As Nationals fans take in the last two games of this interleague series with Baltimore, try not to begrudge long-suffering Orioles fans the joy they display over their white-hot team. You might remind them, though, that because of their owner’s greedy, one-sided tv rights deal with the Nationals, Washington’s team is playing with one huge financial hand tied behind its back.
In an insightful piece in today’s Washington Post, Thomas Boswell reveals the full extent of the financial ball and chain the MASN deal remains over the ownership group of the Washington Nationals. Already, the deal has cost the club more than $200 million.
As Peter Angelos and MASN drag their feet on negotiations over an increase in the Nats’ MASN rights fees, which should have been determined in November, this unfair situation continues, leaving the Nationals in a state of fiscal limbo. All this is on top of the ridiculous current Orioles – Nationals revenue split for MASN’s profits, 87% to Baltimore, 13% to Washington, a larger market by a factor of two.
Think this seven-year lowballing of television revenue prevented the Nationals from signing impact free agents and invigorating their moribund international scouting and recruitment efforts? You bet. Bottom line, this means more losses on the field and a longer path to building a competitive team and organization.
All you fans and columnists accusing the Lerner’s of being cheap are pointing your accusing fingers in the wrong direction. Turn it about 40 miles north to Baltimore Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos.
Things should improve considerably for the Nationals, on or about June 1, when a 3-person arbitration panel with representatives from the Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and New York Mets franchises rules on the dispute between the Orioles and Nationals. The Nats have requested $110 million per year beginning in 2013, while Angelos and his minions have countered that even $60 is too much. Boswell expects the final amount to be in the $70-90 million range, a significant increase from the current paltry $29 million.
The Nationals’ future ability to retain their young stars and attract difference making free agents hinges on the outcome of these negotiations. Boswell is right that the current boardroom politics are much more vital to the team’s present and future than the Nats’ current on-field struggles. If you care about the Nationals’ ability to be a competitive ball club year in and year out, you will watch this story closely and hope for a fair, favorable outcome. It is probably the most important Nationals story of 2012.
We certainly will watch developments closely here at District on Deck.