Good for the Council, good for Williams, good for us . . . and good for Organized Baseball. As of 7:00 am Wednesday, its billion-dollar windfall is back on course.