And Let The Screwing Continueby John Brattain
June 03, 2005
Am I nuts?
O.K., am I more nuts than usual?
First off, I was an Expos fan. I won’t go into the gory details since my rantings on how MLB screwed over the Expos and the city of Montreal are all over the web. If you know how to use Google you can call up well over 100 references to my temper tantrums on the subject, and there’s no need to violently strike the deceased equine.
Suffice it to say that the sleazy corruptness surrounding the assassination (yes, assassination -- you can‘t spell assassination without two asses, in this case Bud Selig and Jeffrey Loria, which includes the jawbone of an ass ... in this case Loria’s mouthpiece David Samson) of the Expos was as obvious and noxious as the pile of feces beneath a hanged man.
A leopard cannot change its spots, however, and if you transfer a diseased skunk from Montreal to Washington, it remains a diseased skunk.
And I’m not even talking about the corporate welfare/blackmail/general greedy sucking at the public teat of the grotesquely obese infantile brat (Hey, it kicks and screams until it gets what it wants regardless of how it affects others. If the dirty diaper fits…) known as MLB that’s surrounding the stadium financing in the U.S. nation’s capital.
Nope, Major League Baseball is accepting bids on the Washington Nationals and Selig and Co. have already started screwing over the soon-to-be new owners-elect just to benefit a member of Selig’s cabal.
Ford Frick would be proud. Gene Autry would nod his head knowingly.
Have you ever wondered why the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim struggled for so long out of the gate, needing almost two decades to reach the postseason? They started off with two strikes against them right from the get-go by a commissioner helping pad the profits of a wealthy owner who was part of the commissioner’s “inner circle.”
When Major League Baseball first expanded in the early 1960s, New York and Los Angeles were said by Frick to be “open cities,” meaning that a National League team could expand into New York without the Yankees being able to block it and the American League could expand into Los Angeles and the Dodgers too would be unable to do likewise.
However Frick was said to be a “National League commissioner,” which meant that if Frick had to make a decision where he had to choose between AL and NL interests, well the AL would be just about out of luck.
Of course the “open city” concept was fair to both leagues. The National League voted to expand into New York and the Mets were born. The Yankees said nary a peep -- after all, Frick had said New York was an “open city.” The American League voted to expand into Los Angeles and suddenly Walter O'Malley started to squawk. O'Malley wanted to be the one to choose the ownership group, to choose where they would play (Wrigley Field, which seated a little over 20,000), and to dictate their television rights. And when O'Malley’s new park was finished at Chavez Ravine, the new team would have to sign an outrageous lease to play there until the Angels could build a park of their own. Finally, he wanted indemnities to the tune of $350,000 (this is the early 1960’s remember).
Well the Yankees got zip for allowing the Mets into their market, and the Dodgers got pretty much everything O'Malley asked for. Frick did his pal O'Malley a favor by making New York an "open city" for the National League but not doing the same thing for the American League in Los Angeles.
Well history is repeating itself in D.C.
The first round of bidding for the Nationals has begun with nine potential owners. As The Washington Times reported, Major League Baseball -- owners of the Washington Nationals -- has asked each group to make two offers: one for the Nats and another for the team and MLB's ten percent equity stake in MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network).
Seems pretty straightforward -- until you remember that Selig and MLB are involved.
Complicating matters is the fact that the bidding is taking place in an atmosphere swimming with lawsuits, claims and counterclaims.
The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is a regional sports network that was created by MLB and Peter Angelos (owner of the Orioles and a good buddy of Selig) to market, auction, and control the long-term broadcast/cable TV rights of both clubs in the greater Washington/Baltimore area. CSN (Comcast Sports Net), who currently has the local-pay TV contract to broadcast 80 O’s games a year through the end of next year, has filed suit against the Orioles, Major League Baseball, and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
The basis of CSN’s suit is that they’re claiming that Angelos’ plan to shift their local-pay TV games from CSN to MASN in 2007 is in violation of CSN's exclusive negotiating rights through November 2005 and their contractual right to match any offer after November 2005 made by a third party.
Where this will end up nobody knows. What we do know is that, just as Frick and O'Malley sabotaged the Angels in their infancy, Selig and Angelos are undermining the long term financial interests of the Nats by unilaterally forcing them to accept a grotesquely unequal position in a regional sports network that the Nationals' new owners would never have agreed to join had they been in a position to negotiate it for themselves.
Making it worse is how the deal is structured. Even a 50-50 split would be a bad deal for the Nationals’ new owners. According to the Nielsen ratings, Washington is the eighth largest media market in America whereas Baltimore weighs in at 23rd. Washington also has twice as many TV sets as Baltimore. It gets better -- personal income: the Washington metropolitan area is America's fourth-biggest ($214 billion in 2003). Baltimore, whose population is half of Washington's, has just 43 percent of Washington's personal income.
So how is the deal structured?
Once the dust clears, Angelos will own 90% of MASN at the outset. Over the next three decades, his stake will gradually go down, however it will never fall below 67%.
See how nasty this deal is for Washington’s new owners? Washington is the biggest single-team major league market in the United States. However, at best it can only reap 33% of MASN’s profits -- and that’ll take 30 years.
Even that’s not guaranteed.
MLB has forewarned the bidders that it may decide to keep its equity stake in MASN, basically neutering the Nationals of one of its biggest revenue streams (read: its abilities to hide profits). MLB's executive vice president of administration, John McHale Jr., insists that "nder the MASN agreement, the Nationals will never receive below-market rights fees."
Anybody actually believe this? Do you actually think MLB ever speaks truthfully when it discusses financial issues?
If you do, I’ve got a Nigerian official who wants to make you rich.
Of course McHale points out that D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and Councilman Jack Evans think it’s a great deal.
Of course these are the same two men who felt handing over close to $600 million to MLB in corporate welfare is a great deal too.
In other words, Williams and Evans have been acting like a couple of drunken prom dates where bringing MLB to Washington is concerned. If Selig and Co. were to suggest that they strip themselves naked, sacrifice their families to the Sun God, roll in pig manure and gasoline and then immolate themselves while singing the entire score from the Broadway musical “Cats” in Latin on Opening Day at Camden Yards, they’d herald that as a great deal too.
Of course this is Angelos’ “payoff” for allowing the Expos to come to D.C.
Welcome back to MLB, Washington. I know it’s been over 30 years, but you’ll be relieved to know that nothing has changed since you left.
Your job as a big market team is this: help the welfare leeches in Selig’s cabal to become richer without actually having to work for it and, God forbid, invest money in their own business. Build up your team, market it properly, maybe win a World Series or two, become phenomena and reap the benefits from a massive marketplace and try not to throw up as you’re forced to listen to Peter Angelos laugh all the way to the bank.
Once you’re done conducting business with them, be sure to take a shower, but don’t expect your calls to be returned.
It will be a happy day when Bud Selig oozes his purulent ways out of baseball.
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.
<< Return to Article