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Good news: MASN airing six Orioles spring training games. Bad news: They play 33 of them.

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Good news: MASN airing six Orioles spring training games. Bad news: They play 33 of them.

Posted on 04 March 2013 by Drew Forrester

It would be hard to debate that perhaps the greatest invention in sports over the last 50 years has been the “regional sports network”.

Some folks would refer it to more has “highway robbery”.  They’d have a valid point.

The concept is so elementary, a caveman could figure it out:  Start your own TV network, show a “demand” for it, run the network through your local cable operator and then, in the best scam of the last 200 years, have your monthly “fee” be paid by the consumers — even those who don’t ever use your product.

And if you start the network and the government doesn’t agree with your stipulation that demand warrants the inclusion of the fee in monthly cable bill, you just sue the government.  They won’t want to fight you and within 12-18 months, you’ll be milking your very own cash cow.

The list of teams that have pulled this stunt is growing by the year.  The Yankees and Red Sox were the first to perfect it.  The various Los Angeles teams in basketball and hockey have been raking in TV money as far back as a thing called “Prime Ticket” out west, but only now are they starting to see the benefits of owning the network yourself.  The Texas Rangers will be pulling in upwards of $100 million via their RSN in the next couple of years.  So will the Angels.

And, then, of course, we have our beloved Birds.

The Orioles’ owner, Peter Angelos, started the Middle Atlantic Sports Network back in 2006, with the promise of his own RSN establishing enough of a consistent revenue base to do battle with those rat finks in New York and Boston.

This, what I’m writing today, isn’t about the years of money that Peter collected and then didn’t spend on the team.  We’ve all seen that movie and reviewed it a dozen or two times.  We know the club’s roster has been shortchanged over the years as it relates to quality players.  No need to travel there today.

No — what I’m puzzled by is yet another botched marketing and PR opportunity from both MASN and the Orioles.  OK, let’s just admit they’re one and the same and I’ll keep calling them “the Orioles” for purposes of this piece.  Anyway, the Orioles have thirty three “official” spring training games in February and March.  Guess how many the team will air on its own TV network?  Six. That’s it.  Six.  Oh, by the way, three of the six are taped delayed, not live.

Six of thirty-three games will be on TV and they own the network that airs the games.

Unreal.

At least air all of the home games, right?  I can at least almost understand not airing a game from Ft. Myers or Dunedin.  But you have 16 home games in Ed Smith Stadium.  Put all of them on MASN.  And, for sure, you can do some split-feed stuff with the Yankees and Pirates and Phillies when you face them in Tampa or Bradenton or Clearwater througout March.

Last year’s magical season and dramatic 5-game series loss to the Yankees actually left the community as a whole longing for March 2013 and spring training baseball.

For years – about fourteen to be exact – only 149 people in Baltimore even cared about spring training when it rolled around every February.  Grapefruit League games were met with yawns and the fans had little interest in who was doing well, who wasn’t, who was making the team and who needed to go 2-for-3 today to have a chance of sticking around.

Spring training baesball, though, has an allure to it that reaches far past sports.  It’s called spring training for a reason.  It marks the beginning of s-p-r-i-n-g.  People love spring.  It dawns a new year, essentially.  Warm weather is on the way.  Sunshine.  Summer days beckon.  When baseballs are thrown, the days seem brighter and longer.

And after a whopper of a season in 2012, you would think the Orioles would go completely out of their way to capitalize on that energy by airing spring training baseball in March of 2013.

(Please see next page)

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