Major League Baseball Moves Expos to DC
Major League Baseball has decided to move the financial basket-case Montreal Expos to the Washington, DC area. The American capital beat out rivals such as Las Vegas; Norfolk, VA; Monterrey, Mexico; Portland, OR.; and Northern Virginia. The move is the right thing for the business of baseball, but it isn’t very helpful to the game of baseball. Monterrey or San Juan, Puerto Rico would electrified baseball’s Latin American base and ensured a wave of enthusiasm that likely could have spread to ballparks across North America. The lords of baseball, though, are businessmen – not very good ones, but businessmen all the same.
Putting the Expos in DC is a politically wise thing for baseball to do. After all, Major League Baseball enjoys an exemption from the USA’s anti-trust laws. Putting the team anywhere else would have threatened that advantage. Further cultivation of political benefits will follow as the team, on behalf of the entire MLB structure, hands out luxury box seats to congressmen and senators, judges and assistant secretaries of various departments.
For Montreal, losing the Expos is rather like losing an appendix – painful, but really not something missed in the long term. Attendance this year has averaged less than 9,000 per game and has been so poor in general that MLB, which has owned the team the last couple of years, arranged several “home” games for the Expos in San Juan. This Expos are not on a par with the NHL Canadiens in the hearts of those in Montreal.
That is not to denigrate baseball’s run in Montreal, which not only includes the last 33 seasons with the Expos, but also Jackie Robinson’s first games against white players in 1946. When Mr. Robinson lead the AAA International League Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm club, to the Little World Series title, fans ran after him for three blocks in celebration, having carried him around their field on their shoulders moments before that. Sportswriter Sam Martin, a black journalist, wrote, "It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching on its mind."
And so what to name the “new” team in DC? The Expos would be silly. The Senators was the appellation of the two previous teams in DC, but it appears that the Texas Rangers (the team that left Washington after the 1971 season) still holds those rights. The Federals might work, but the abbreviation would be Feds, and would be only marginally better that the Mets (an abbreviation of one of the dumbest names in all of sports, The Metropolitans). Preference here is for The Grays, after the Homestead Grays of the Negro League who played in Washington in the 1930s and 1940s. It would be a tip of the cap to Mr. Robinson, Montreal and the game of baseball – not the business of baseball. Failing that, the Washington Spin Doctors would capture some of the local flavor.
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