Right now, the Orioles 2012 payroll of $81 million is offset somewhat by that $29 million check their owner essentially writes himself. What happens when he’s forced to give the Nationals $75 million and, therefore, must also up his team’s take to $75 million? Does he spend that “extra” money on players or does he keep the payroll near the $80-$90 million mark and simply pocket that additional TV money?
It will all be there for the public to see.
No fancy wordsmithing from the team’s Communications Director or the MASN PR chief will be able to disguise the reality of the situation. The Orioles will either spend more money on players or they won’t. And if they have MORE money to spend on players and don’t do it, how will the fan base react to that?
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL DODGES THEIR RESPONSIBILITY
Because the Nationals and MASN couldn’t agree on a new rights fee before the start of the 2012 campaign, Major League Baseball would become the arbiter in the dispute. Both sides presented their “argument” to MLB in the spring and June 1 was set as the date that MLB would rule on the new rights fee for the Nationals. So what happened? Major League Baseball decided NOT to make a ruling. Instead, they did the same thing to the Nationals that they did to me four years ago. When the Orioles stripped me of my season media credential prior to the 2008 campaign, I contacted MLB Public Relations and they asked me to forward them a formal written complaint. A month or so after I did that, I hadn’t heard from the fine folks in New York, so I reached out to them for an update and they told me, “After reviewing your complaint and the situation with the Orioles, we believe the best solution would be for you and the Orioles to resolve this difference between yourselves.”
And that’s exactly what they did with the Nationals and MASN. Rather than rule on the rights fee figure as they said they would do on June 1, MLB simply told the Nationals to try and figure out a solution with MASN. Forget the fact that the Nationals tried to do that with MASN for the better of a year without a resolution. MLB simply decided not to interfere with the argument. That’s what you get when you’re dealing with Peter Angelos, I guess. MLB is so afraid of him and his love for litigating – yes, even against them – that they curled up in a ball when the moment of truth arrived and decided not to decide. And that, of course, is exactly what they did to me a few years back. Their decision in my media credential saga was to just act like it hadn’t happened.
There is a flip-side to all of this and MLB knows it’s coming. If they don’t rule on the situation, the Nationals are likely going to sue them if, as expected, MASN drags their feet and doesn’t come up with a reasonable solution.
Anyone who has ever come in contact with Peter Angelos knows about his legendary love for “dragging things out”. It’s the lawyer’s way. “Just leave it right there on the corner of my desk. We’ll just wait those people out and when they finally cave in, we’ll get more money (or pay less) out of the deal.”
The next plan of attack for MASN will be, simply, “feet dragging”. They already did it once when the rights fee deal with the Nationals expired. They’ll do it again, for sure. Now that MLB has chickened out and refused to resolve the situation, it’s up to MASN and the Nationals to reach an agreement. That means both sides have to work hard to create a solution. You can bet your orange-feathered rear end that MASN won’t be “working hard” to give away more money to the Nationals.
HOW IS A POTENTIAL SALE OF THE ORIOLES IMPACTED BY THIS?
For the better part of a year now, rumors around Baltimore have the Orioles available for purchase if you’re willing to write Peter and his shareholders a check for $400 million. That figure represents about $35 million more than Angelos is guaranteed through Major League Baseball. Through a deal he struck with MLB when the Nationals moved to DC, Peter is now guaranteed $365 million if he ever sells the team. In other words, anything less than $365 million and MLB makes up the difference. But MLB doesn’t share in the upside, meaning if Angelos and Co. get $400 million, it’s their $400 million and MLB gets none of it.
The problem, of course, is that no one is going to buy the ballclub without also getting the MASN network as part of the deal. To have the TV network thrown in, folks are saying a starting offer in the $1 billion range would have to be made.
No one in Baltimore has $400 million, let alone $1 billion. So the team, for now, stays with Angelos.
But what if someone WOULD have $400 million and would take the team without getting MASN as well? That’s where the current MASN rights fee deal could play a role — in the form of future guaranteed player salaries that might make the books look expense-heavy without the revenue to support those expenses. Let’s pretend that MASN decides (or is told) to give the Nationals $70 million for their TV rights. That means the Orioles would get $70 million. Let’s also escape completely into fantasy land and make believe the Orioles decide to up their player payroll from $81 million to $120 million, with that $70 million from MASN playing a major role in that expenditure. How attractive would it be to a new owner if he inherited a company that already had roughly $120 million in annual projected expenses on the ledger? Wouldn’t it be easier to sell that company if, let’s say, those estimated annual player salaries were more in the $60-$80 million a year range?
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Angelos doesn’t want the Nationals to cash in on this reconfigured TV rights deal. He knows if the Nats win and he has to fork over $70 million or more to them that he has to then do the same with the Orioles. And if he does that with his club, and spends that money on players as public pressure will demand, then perhaps the viability of selling the baseball team goes down because the expenses are going up.
In the end, this is all about one thing and one thing only. It’s completely about money. And profit. Nothing more. Sources say Angelos sunk nearly $80 million of his own money into the Orioles in the decade of 2000-2010 while the team was languishing on the field and drawing less and less paying customers. At some point – and perhaps it’s been happening over the last few years – Angelos is going to repay himself, as nearly all of would do if we propped up a business with our own money. Every dime Angelos hands over to the Nationals is one more dime he has to give the Orioles and one less dime he can use to pay himself back the money he handed out to his company a decade ago.
The Nationals are finding out the hard way what lots of others have found out over the years. You’re better served to just not do business with Peter Angelos. You’re probably always going to come out on the short end. You’ll wind up frustrated. Things won’t ever go smoothly. And, in the end, if you do somehow getting the better of Angelos, he’s just going to wind up taking you to court.
Baseball fans in Baltimore know all too well what happens Peter Angelos gets involved.
We’ve seen it since 1997 in high-def.
It takes forever for anything to happen.
Like, for instance, winning.
Or giving the Nationals the money they deserve.