Friday, October 29, 2004

NIMBYs on Parade

Vocal Crowd Turns Out to Talk Baseball

Sarah Sloan of Southeast became outraged by the pace. "This is an incredibly undemocratic process," said Sloan, eating a sandwich while waiting for her turn as No. 172 on the list of speakers. "The politicians are afraid to hear from the people, because they know people are opposed to the deal."

At one point, several students from Eastern Senior High School pleaded to move up in the order because they were late for football practice and other activities.

"You always say children first, but I get the feeling the baseball stadium is more important than children," said Toney Stover, one of the students. "Whatever millions you spend on the team, why can't you match that and give it to recreation centers and after-school programs and books?"

In fact, the mayor proposed just such an idea Wednesday: a community investment fund worth up to $400 million that would be funded through a portion of taxes on businesses near the new stadium. The plan has received mixed reviews.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), who has generally been supportive of the stadium plan, told the crowd that "the money spent on a stadium does not exist for any other program."

A council committee will mark up the stadium legislation Wednesday, and the full council is to take the first vote Nov. 9.

Sweet Jesus, NO!

Buried at the bottom of a Washington Post story are two paragraphs that should send a chill through any Washington Baseball fan:

"An industry source said yesterday that Pat Gillick, who served as a GM with Toronto, Baltimore and Seattle, almost certainly won't be the Expos' GM. Gillick has said in the last two weeks that he would like the job despite its tenuous nature.

Several former general managers could be considered, including Dan Duquette, who ran the Expos and later the Red Sox; Jim Bowden, who served as GM of the Cincinnati Reds for more than 10 seasons; and former Los Angeles Dodgers GM Kevin Malone. "

Gillick would be accepable, I suppose. Duquette has zero people skills and was good at putting together a roster on the cheap from scraps--before he got fat and happy with a larger payroll. But Jim Bowden and Kevin Malone???? Please tell me this is just Tony Tavares' way of giving Washington fans a good scare before Halloween!

Bowden and his never-ending roster tinkering just resulted in a lot of water treading. The one year they actually put everything together, a short-sighted interleague schedule trade (They gave up a series with the lowly Royals for a set against the then-powerhouse Indians) forced them into a one-game playoff against the Mets, which they lost. Following that high water mark, the Reds never got back into the race. They just couldn't find the pitching as Bowden brought in retread after retread, hoping that Don Gullett could work his magic with the likes of Steve Parris, Osvaldo Fernandezand Jim Brower. Gullett's good, but he's not a saint and predictable results followed.

The other candidate that makes my stomach turn is Kevin "The Sherrif" Malone. He was fired as GM of the Dodgers after an a screaming match with a fan in the stands. These two paragraphs probably sum up his qualifications the best:

Three years, hundreds of stupid comments and dozens of horrid decisions later, Kevin Malone limped meekly out of town last week, leaving a prepared statement on his Dodger Stadium voicemail: "Hi, you have reached the Los Angeles Dodgers and the voice mailbox of Kevin Malone. As of today, Thursday, April 19, I will be resigning as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers."

Malone, who leaves with a dreadful track record of personnel decisions, traded Gold Glove catcher Charles Johnson for sore-armed catcher Todd Hundley, made Carlos Perez the richest Triple-A pitcher in baseball with a three-year, $15.6 million contract and skipped over Steve Finley to sign center fielder Devon White to a three-year, $12.4 million free-agent contract.

Hell, let's make it three paragraphs, cause this is so much fun!
Malone leaves with little sympathy and openly tampered with Giants manager Dusty Baker as he tried to get him to Los Angeles. He caused an NCAA investigation when he called a UCLA recruit, ripped former manager Davey Johnson behind his back, recruited Kevin Kennedy while Johnson still was manager and pleaded with certain broadcasters to praise him on the air in return for favors.

Ugh. That's about all I can say now.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Schedule's Out!

Thank You, Washington Post!!!

Worst. Team. Ever.

I report you decide.
"stuey (new york): what will montreal do with their crowded outfield? wilkerson, rivera, chavez and sledge are all too good to sit.

Joe Sheehan: Actually, only Wilkerson is a complete player, someone who should play every day. I think the other three can make a nice rotation, though, mixing and matching based on park and pitcher.

The Expos might be one of the worst teams ever next year, because it's hard to see how they get anything done this offseason.

I still say the Washington deal is far from set. "

Diamonds In The Rough

Baseball America has released a list of minor league free agents. These are the true diamonds in the rough--players who have been bouncing around the minors for a few years. You might recognize such luminaries as Billy McMillon, Clay Bellinger and Jose Jimenez. I'm definitely not an expert on the Minor Leagues, but I'm sure there are a few useful players on this list.

