Throwback Thursday: Insider Baseball

It is not a good time to be a Washington Nationals fan. The team — once picked as a World Series favorite — is not so much limping to the end as it is imploding more and more spectacularly as the season’s close draws nearer. After a week that featured a fight between phenom outfielder Bryce Harper and all-grown-up 80’s teen movie villain Jonathan Papelbon, some Nats fans may be wishing baseball had never returned to D.C. a decade ago.

For those fans, we turn the clocks back to our December 2001 issue, when the Nats were still the Montreal Expos. Dayn Perry took a look at the team’s relocation chances and why Washington seemed like the perfect fit. In addition to wanting a team in a large metropolitan area, Major League Baseball needed to maintain its legal monopoly over the sport — about which lawmakers might be a little more understanding if they could score some seats. Perry writes:

What D.C. also boasts that competitors such as Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Portland, Oregon, do not is the political advantage that inescapably resides in the nation’s capital. More than campaigning, kissing babies, and lengthy recesses, Congress loves baseball. And while that’s true of most red-blooded Americans, lawmakers have a special reason to want a team. Imagine congressmen being able to give important constituents tickets to a game at a brand-new field next to RFK stadium (the most likely site) that boasts a view of the Capitol Dome over the center field fence. Now imagine lobbyists slipping lawmakers those tickets. (Don’t underestimate the lure of free tickets: In 1999, congressional ethics committees decided that the $98 club seats at Washington’s MCI Center—home to the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals—could be “reinterpreted” to cost $49.50 if lawmakers forfeited parking and waitress service, so that lobbyists could slip them tickets without running afoul of the $50 cap on gifts to congressmen.)

You can read the whole prescient story right here.

Matt Connolly

Matt Connolly is digital managing editor of the Washington Monthly.