KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Without divulging specifics, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig expressed at least mild frustration with the ongoing negotiations between the Washington Nationals and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network on Tuesday.
The dispute between the Nationals and MASN, which was supposed to have been resolved long ago, involves a provision in the Nationals’ contract with the Orioles-owned network to renegotiate their rights every five years. A deadline for June 1 was originally set. That was delayed to July 1 and has since been delayed further.
In his annual meeting with the Baseball Writers Association of America, Selig refused to offer details on the situation saying only: “We are in the midst of very intense discussions. That’s all I can tell you. Very intense.”
Pressed further for a timetable on when he’d like to see the negotiations — arbitrated by a three-person panel from the commissioner’s office — Selig said “about a month ago.”
“But we’ll keep moving that ahead until we get it resolved, as quickly as possible,” he added.
In the ongoing negotiations, the Nationals are looking to roughly triple the $29 million they earned from MASN in 2011. Orioles owner Peter Angelos and MASN are offering significantly less.
The contract, as currently constituted, has the Nationals owning roughly 11 percent of MASN, with that stake growing approximately one percent per year but maxing out at 33 percent. Angelos and the Orioles own the rest — a provision the league agreed to in order to placate Angelos when they were trying to move the team to Washington in 2005. The Lerner family, which purchased the team in 2006, agreed to the initial contract.
But recent television contracts signed by other teams in the league, combined with the growing popularity of the National League’s best team, have made the Nationals’ share woefully low. The issue appears to be growing more contentious the longer it drags and Selig’s frustration was evident.
The situation between the teams is unique, and what many view as unfair, in that one team holds such significant power over another team’s television rights. Selig, however, said that fact did not trouble him and he did not regret the initial deal made with Angelos and the Nationals.
“That was part of a process that was really complicated and at the time,” Selig said. “I can’t second guess that. We just have to work our way through this now. Disputes between clubs are not uncommon. That’s why we have a commissioner. (But) that was a deal that had to be done.”