The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are always in a battle, whether it be during their interleague series, battle for fans in the greater Washington D.C. Baltimore area, promotional ads, and T.V. viewers, but their current battle over fees received from the Mid Atlantic Sports Network is affecting their offseason free agent signings.
The real battle isn't between the Orioles and Nationals, it is between the Nationals and MASN, which is majority owned by Orioles owner Peter Angelos (thus it is sort of a battle between the Nationals and Orioles). Washington is seeking a big increase in their fees received from MASN, upwards to $100 million per year as opposed to the $29 million they received last season. Both the Nationals and Orioles receive equal fees from MASN, but an increase in the Nationals fees would also result in an increase for the Orioles, but again Angelos owns both MASN and the Orioles, thus it would not effect the Orioles like it would the Nationals.
I will not go into the specifics of ownership, the history and the legality of MASN in regards to both teams, but this ongoing battle, which Major League Baseball has appointed a special committee to resolve this issue to try and keep it out of the courts, still has no resolution come out of it as of yet. I will however go into how this is affecting both the Nationals and Orioles this offseason.
First we will begin with out beloved Orioles, as aforementioned Orioles owner Peter Angelos also owns the majority of MASN. Although it is no secret that Baltimore and Angelos have a track record of not making big free agent signings, this offseason provided the Orioles with the perfect opportunity to finally to just that. Baltimore was coming off of its' first winning season and playoff berth since 1997 and the fans had finally started filling Camden Yards again towards the end of the season and getting behind their team after basically rebelling after 14 consecutive losing seasons. Unfortunately this MASN battle with the Nationals has given Angelos a big level of uncertainty of how much money he is going to have to cough up to Washington and has basically put the Orioles in a spending freeze; after all, money out of MASN's pocket is money out of Angelos's pocket and in turn is money out of Baltimore's pocket. I know fans will say that "the Orioles wouldn't spend the money anyway, they haven't in the past," but the Orioles haven't had a reason to believe that signing that one big player would be able to push them over the top in 14 years either. Don't forget, the Orioles do occasionally spend big money, back in 2003 they signed Miguel Tejada to a six year $72 million deal and recently they signed guys like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones to pretty lucrative contracts as well. Peter is not going to give the green light to Dan Duquette to spend serious money on players did he is able to assess the damage from this MASN battle with the Nationals.
On the flip side, the Nationals have been spending money left and right this offseason as their 2013 payroll will be an estimated 39% higher than their 2012 payroll, which will be the third biggest increase in payroll behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays. It is an absolute certainty that the Nationals are spending big this offseason because they know they are going to get a big increase in dues from MASN in 2013, that will help offset their increase in payroll. I am not saying they are going to get the rumored $100 million, as I believe they will end up getting around $40-$50 million once it is all said and done, but think about what you can do with an additional $40 million in regards to player talent. Not coincidentally, their payroll in 2013 will be around $32 million higher than in 2012; do some quick math and if they get an increase to $50 million per year from MASN, that is a total of $21 million extra that they are going to have to spend as opposed to 2012, thus they have added all of the marquee free agent signings (Adam LaRoche, Dan Harren, and Rafael Soriano) at just $11 million from the ownership, and that is if they only get an increase to $50 million, what if they get more? Give the Nationals credit, they acted now knowing they are going to get more money rather than waiting till they actually got the money.
It is unfortunate for Orioles fans that something like this is an issue because fans came back to this team last year and if the 2013 Orioles can't find a way to do more with less again, the team may once again see a half filled Camden Yards this summer.
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