Acclaim Sports’ video game, All Star Baseball 2003, has a nifty feature–you can create your own expansion team, pick its city, its uniform, its name, its league, and off you go. Some of the choices for cities strike me as a bit odd–Monterey, Mexico, but not Vancouver, British Columbia. You can put a team in Brooklyn, but you can’t call them the Dodgers because there’s already a Dodgers in Los Angeles. And then there’s Washington. The natural name for a baseball team from Washington is the Senators. Unfortunately, All Star Baseball doesn’t give you the option of using that name. So, the Washington Admirals or the Washington Burros or twenty other names for the picking. It’s not ideal, not by any stretch, but for the fan who really wants baseball in the nation’s capital it’s as close as he’s likely to get for the next few years.
This season the Washington Post has been following the trials and tribulations of the ownership groups interested in bringing baseball back to Washington, covering stadium siting issues to the objections of Peter Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles to day-to-day issues such as how many fans a potential Washington team might draw. Last Monday’s Post had an interesting article about the plight of the Montreal Expos this year, a team owned by the other 29, possibly on its last legs, the known target of contraction once this season has finished. Or perhaps not. According to the article, Bud Selig has said that the owners are prepared to carry on with the Expos for another year pending the ruling of the contraction question, though perhaps not in Montreal. And, this article went on to say, perhaps Washington might be a suitable venue for the 2003 Expos. I can think of nothing more ironic than Washington wanting a baseball team and being able to support a baseball team at the same time that a team that originated in Washington and had a long and storied history there, the Minnesota Twins, is in danger of being dissolved.
Nothing would be worse for the future of baseball in Washington than to make it the home of baseball’s lame duck team for one year and then contract the team out of existence. First, it’s cynical–Give the fans who want a team something to root for, and then take it away after a year for reasons beyond those same fans’ control. Second, it doesn’t help the game–Just sell the team and spread the revenue from the sale to the other twenty-nine clubs and it’s a short-term fix for some of the financial problems plaguing Major League Baseball. At this point the Washington ownership groups have resigned themselves to the fact that none of them will be owning a baseball team for the 2003 season. I’d like to say, “There’s always 2004,” but with the way things are going in the ongoing labor negotations between the ownership and the players, I’m not so sure that I can say, “There’s always 2003.”