NEW YORK — Despite many recent conversations with the ownership groups of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals about their ongoing dispute over television rights, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig gave no indication that a resolution was imminent or that any progress had even been made of late.
“I’ve spent a lot of times talking to both clubs, even very, very recently,” Selig said Tuesday at an annual luncheon with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. “And we continue to do that and hope that we’ll have some type of resolution. We’ll continue to work with that.
“It’s really a difficult situation but I’m always hopeful that we can work out a resolution.”
The Nationals and Orioles have been deadlocked in discussions about a possible increase in the Nationals’ rights fees from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, of which the Orioles are the majority owners, since the end of the 2011 season.
There is provision in the Nationals’ contract with MASN that allows for them to renegotiate their rights fees every five years. The first reset of those fees came after the 2011 season but the two sides could not reach a settlement on an increased figure for the Nationals’ allotment.
In 2011, the Nationals earned $29 million from MASN and in the renegotiations they asked for roughly five times that amount — to put them slightly more on par with the amount of money most teams are getting in what is a currently-exploding market for television rights. The Los Angeles Dodgers, for example, are set to make roughly $6 billion over a 25-year contract on their upcoming TV deal, according to the Los Angeles Times, which works out to about $240 million per season.
But with the two sides unable to resolve the dispute, they took their case to a three-person committee organized by the commissioner’s office last year. Selig then set a June 1, 2012, deadline. At last year’s All-Star game, the commissioner said he wanted the dispute resolved “a month ago.”
More than a year later, the Nationals — who are the only team in the league whose television rights are owned by another team — are still waiting. And the uncertainty over a potentially large influx of cash could affect the way the team operates in assembling their team.
Selig, who played a role in orchestrating the contract when MLB moved the Expos to Washington prior to the 2005 season and helped appease Orioles owner Peter Angelos with the television rights, gave no indication of a timetable for a resolution.
“Let’s put it this way, it’s not an easy situation to resolve,” Selig said.
– Selig also addressed MLB’s ongoing investigation on Biogenesis, the South Florida clinic that is believed to be at the root of a performance-enhancing drug ring that has ensnared more than 20 major league players in a steroid scandal.
“The only thing I can say to you about the investigation is that it’s thorough it’s comprehensive and it’s aggressive,” Selig said. “That, I believe. I am proud of. And it’s a tribute to what we’re trying to do. On Biogenesis that’s all I have to say.”
Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz are among a group of big names that have been investigated in connection with Biogenesis. Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez’s name was linked to the clinic as well. ESPN reports have indicated that it is not believed Gonzalez purchased any banned substances from Biogenesis, or owner Tony Bosch, but he has been included in the investigation with every other player mentioned.
Reports have indicated that the commissioners’ office could hand out suspensions to as many as 20 players after the All-Star break, but MLBPA head Michael Weiner, who spoke at the same luncheon after Selig, said he wouldn’t expect suspensions — which include a requisite appeals process for each player — to come down until September, and possibly later, which could lead to suspensions being served in the 2014 season.
“When all the interviews are done, we will meet with the commissioners office and we’ll try to work something out,” Weiner said. “Players who deserve suspensions, we’ll try to come up with a fair suspension. On players who don’t deserve a suspension, we’ll argue that they don’t deserve a suspension and I hope we have success. We may not have success on every single player, but I hope we have a fair amount of success.”
– Selig also briefly addressed the topic of future All-Star game sites, which is of interest to the Nationals, who have been angling to host the game at Nationals Park for several years. The Orioles are also among teams interested in bringing the midsummer classic to their ballpark, and The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday that they may be among the favorites for the 2016 game.
The game has alternated recently between American League ballparks and National League ones, and with the 2015 game already set to be held in Cincinnati, the earliest the Nationals could host one now would be 2017.
“There are a lot of cities that want the All-Star game,” Selig said. “It isn’t just Baltimore and Washington. There’s a lot of people who want it.
“It’s amazing how that has evolved. Back in the late 90s you used to have to beg people to take the game. It’s turned out to be such a great event. Great for business, just all the way around. I’ll start working on ‘16 and ‘17 because people need a lot of lead time.”
Selig was noncommittal on whether or not he would take into consideration the proximity of the Orioles and the Nationals in making future site decisions and potentially not wanting them to hold games in back-to-back years.