MLB wants lease for Nats ballpark buttoned up

NEW YORK -- Baseball's No. 2 official expressed concern Friday over the lease approved by the District of Columbia Council for a new Washington Nationals ballpark, hinting that the sport might not accept the plan.

After months of delay, the Council approved a lease Wednesday, but only after capping Washington's spending at just under $611 million.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said the sport wants to make sure "the balance of burdens and benefits agreed to by us in mediation is readdressed, since it has been seriously disrupted by the legislation."

"It clearly contains conditions, restrictions and new provisions which go well beyond our previous agreements and raises a number of questions," DuPuy wrote in a letter to Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Mark Tuohey of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

The 2004 agreement to move the Montreal Expos to Washington set a deadline of Dec. 31, 2005, for a lease to be in place. When the deadline wasn't met, baseball filed for mediation, a preliminary step to taking the city to arbitration.

Williams' spokesman, Vince Morris, said city officials were encouraged by the letter.

"It's a good sign. It shows MLB is just as keen to press ahead with the ballpark as we are," Morris said. "So far as we can tell, the late-night revisions made by the council do not jeopardize the deal and mostly reaffirm our existing plans."

DuPuy said in his letter that baseball wants to review analysis of the legislation made by the District's Chief Financial Offer and Attorney General.

"We want to make sure that the kind of ballpark we agreed upon will be built, that it can be paid for as we have agreed, that the team be able to exercise adequate control over the ballpark site," DuPuy said.