D.C.’s leaders desperately want a baseball team. And so far, it looks as if they’ve touched all the bases: They’ve hyped proposals for new stadiums, organized rallies supporting new teams, and used a preseason exhibition game to show the city off to sports-industry higher-ups. They’ve even broken out a hat—emblazoned with a simple W—that the District’s team would wear.
But with time running out before the Montreal Expos—the latest baseball team to toy with relocating—decide on their future, one thing D.C. doesn’t have is an owner. Sure, a couple of self-promoting developers have made noises about footing the bill, and there’s been talk of a minority-ownership package. But these days, the sports world is looking for a different sort of investor.
Ideally, according to a D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission source, a local owner would be willing to take an annual loss on a team because it fits with a greater corporate enterprise—like, say, Rupert Murdoch and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In other words, they want what the District has in abundance: A sugar daddy with an ego. With that dictate in mind, we would like to offer a few suggestions for local loss leaders and prospective team names.
* The Rev. Sun Myung Moon The Unification Church leader has been perfectly willing to pour money into the Washington Times in the name of spreading his right-wing political theory. Why not take that theory out of the newsroom and into the ballpark? In a sports-obsessed age, words on paper can carry Moon’s shibboleths into only so many homes. When the Washington Moonbeams’ power-hitting righty socks it to the Reds, on the other hand, millions more will get the message.
* Jeffrey Gildenhorn The American City Diner owner lent himself $400,000 last summer to run for mayor on a platform of, well, we don’t quite remember. But it had a lot to do with his being Jeffrey Gildenhorn and knocking people’s heads together and busting his ass for the city. It didn’t do too well at the polls, but that kind of oratory should work wonders as a locker-room pep talk for the Washington BLTs.
* John Hechinger The Hechingers are a D.C. institution. As well they should be: Even as the family hardware chain bled money, its owner was always there to help out his hometown’s good causes. That’s about perfect for a baseball honcho: Who cares about attendance? Sign me Sammy Sosa! Now that some of his eponymous hardware stores—sold off two years ago—are being shuttered, Hechinger needs a new flagship. The Washington Loss Leaders should fit the bill. And the build-your-own-bleacher feature should also appeal to D.C.’s growing home-renovator population.
* John Cooke After losing out in the NFL sweepstakes, this is an heir with a lot of time on his hands and a couple of bucks to spare. And seeing how Norv Turner and Chuck Casserly should be out on their asses any minute now, Cooke has a local management team all ready to go. Never mind that they’re football guys, this crew certainly couldn’t do any worse with the Washington Scions than they did with the ‘Skins.
* Marion Barry The former mayor is on retainer with a number of firms scouting out local business opportunities. If some of those clients are looking for tax shelters, why not talk them into financing Washington’s return to the big leagues via the Washington Situationists?
* Martin Peretz Multimillionaire Peretz’s New Republic may regularly lose money, but its owner’s dollars give the 19th Street magazine an influential political platform. If playing fantasy baseball with national politics is your idea of fun—gee, how exactly should President Gore reform the FCC?—real fantasy baseball is even more fun. Plus, TNR’s recent run has featured enough journalistic equivalents of spitballs and corked bats to make it clear that a Peretz-owned Washington Gores would be determined to win.
* Corrections Corporation of America. The private prison firm offered the District all kinds of goodies in its quest to build a jail in Ward 8: jobs, loans, contracts, and even something it calls a university. What better way to revive the deal than a baseball team? And with vendors who work for phone change and cigarettes, peanut prices at Washington Jailbirds games will be the lowest in the majors.
* Congress Listen to your standard Capitol Hill D.C.-basher, and you’ll learn that the city is nothing but a drain for federal money. Just like a winning baseball team! Those hard-working stewards who oversee the District have already proved brilliant at such standard baseball-owner maneuvers as second-guessing D.C.’s managers and badmouthing its star players. Let’s see how their tactics fare during the Washington Colonials’ 162-game schedule. CP