Saturday, March 05, 2005

 

Independence Day. . .

. . . for Washington baseball, that is.

Absent the most ridiculous World Series ever, the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles won't play a game that counts until next season at the earliest. Thus, today's spring training game was their first, and probably biggest, matchup for the forseeable future.

And it was another spring win for the Nats.

In the second inning, new Orioles outfielder Sammy Sosa (feels strange writing that) got himself ejected. . . from the outfield.

Heh.

Over breakfast in an Aberdeen diner I enjoyed this column from today's Baltimore Sun, "D.C. team tests reach of love for O's." It's pretty funny, if only because it's clueless about the motivations of Washington baseball fans.

*Of course* there are plenty of fairweather fans, eager to drop their Orioles tickets at the first chance at Nats tickets. However, our neighbors to the north shouldn't take it personally. It's not as if we dropped the Orioles for another team located more than an hour from the city. We're merely coming home to our home team.

If I hear one more baseball curmudgeon talk about how Washington lost the Senators 34 years ago because it couldn't support a team-- and thus insinuate that history is doomed to repeat itself with the Nationals-- well, I'll probably take a Louisville Slugger to their 'caps.

D.C. ain't the podunk Southern town no more, with only the guvmint in the center to keep it interesting. We've grown to a metropolitan megaplex of over four million people (and that's NOT counting Baltimore). There are more than enough people here to support a baseball team.

Obviously, that support will be tested if the Nats can't win. But everyone you speak to agrees, they're in a honeymoon period, and will be for quite some time. They've got a free pass until at least the new ballpark gets built, and probably for a year or two after that. That's at least five years where they can play lousy and no one aside from Tony "Grumpy" Kornheiser will care.

However, given the economics of baseball, it's unlikely that the Nationals will suffer too long. More than any sport, money talks in Major League Baseball. While we're still looking for an owner, the likely strength of the Nationals market over the first five years means any owner will probably find him or herself flush with cash. Cash that can be used to pick up free agents, grow the farm system, and offer extended contracts. Granted, it's only a window, and windows can close, but the Nationals are liable to be in a very strong position-- certainly far stronger than the Expos, or the other starving teams around the league like the Pirates and Tigers.

Anyways, all of that is far in the future. For now, it's time to simply enjoy the promise of an enjoyable season of baseball.

And it's time to buy my jersey. . .

___
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