Business of Baseball Report

D.C. Council, MLB Agree on Nationals’ Stadium Lease

It’s hard to believe that it’s finally over. On Sunday, Major League Baseball signed the lease that the Washington, D.C. city council had passed on February 8 and agreed to the $611 million spending cap. Then on Tuesday, the city council approved the construction contract that would allow the construction of the new stadium to commence.

MLB did have a few conditions. They wanted to ensure that the lease didn’t go into effect until the city began selling bonds to cover the cost of the stadium, and they also wanted to make sure that there would be no deviations from the lease passed by the council. And while MLB will be kicking in $20 million to help pay for stadium construction costs, there was no indication as to who would be on the hook if costs exceed the $611 million spending cap.

Now D.C. officials needs to get the land, which they’re trying to grab as early as possible via eminent domain. In the meantime, MLB needs to decide on who the new owner of the Nationals should be. True to form, MLB President Bob DuPuy declined to throw out a date as to when this would happen. One council member speculated that a new owner would be in place by April 15, but at least the news story left things open by not specifying which year.

In other D.C. news, New York Federal Court Judge Jed Rakoff denied MLB’s request for summary judgement in their battle over the trademark of the Washington Nationals’ name. This means the case will go to trial, which is scheduled for the Nationals’ opening day of April 3.

Baseball Enters the Pharmaceutical Business

To help ensure that the players are adhering to the new drug policy and to make sure there are no accidents, team management and the players’ union will start an outside company, NSF International, certify that supplements are clean. Then teams will be allowed to buy these supplements and turn around and sell them to the players.

While this is probably a sound move, I think it’ll put even more pressure on the players to stay clean and will provide more of a “zero tolerance” setting. One of the biggest excuses given when a player tests positive has been that he didn’t know what was in his vitamin powder. Players won’t have an excuse because if they’re using something that’s not certified, then they should know they’re taking a risk.

Minor League Umpires Ready to Strike

Back in January, the Association of Minor League Umpires voted down a proposed labor agreement. Now they’ve decided to strike, if necessary, to get their demands met. While union officers will ultimately decide whether a strike happens, it’s clear that the minor league umpires aren’t happy with the fact that they’ve been paid essentially the same amount as they were 10 years ago.

The previous five-year labor agreement expired in November. Along with the possibility of a strike, Triple-A umpires are not going to serve as replacement umpires in the major leagues until an agreement is in place. MLB regularly used Triple-A umpires to fill in for major league umpires who are sick or on vacation.

San Antonio In the Lead for Florida Marlins

Last week, MLB president Bob DuPuy stated that San Antonio was the “temporal focus” in the Florida Marlins’ search for a new home. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I think they’re the favorites. The city is planning on showing what it has in mind as far as stadium funding later this week. It appears that an extension of a car rental and hotel tax would be the primary source of funding for a new stadium to house the team.

Already, conditions are arising. It appears that San Antonio is going to require the Marlins to add a San Antonio-based minority owner to the ownership group. It doesn’t appear that this is a deal breaker, although there’s plenty of time to iron out the details because the earliest the proposal could go on the ballot is November 2006.

Judge Rejects Anaheim’s Request to Force Angels Name Change

I’ve lost count of how many times the city of Anaheim has lost in its attempt to force the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to change their name back to the Anaheim Angels, but we can add one more to the list. Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos once again denied the city’s request to get the name changed late last week. Not surprisingly, he stuck with his previous decision and the jury’s decision.

It’s unclear whether the city will appeal the decision. I can’t believe an appellate court would come to a different conclusion, although I wouldn’t be surprised if a political body pushed forward with a lost cause.

MLB Opens Urban Youth Academy

MLB commissioner Bud Selig presided over the festivities as MLB opened its first Urban Youth Academy in Los Angeles on the campus of Compton Community College. The academy’s goal is to increase interest in the sport amongst inner-city children. The center will provide free baseball and softball instruction for up to 200 children daily. Tutoring and homework assistance will also be a cornerstone of the academy. In all, there will be four fields and extensive clubhouse locker room access.

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