My opinionAround the net, you'll see divisive opinion. Some people are convinced MLB will be forced to deal, some that they will have no problem walking. I have no clue what the reality will be, but if I were them, I would not hesitate to start walking, particularly if contraction really is a more attractive economic option for them in the long-term, due to the additional revenue sharing.
Many people talk about MLB having no other geographical option, but I think that may not be much of a barrier to them. Not only are they bullies that don't want to let someone like LC "win", business people usually don't deal with you once you've demonstrated that you don't work on good faith. You don't agree to a deal in principle, then renege over something you'd previously agreed upon; it is unprofessional, bad business and in some cases unethical. If you do that in business and word gets around, it's hard to find people who would want to risk wasting their time on dealing with you in the future. Businesses in DC that have expressed concern about the district getting a reputation as a city not to do business with are well merited.
I am not saying that MLB isn't a huge, big bully. They are. They clearly are interested in maximizing their profit, and couldn't give a hoot about the city, or whether the franchise does well. They definitely did everything they could to take advantage of the District when going through the relocation process. It's their perogative, but it certainly isn't very nice.
However, the District did agree to the deal, and they should stick to it in order to retain what little shred of integrity they have remaining. You can say, "the mayor agreed, but he didn't have the right to speak for the whole city". Sure. The Mayor looks just as bad as a CEO who negotiates a deal in good faith saying he has support of his board, and then does not. But, the Mayor was able to count to 7 votes. Linda Cropp has been the only reason that the Mayor became a liar. Her waffling, including giving the impression of support and then torpedoing the thing at the 11th hour, may make her look good in the eyes of her constituants, and even people who wrongly think that she's going to end up getting a better deal for the city, but makes the whole city look bad as a community with which to do business.
Yes, Cropp is pandering to her constituency. They care about things like spending money on a stadium when it could be spending it on education. Never mind that the money eventually gets recouperated, and that the money being used will be created just for this project, partially through new taxes that wouldn't otherwise exist, so wouldn't fund education. They as a city will end up better off in the long run by taking additional money from NOVA for their investment. It may not be the best investment they can make, but it does have some intangible value, and she should be seeing it as a bet plus.
And yes, the "private financing" as Cropp envisions looks like it is merely a shell game. The city ends up paying the money, it's just done in a way that effectively keeps it off the city's books (a complicated structure taking advantage of some loopholes in federal laws). For Baseball Prospectus subscribers, read today's article, which points this out in some detail. This is nothing but a "feel-good"
thing for the district... the whole goal in her mind is to make herself a hero, under the naive theory that baseball has no other options.
All in all, I don't know what MLB will do. If I were a big, rich bully like them, I would take the same deal D.C. is offering, or even a somewhat worse one, from any other area that could put the deal on the table, because the last thing I'd want to do is deal with such an inept management. So I'm not too optimistic, particularly when Mark Warner is unlikely to come to the rescue (though maybe he would, considering season ticket sales have probably suggested economic viability).