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Boswell’s Life of Mussolini

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While Jim Henley and Rob have already dealt with this, this Tom Boswell article linked to be Henley about the DC stadium deal is such a definitive example of the mendacity of MLB and its lickspittles that it deserves its own comment despite my ongoing flu-induced delirium. Why is Boswell so upset?

The bits of charred ash and shattered fragments that you see falling from the sky are the remnants of the destruction that Cropp wrought. With one amendment to a stadium-funding bill, she demolished the most basic pillar on which the District’s agreement with baseball was built. By a 10-3 vote, the council demanded that at least half of the cost of any new stadium be built with private financing, which does not exist, rather than public funding, as stipulated in D.C.’s deal with baseball.

So let’s get this right out front. What Cropp is proposing is that D.C. pay for half of a cash-cow stadium that will enable private interests to charge 5 bucks for 2 cents worth or Coke. Pretty goddamned sweet, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps, if anything, too generous. And yet, we’re asked to believe that this is completely intolerable. I think this tells you most of what you need to know.

In other words, baseball wouldn’t negotiate with Cropp and her council beyond a certain fairly minimal point.

But why should they? To baseball, what Cropp has done is the purest form of business deceit. Let the mayor put an acceptable stadium offer on the table, complete with fully negotiated concessions on both sides, then, at the council level say, “Now let’s renegotiate everything.”

Yes, I’m sure that this deal was “acceptable” to major league baseball. Similarly, I would approve of a deal in which D.C. gave me the money to buy the Nationals; whether this is in the interest of D.C.’s citizens, or whether the city council would have the right to question such a deal, are more open questions. However, “negotitation” seems a little generous in describing what Williams did. Well, I suppose “bend over and don’t even bother with the KY” is a form of negotitation. It seems Boswell has a Hobbesian conception of consent: MLB conceded to extort D.C., Williams conceded to the terms of the extortion. See, everybody wins!

But it gets worse. Imagine how little integrity you would have to have to write this drivel:

Baseball feels no obligation whatsoever to make a good faith effort to negotiate with Cropp’s council. It already negotiated for two years with cities all over America that wanted the Expos to come to their town…
[…]
Those who believe in the power of baseball prayer had better get to work. Because baseball would have to be run by saints — not 30 owners — to respond to this national insult, a direct spit in the face, by saying: “Okay, let’s talk. Let’s save the deal. We’ve already negotiated the big stuff. But now we’ll negotiate it again.”

Oh, yes, we certainly can’t expect Major League Baseball to be run by “saints” who believe that businessmen should actually invest (some of) their own money in a business enterprise! Heavens to betsy, what an outrage! A spit in the face! (Hey, when they tried this public investment/private profit stuff that MLB and Boswell like so much in 1930s Italy, it really made the trains run on time!) You also have to like the way in which Boswell simultaneously points out that MLB has been trying to move the Expos for years (and it’s a hell of a lot more than 2, Tom) and assumes that MLB has enormous leverage over D.C. Well, Tom, please tell us–if MLB has so many prime locations willing to build a stadium for free, why did it take so long? Why did they agree to move somewhere without a deal in place? Where is this mysterious great deal MLB will now move on to–Portland? San Juan? Mobile? The D.C. Council should be applauded for calling MLB’s bluff here, of course. And people who oppose this aren’t anti-baseball. I love baseball. I’m anti-one-of-America’s-poorest-cities-giving-free-money-to-plutocrats.

A final thing to note is how remarkable it is that the allegedly great development benefits of stadium construction are being bandied about with respect from a team being moved from Montreal. The Expos, many of you will know, played in the Stade Olympique, the centerpiece of the 1976 Games, which were supposed to cement Montreal’s (deserved) status as a world-class city. Instead, it cost well over a billion dollars, saddling the city with enormous debt. The “rectractable” roof, which the mayor demanded be attached to a phallic symbol, didn’t work. The middle-of-nowhere-East End neighborhood in which it was located remained undeveloped (a factor in the decline of the Expos; there was almost nowhere around the stadium where you could grab dinner before or after the game.) Montreal went into a decades-long economic spiral from which it is only now recovering. And, it turns out that the Stade was a lousy ballpark, helping to kill what was once a great baseball town. Yes, how outrageous that Cropp would want to prevent such a goldmine from being built in D.C.! After all, they built ballparks in Ogdenville, West Haverbrook, and St. Petersberg, and by gum it put them on the map!

Alas, I fear Max is right that this is a mere temporary roadbloack. But the deal Williams signed was awful, and Cropp deserves nothing but credit as long as she’s thwarting it.

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