As the Washington Nationals continue on toward their first-ever postseason appearance, the standoff over providing late-night train service for departing fans continues. Now Deadspin reports that D.C. councilmember Jack Evans (you remember Jack Evans) says that the Nats won’t pay for trains because MLB won’t let them, and says that Nats officials have confirmed this is league policy.
Only maybe not. DCist, which Deadspin scraped for its report, has now taken back its report that Evans said this was an MLB rule, noting that all he said was that “MLB is quite concerned about a precedent being set.” And WTOP’s Adam Tuss, the reporter who initially tweeted that a Nats official confirmed the rule, is now just reporting that the official confirmed that MLB is concerned about setting a precedent.
Tuss also quotes MLB spokesperson Matt Bourne — at last, a named source! — as saying that “No other MLB team has had to pay for service. We’ve never had to face this issue.” So it’s pretty unlikely that MLB has a “policy” against a situation that’s never arisen. More likely, once word got out that D.C. was asking for the Nats to pay for extra train service, MLB officials thought, “Oh, great, now everyone will want one.” Whether they outright ordered the Nats not to bend or not is pretty much moot: By telling the media that they don’t like it, they provide the team owners cover to argue that their hands are tied, it’s big bad Bud Selig that won’t let them pay a measly $29,000 an hour so that fans aren’t stranded on streetcorners after games.
Hopefully this will all be resolved before October, because with postseason start times typically going past 8 pm Eastern, it’s going to get more and more likely that some games will last past midnight. Evans seems confident this will all get worked out — my guess: it’ll be some face-saving trade in which the Nats agree to obey Metro’s payment rules in exchange for free extra police presence or the rights to set up souvenir stands on the Capitol steps or something. Neither MLB nor its teams is in the business of giving away something for nothing; that’s what taxpayers are for.