To be successful given the constraints this team is currently under, we're going to need management that knows what they're looking for and how to use these players to fill out the last few roster spots at a low cost, regardless of whether we've heard their name before or not. (Are you listening, James Baldwin?)

I'm Shocked! Shocked!

Today's Capt. Louis Renault moment is brought to you by DC's Chief Financial Officer. Sez the Post:
The cost of building a baseball stadium and renovating Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium could be $91 million more than city officials initially estimated, according to an analysis released last night by the District's chief financial officer.
In an eight-page letter to D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), Natwar M. Gandhi said the total cost of the stadium package could reach $486.2 million, not the $395 million stated in the agreement between the District and Major League Baseball.
This is nothing new. I'm too lazy to do the research, but I'd be amazed if any stadium came close to its initial cost estimate.

Gandhi estimated that the city would need to collect $2 million a year more in gross-receipts taxes on the city's largest businesses to pay the debt service.

"This just looks like a continuous spiraling upward with no end in sight," said council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), who opposes using public money for the stadium. "It would be fiscally irresponsible for the council to approve the plan."

But city officials disputed much of Gandhi's analysis. For
example, they said that renovations to Metro are not necessary and, even if they were, could be paid for partly by Virginia and Maryland, whose residents would be attending games.

Furthermore, the officials said, they had built into
their financing plan the ability to issue up to $500 million in bonds without changes to the gross-receipts tax.

When it comes to stadium financing, the best advice is to hold your nose and swallow.

Beat It, Bob

Bob Watson becomes the first Free Agent to pass on Washington as he has decided not to take the GM job. Apparently, he was not enamored of the temporary nature of the job. The new ownership group would retain the right to overhaul the front office/coaching staff and there was no guarantee that he would remain.
"It's my decision," he said -- but acknowledged that the new owner's right to bring in an entirely different management structure was a factor.
"I understand why you can't [make a commitment for] any longer," Watson said. "You don't have an owner. I understand that. That person should make the decisions."

In the meantime, Pat Gillick continues to politick for the job--or in this case--the media continues to do the job for him.
Watson's decision also puts Pat Gillick's name back in the forefront. The former Baltimore Orioles general manager told The Washington Times several weeks ago that he was interested in the position, even with the uncertainty about the new owners of the franchise. "Any way I could help, I
probably would," Gillick told The Times on Oct. 2. "I've been around this game for a long time. If somebody asked me to do it and put things together and get things on an even keel for a while, I probably would. I'm still working for Seattle [as a consultant], but I am always interested in a challenge."
DuPuy said Tuesday the league has not spoken to Gillick.

Gillick had successful runs with Seattle, Baltimore and Toronto. It's hard to argue with the results, but very easy to quibble with his methods.

Just like everything in this franchise, it's still up in the air. We should just be thankful that Omar Minaya found a new franchise to run into the ground.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Havana Pete Stalemate?

In a story that could be subtitled "If there's no smoke, there's definitely not a fire," the unfortunately-named Peter Schmuck checks up on the Angelos-MLB negotiations.
DuPuy said he exchanged phone calls with Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss
yesterday, but DuPuy also said that the delay in completing a deal to indemnify
the Orioles for potential losses related to the arrival of a second team in the

"I read in one paper today that the deal seems to be going south
and in another paper that it's almost done," DuPuy said.

The Angelos
negotiations, he said, have been friendly.

"We've had a lot of
discussions and we've had agreement on some philosophical issues and some
disagreements on some issues," DuPuy said.

Schedule Jigsaw

The Post played amateur detective today and pieced together a portion of the Ex-Expos schedule.
The Expos haven't released any of their schedule, but 17 other teams have
unveiled at least their home games. A glance at those schedules reveals the
dates and sites for 64 of the team's 162 games.

They'll open up with the moribund Phillies on the 4th of April at Citizens Bank Park (A name Karl Marx would love). It appears they home opener is April 15th against the listless Arizona Diamondbacks.

Construction Junction

There's a DC City Coucil hearing on the Stadium Construction issue and, according to the Washington Post, over 170 people have signed up to speak, making it one of the largest hearings on record.

I'm a bit squeamish about the economic value of stadium. Everything I've read says they have zero economic impact. And Johns Hopkins Economic Professor Bruce Hamilton even argued that they have negative impact. In the case of Camden Yards, his study found that construction and maintenance costs Maryland residents around $15 per year.

