Baseball fans received a wake-up call yesterday. An Associated Press article by Ronald Blum relates, “Washington’s new baseball team shut down business and promotional operations indefinitely Wednesday as its move to the nation’s capital teetered on the brink of collapse. The decision by Major League Baseball followed the District of Columbia’s decision Tuesday night to require private financing for at least half the cost of building a new stadium. The September agreement to move the Montreal Expos to Washington called for a ballpark fully financed by government money.”
Over the summer the Washington Post had a great three-part article on how Bud Selig screwed over Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee in securing the financing for the construction of Miller Park. Selig and the Brewers were supposed to chip in half the cost of the ballpark, but in the final analysis they chipped in not at all, leaving Wisconsin and Milwaukee holding the bag.
And Selig is now the baseball commissioner.
I don’t know how professional sports reached the point where it comes down to, “If you love us, you’ll build the team a stadium/arena/dome.” For municipalities there’s no logic to public financing. As much as I would love to see professional baseball return to the nation’s capital, I have to applaud the DC Commissioners who took a stand against corporate welfare. This will, I’ve no doubt, rob the District of its third major league baseball team, as baseball’s decision to refund season ticket deposits attests, but given the social issues confronting the city those dollars MLB wants spent out of the city’s coffers would see better use applied elsewhere.
The Expos will play somewhere next year. Some municipality will be left holding the bag for their stadium. A line in the sand has been drawn, though, and this may be the moment when fans awaken to the corporate greed at work behind the scenes.