Negotiations With Washington Show Reinsdorf's Sense For Leverage
May 22, 2013 01:47 PM
Here’s a great example, a story that Reinsdorf never has told publicly before:
When Major League Baseball was looking for a new home and owner for the Montreal Expos, Commissioner Bud Selig put Reinsdorf in charge. Reinsdorf suspected from the beginning that Washington, D.C., was the only market that could sufficiently support a team, but Selig discouraged it, knowing it would lead to a territorial brouhaha with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
“Don’t bring Washington to me,” Selig often told Reinsdorf. But Reinsdorf didn’t see an alternative. He looked at Portland. At Las Vegas. He even looked across the border to Monterrey, Mexico. None would work.
Reinsdorf talked to Virginia Gov. Mark Warner about Northern Virginia for months, and always Warner told him the same thing: Sit down in a room with me and we’ll strike a deal. But Selig wouldn’t hear of it. It dragged on for two years, until finally, seeing that the nation’s capital was the only viable choice, Selig relented.
Unfortunately, by that time, the economics in Northern Virginia had shifted. There no longer was the money for a ballpark. Reinsdorf would need to look within D.C. itself. The trouble was that if municipal leaders in D.C. knew that MLB had no other options, Reinsdorf wouldn’t have the leverage to negotiate a favorable deal.
“I was really up shit’s creek because I didn’t want the Washington people to find out [Northern Virginia was gone],” Reinsdorf said. “And yet I couldn’t lie. So what I kept telling the Washington people was that the commissioner does not want a team in Washington. Which was true. They never found out that we’d lost Virginia. If they had, we couldn’t have made the deal that we made.
“I knew [the new owners] would be successful if they could put a good product on the field because we made a good deal.”