Just in time for today's hearing, the CATO Institute decides to befoul the punchbowl. I'm torn! It's hard to argue with their numbers (and the numbers of so many other economists in so many other areas). But at the same time, I just wanna yell at them to shut up! It seems different this time. It's our team, damnit! But, i guess that's what economics is good at--not letting emotions stand in the way of good facts. *sigh*

Perhaps Hamilton had the best compromise:
"To me, the question is not should we build a stadium because it will
generate economic growth, because it won't. We should say, 'It will cost you $10
to $15 a year to keep the Orioles. Do you want it?' If Maryland voters say yes,
I say fine. I'd probably vote for it on those terms. And if the public votes it
down, let the team go."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

By Jove, Our Dear Watson

The Washington Post is reporting the former Astros and Yankees General Manager and Current MLB Punishment Czar Bob Watson will be named GM of the Ex-Expos after the World Series. Given his track record in the front office, this seems like a decent choice.

He served five years in the Houston front office and in October 1993 became the first black general manager in major league history. He helped build the Astros into a contender in the National League Central, finishing second in his two seasons, strike-shortened 1994 and '95...

Watson last served as a general manager with the New York Yankees for the 1996 and '97 seasons. He helped bring manager Joe Torre to New York for the 1996 season, when the Yankees won their 23rd World Series championship. After a tumultuous reign in which he was subjected to the constant pressure of working for owner George Steinbrenner, Watson resigned in February 1998, turning over the reins to current Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

Watson's job is only temporary. The new owners would have the right to select their own GM. Although given Watson's track record and minority status, it'd be hard to see them dumping him immediately.

In NY, Watson took over for Gene Michael after the 1995 debacle in Seattle (when the Yankees lost the final 3 games of their first round series). Watson brought in Joe Torre to replace Buck Showalter. He and Torre guided the Yankees to their first World Series of the current stretch. Watson's trading-deadline acquisition of Graeme Lloyd proved key in the World Series (despite a miserable regular season) when he shut down the Braves in his 4 appearances.

Watson was fired/resigned in February 1998, after the Yankees lost Cleveland in the Division Series when Mariano Rivera blew the save in Game 4 and Jaret Wright shut the Yankees down in Game 5. Brian Cashman took over for Watson and the team won a then-record 114 games and another World Series.

Is Watson a good choice? I'm not sure. The teams he's been around have done pretty well, both in NY and Houston. He was also responsible for assembling the gold-medal-winning 2000 Olympic Baseball team.

The key will be payroll, I think. I don't think there's much of a correlation between payroll and winning, but this team has really pared back over the last few years. If they can throw an extra $20 million in and get player development moving, they can compete pretty quickly on the short-term, while not neglecting the long-term.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Early Roster Moves

The Transaction Guy notes several minor transactions from the last few weeks for our favorite Ex-Expos team.

Released: RHP Dan Smith
Declined option: C Einar Diaz
Outrighted: LHP Jeriome Robertson

There are reports that they might re-sign the execrable Einar Diaz. He served at the team's backup catcher last year and "hit" (Yes, those are scare quotes) .223/.293/.302. He hasn't had a OBP above .300 or a Slugging percent above .380 in 3 years. He'll turn 32 in a few weeks. It's time to cut bait.

Dan Smith didn't pitch in the majors at all last year, but has pitched in parts of 4 seasons. He has a 5.23 ERA in 177 innings and will soon turn 30. He may be a nice guy, but I don't think missing him is going to hurt the Ex-Expos too much either.

Jeriome Robertson pitched with the Indians and was traded to the Expos in August for some bailing wire and a gift certificate to Tim Horton's. He didn't get into any games with the Expos, but did get brutalized by opposing batters in 8 games with the Indians.

The Taxman Cometh

Today's Washington Post has an article about the Business tax plan that aims to collect $24MM/year for stadium construction. As with 99 percent of all tax issues, it looks at it as a matter of fairness.

In the case of a draft bill, the criticism seems to be right:

Under Williams's proposal, which all sides said is likely to be a starting point for the eventual plan, businesses with less than $3 million in annual revenue would pay no tax. That means about 31,000 of the District's 33,000 enterprises would be exempt, according to data from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue. Green said that the level under which there would be no tax might be raised, as long as other changes are also made that would ensure that the tax bring in $24 million.

The mayor's proposed tax would be capped, so any D.C. company with more than $16 million in revenue would pay the same: $28,200. The largest companies, like Pepco, generally consider a $28,200 tax to be inconsequential. Green said he would be open to having higher brackets to collect more from large companies.

Under the current draft, the companies that are most squeezed are mid-size enterprises -- those with annual sales of $3 million to $20 million. Especially hard hit are those with low profit margins.

