ESPN's Peter Gammons has learned that Major League Baseball is attempting to negotiate some sort of compromise with Linda Cropp, the chair of the District of Columbia Council who earlier this week introducted an amendment that could endanger the Expos' move to Washington.
The proposed move hinges on the city having a stadium financing package acceptable to Major League Baseball in place by Dec. 31. Cropp's amendment to the mayor's stadium financing plan requires that at least half the stadium funding come from a private source. The amendment was approved late Tuesday night.
Major League Baseball, calling the amendment "wholly unacceptable," responded to the adoption of Cropp's provision by shutting down the team's business and promotional operations.
A source told Gammons on Saturday that the clock is ticking on negotiations to re-open the stadium deal. Dec. 31 has been set as the drop-dead date because Marion Berry takes office at the first of the year and will kill any park.
The source told Gammons that if the deal does not get renegotiated, commissioner Bug Selig will refuse to let the team play at RFK Stadium, home to the NFL's Washington Redskins, and could instead make the team play two seasons in Norfolk, Va. The situation is embarrassing, the source said, but baseball has no one to blame because it announced the team would move before having a deal in place with the politicians, a deal in place with Orioles owner Peter Angelos and a deal in place for their media.
In the meantime, Washington mayor Anthony Williams plans to meet with Cropp on Monday at Cropp's request, her spokesman, Mark Johnson, confirmed Friday night.
Both Cropp and Williams took to the airwaves Friday, appearing on several live radio shows.
"I'm willing to do anything to get a team here, within limits," Williams said on WAMU radio.
Cropp said she is not worried that the delay could tarnish the city's image as a place to do business.
"I take exception with people who say the district is doing anything unusual," Cropp said. "Debate, dialogue and lots of different opinions" are to be expected.
"I hope it's saying that the district won't just take anything" from Major League Baseball, she said.
Several private financiers have pitched funding schemes that could pay for as much as the full cost of building the stadium, city officials said. Cropp said she is talking to a coalition of banks that would like to work with the city, but she offered no details.
Washington businesses also weighed in Friday, sending a letter to Williams, Cropp and baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
"We concur that partial private financing for the stadium would be optimal," William A. Hanbury wrote on behalf of the D.C. Business Coalition. "However, the business community has already committed to play a defining role in funding the new ballpark and our commitment to that objective remains firm."
Hanbury asked baseball and city officials to work to resolve the crisis.
Businesses earning more than $5 million have agreed to pay between $5,000 and $16,000 per year to help pay for stadium construction bonds. Their maximum payment is down from $48,000 annually in the original legislation.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.