Here he is in today's Washington Post, making the case for public investment on behalf of MLB, Inc.:
I love the economists whose primary arguments against new arenas and stadiums is that such construction doesn't bring permanent and full-time jobs. Of course the construction doesn't bring that, nor do the stadiums themselves. But try to tell the folks in Detroit that the new Ford Field, home to the NFL Lions, hasn't been the centerpiece of radical economic development taking place in downtown Detroit. Stadiums for the Browns and Indians, plus the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, revitalized Cleveland's center city financially, culturally and psychologically. All those restaurants and bars and nightspots don't employ people permanently? Please. For anybody who has lived here 10 years or more, it's impossible not to walk through the area near MCI, particularly on an event night, and not see the wisdom of bringing 15,000 people or more to a central gathering place.
I love Michael Wilbon too, despite his lame characterization of our argument. And I give him credit for voicing the doubts of his "very smart friend" about the wisdom of the investment. But before writing a check on behalf of 29 wealthy club owners, I'd break out the pencil and do the math. Is it worth $25 million a year (the amortized cost) to build a stadium that supports a dozen or so restaurants and sports bars that would spring up around a well-located, popular stadium? Wilbon's argument is that it is, and I'm not convinced. I'm with his very smart friend.
Also in the Post, Thomas Boswell has a fascinating column on today's executive council meeting of MLB owners. Boswell suggests that Orioles owner Peter Angelos (opposed to any location near his Baltimore club), may get some rough treatment at the meeting: "if (Angelos) wants it rough, he's going to get a full dose of Reinsdorf because the White Sox' owner is the key player on the relocation committee that, after years of study, has finally decided the Expos belong in the District." Hmmm, sounds like a done deal.
There's much of interest in the column, but at the end, Boswell clarifies who the primary beneficiaries are:
By negotiating such a favorable deal with the District, Reinsdorf has potentially put extra money in every owner's pocket. If all hurdles are cleared and the day really arrives when the Expos go on the block for the highest Washington offer, the purchase price may approach $300 million -- or nearly $10 million for every owner in baseball.
That's why, right now, Selig and Reinsdorf appear to have the votes. And Angelos doesn't.
It is optimal for MLB as a unit to locate in DC if the valuation of the club there differs from that in the next location by more than the hit it imposes on the Orioles. Compensation to the Orioles for the hit would thus be feasible, and indeed is apparently on the table. My hunch is that "Angelos on the warpath" is a negotiating strategy designed to get as much compensation as he can. Judging from Reinsdorf's skill in playing off DC and five other suitors to jack up the public subsidy, Angelos' task won't be easy. There are tens of millions of dollars at stake. So I agree with Boswell - it could be a nasty meeting.