All Star break. By September. Shortly after World Series. Nov. 16-17 MLB owners meeting in Milwaukee.
And so, the latest in a growing list of deadlines gets scratched from the list. You didn’t REALLY think the Nationals’ new owner would be announced next week when MLB owners meet in Milwaukee, did you? Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced yesterday morning that there will not be a vote among the owners next week, and there is no timetable for the process to be completed: "It won't happen by the owners meetings and I can't give you a timetable." Selig is now interviewing the eight potential ownership groups himself: “All these people have spent a lot of time, money and effort and they certainly each deserve one interview. I've really enjoyed it. I've done five interviews already and I'm trying to do the rest as quickly as possible.” It’s quite a relief to hear that, at the very least, Bud is enjoying himself.
MLB owners don't meet again until mid-January. Could that be the new target date for the process to be completed? At this rate, it's probably not a stretch. Throw in the fact that baseball execs continue to point the finger at the inability of the DC City Council to come to an agreement on the lease for the new stadium and you've still got a major roadblock in the way of the sale's completion -- even though MLB President Bob DuPuy hinted a few weeks ago that an owner could be selected if the lease agreement continues to be a sticking point. So what's the story with the delay? Blame the grandstanding city council? Blame MLB? Here's the likely answer: Bud has already picked his man. It's Smulyan. Jeff Smulyan is baseball's choice. He's Jerry Reinsdorf's buddy. He's viewed as an outsider in DC, but he's the man who'll be handed the keys to the franchise. The real reason for the delay is that Bud is still trying to figure out how he's going to deliver the bad news to the District.
>Well, it's a good thing Jim Bowden interviewed for the Red Sox open GM position yesterday (which he referred to as his "dream job"): at least the interview gave him a reason to have traveled to the GM meetings in California. Bowden really has no other reason to be there. What is he going to do, talk trades with all the real GMs? Give him credit for the Castilla-for-Lawrence trade last week which opened up the door for Ryan Zimmerman at third, but the only reason he was able to pull it off is simply because it didn't cost the team any cash. Period. The glaring holes in the Nats roster (two or three starters, a lefty in the 'pen, a leadoff hitter, a big bat) will only be filled when an owner is in place that will give the green light to open the check book. Period. It's that old familiar position again for baseball's bastard sons: The Nationals, and Bowden, are completely handcuffed.
>Meanwhile, the theory that the Nationals and Red Sox will essentially swap GMs continues to gain some steam, although one popular but unlikely rumor in Boston has Theo Epstein returning to the Red Sox, who are reportedly making a push to get Theo to reconsider his decision to resign. But how about this quote from the Boston Globe's rumor mill: "One major league executive told the Globe's Gordon Edes he thought the odds were '80-20' that Epstein would resurface as the general manager of the Nationals after that club is sold: ''How can he not wind up in D.C?' the executive said. 'That's the biggest free agent signing anyone could make.'" If you're a Nats fan, you gotta like those odds. If you're a Sox fan, you're in trouble.
>Congrats to Frank Robinson on being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House yesterday. Oh yeah, Robinson came in fourth in NL manager of the year voting, too. Old Frank, whose return to the club is completely up in the air (his contract expired on Oct. 31), summed up the sale of the team in today's Washington Post: "It's not fair to this ballclub and this organization to be put in this position for the coming season because we're behind on moves and things we can do and approaching players, the free agent market, either signing free agents or even really seriously talking to them...Just overall, the feeling and the atmosphere around this ballclub is that we're at a disadvantage."