How Close to Getting Sosa?
The headline in the Post was intriguing, as was Jose Guillen's comment. From an artile entitled Nationals Balked at Proposed Sosa Deal:
'He was pretty close' to coming to Washington, said Nationals right fielder Jose Guillen, a close friend who has spoken to Sosa frequently in recent weeks. 'It just came down to his decision, Baltimore or Washington. We almost got him, but he just decided to go over there.'Well, it depends on what you mean by "almost". If you went to you local Hummer dealer and offered $25,000 for a loaded H2, I suppose you could say that you "amost" bought the vehicle. According to general manager Jim Bowden:
I said all along, if [the Cubs] will pay his entire salary and we can make a deal without giving up our core young players, we'd like to have Sammy Sosa, That's what we tried to do. We were never able to make a deal.Club president Tony Tavares went even further, saying that talks with the Cubs never even got to the point of a counterproposal by Washington.
Considered in isolation, getting Sosa would have been a positive move for the Nats. He would have given the franchise two things it lacks in DC right now, an name and a face. Everyone knows who Sosa is and he would have sold tickets and increased the team's national profile. And he still can be a productive player.
However, such things can not be looked at without looking at the costs. Even if the Cubs had been willing to pay nearly all of Sosa's '05 salary, there would have been a cost to the Nationals in terms of compensation. According to the Post article:
Although it is unclear what players the Cubs wanted from the Nationals, it is believed the Cubs -- who need outfield help, after losing Sosa and free agent Moises Alou in the same offseason -- asked for Nationals outfielders Brad Wilkerson and/or Terrmel Sledge.To rent Sosa for perhaps a single season? This goes to show that the best deals are often the ones that you don't make.
Remember the near-death of the newly-born baseball in DC dream in early December when the DC City Council put a private-funding clause into the stadium legislation? Well, it turns out that the funding may well be there after all. From a Washington Times article:
Natwar Gandhi, the District's chief financial officer, likely will certify at least two of eight offers of private financing for a new ballpark in Southeast, paving the way for the city to meet its target of funding half the hard construction costs with private money.Now, I'll believe that the DC government can pull something like this off when the legislation passes, ink is dry on the contract and the checks have cleared. If they can do it, major kudos are due. Remember, though, that the District is a jurisdiction that wouldn't let the late Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke build a stadium entirely with his own money.
Closer Chad Cordero, starting pitcher Zach Day, shortstop Cristian Guzman and outfielder Jose Guillen and GM Bowden appeared at the ESPN Zone in Washington to meet fans, sign autographs and try on their Nats uniforms. No news was made, other than the fact that this was the first such event that the team has sponsored.
Despite the lack of such events, commonly a part of a team's ticket-selling strategy, nearly 18,000 full season tickets have been sold. Multiply that by 81 home games and you have attendance approaching 1.5 million before any group sales, partial seaon ticket packages (they go on sale next week) or single-game tickets (those won't be available until March) have been moved. It's not hard to imagine attendance approaching the 3 million mark, perhaps a bit higher if the team has some surprising success.
This, not surprisingly, has the Orioles whining. From the Washington Times:
Even with fan favorite Sammy Sosa now on board, the Baltimore Orioles are still chafing about baseball in Washington.Matt Dryer, an Orioles advertising and promotions suit, was quoted as saying:
They've sold more than 18,000 season tickets already. That's a lot of tickets coming into this area. How many of those folks are going to stop coming to see us?The answer appears to be not many. After the addition of Sosa they sold some 5,000 new season tickets and some existing accounts were renewed. The have never drawn fewer than 2.45 million to Camden Yards and even before getting Sosa they weren't going to do much worse than last year's draw of 2.74 million. The addition of Sammy should push them near 3 million.
If the two teams do manage to draw 6 million combined, that would put their combined attendance on a par with the two New York teams.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and the team now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim combined last year for 6.86 million in attendance, the New York Yankees and Mets drew 6.09 million, the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's combined for 5.47 million, and the Chicago Cubs and White Sox drew 5.10 million.Of course, as we all know, the only valid comparison is San Francisco and Oakland and even that's flawed since Baltimore and Washington are separated by 40 miles of concrete, not a thousand yards or so of a bridge. Should the two teams draw anything close to what the Yankees and Mets do the diezens of baseball will be kicking themselves, wondering why they didn't make this move years ago.