By taxing revenues, these low-profit-margin companies are being unfairly squeezed--particularly with the cap in place. But, the article also notes the large presence of law firms and consultants in this area that could hide any profits by increasing pay to their partners.

It's a fine line to balance and with the many competing voices--both for and against--it's not going to be easy legislation to craft or to get approved. The fight is far from over.

Off Wing Opinion: Traipsing Through RFK

Off Wing Opinion links to a page with diagrams and pictures of RFK as it was configured for baseball. It gives a brief history of DC Stadium--as it was originally and uncreatively called--and gives you a good idea of what to expect next summer.

The stories I've read paint the place as pretty dismal and spartan now. Hopefully, that's just spin and talk in the new stadium efforts. I don't need first class amenities--Just a comfortable seat and a clean place to pee!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bye Bye Batista?

Until now, most of the coverage of the Ex-Expos has been about the stadium and the move. Very little has been said about the roster. After back-to-back 83-win seasons, they finished with a dismal 67-95 record.

They finished 14th out of 16 teams in runs scored--just one run out of 15th. Their pitching fared much better, comparatively, but still finished 13th with a 4.33 ERA. (League Average was 4.30). When you have a slightly below average pitching staff, you better have a good offense. The Ex-Expos didn't, and it's not hard to see why they were do disappointing.

That's why it was distressing for me to read:

Before he hires a general manager, Tavares has assistant general manager Tony Siegle working on other baseball matters, including trying to re-sign third baseman Tony Batista, who hit .241 with 32 home runs and 110 RBI in his first season with the Expos, his best since a 41-homer, 114-RBI season with Toronto in 2000. Batista earned $1.5 million from a one-year deal last year. Players aren't allowed to file for free agency until after the World Series.

I hope this isn't foreshadowing the quality of the baseball writing we're going to get here in DC. Yes, Batista hit 32 home runs. But that does not make him a good player. He's far from it. Along with those 32 home runs came a .272 on-base percentage and 488 outs. Think about that--Batista made 54 games worth of outs!

Yes, he hit 32 home runs, but his slugging percentage was only .455. According to to, Batista was 12% worse offensively than an average player. He was useful a few years ago when he was batting .270 and playing shortstop, but now that he's over 30 and batting in the .230-.240 range, he's a drain on the team.

If this is an early indication of the direction of the team, we might be in for a long season. At least with all the hacking the games will be quick!

Fixing up RFK

With the Ex-Expos home opener scheduled for April 15, the DC Sports Commission has begun soliciting bids for the renovation of RFK.

I saw a quick video on the news last night, and it seems like they have a lot of work to do just in terms of aesthetics. But from this morning's Post, there seems to be a lot more as well:

The key elements include replacing seating for soccer that is in left field with retractable seats that would be removed for baseball; installing foul poles and backstops; cutting a baseball diamond into the grass; painting and carpeting the locker rooms; installing cables, phone lines and electrical wiring for the media; and fixing minor cracks in some parts of the concrete stands.
Yesterday's press junket also served as a pitch to the media for why RFK is not a suitable alternative to a new stadium.

But officials said RFK has narrow concourses that create bottlenecks, fewer restrooms and concession areas than new stadiums and outdated press boxes from which it is difficult to see high fly balls.

I just attended a playoff game in Yankee Stadium and was stuck in the nosebleeds. The seats, despite being 1/4 mile from the field weren't bad. What was bad was the narrow concourses and the narrow ramps leading down from the upper deck. It took almost 40 minutes to get out of the Stadium from my seat. I haven't been to RFK, but I'm assuming it's the same sort of situation there. I wouldn't want to deal with that every day, that's for sure.

Lame Duck/ Majority Whip Departed

(This is being added later to help clear up the Lame Duck sidebar)

Those who have won the prestigious award but who are no longer with the team are:
Majority Whip:
  • 1 -- Ryan Church
  • 1 -- Zach Day

    Lame Duck:
  • 3 -- Joey Eischen
  • 1 -- Jason Bergmann
  • 1 -- Billy Traber
  • 1 -- Brandon Watson

  • Welcome to Capitol Punishment

    I've been living in DC since 2000 and having baseball withdrawal since. Making the 90 minute drive from Alexandria up to Baltimore was not high on my list of fun things to do--I'd make the trip just once or twice a year.

    I've been waiting for DC to get its own team for a while. They can clearly support a team without having a catastrophic effect on Havana Pete's Orioles.

    Right now, the team is being operated out of a hotel and lots of things like ticket sales, management, and even the name are up in the air. Hopefully, it will all be sorted out soon.