- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

D.C. Council member Marion Barry is demanding that Major League Baseball cease efforts to give financial protection to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos because of the Washington Nationals, saying it would cripple the District’s relocated team.

Mr. Barry wrote MLB Commissioner Bud Selig this week, expressing his “profound amazement” over baseball’s “patronizing attitude toward our community” and firing a strident protest to baseball’s efforts to combine part of the Nationals’ local TV rights with those of the Orioles.

“There is no reason that MLB should force D.C. taxpayers and the new team to put its financial health on the injured reserve list just to satisfy the protests of a neighboring team owner who never wanted baseball in the Washington, D.C., area to begin with,” Mr. Barry wrote.

MLB President Bob DuPuy said yesterday that he had not seen the letter and declined to comment further. Orioles executives were not available for comment.

Mr. DuPuy and Mr. Angelos have spent the past six months trying to strike a deal that would mollify the long-standing objections of the Baltimore owner to baseball in Washington, with Mr. Selig often participating in the talks during the past two months. Central to those negotiations is the creation of a new regional sports network that would feature both teams and, at least for the first several years of existence, would be controlled predominantly by the Orioles.

Also part of the negotiations are fiscal guarantees, backed by MLB, to the Orioles’ annual local revenue and future franchise resale value. Among the areas of continued disagreement is the demarcation of the teams’ TV territorial rights.

Unsolicited protest letters from Washington to MLB executives are hardly a new occurrence. For years, dozens of politicians and prominent businessmen from the area wrote to MLB’s New York headquarters, asking for an immediate end to Washington’s long tenure without a baseball team. Mr. Barry himself sent a previous letter to Mr. Selig in December, asking that the Nationals’ TV rights not be linked with those of the Orioles.

Mr. Barry’s latest letter, however, arrives at a particularly sensitive juncture in the ongoing MLB-Angelos talks. Opening Day is a scant 25 days away, and Nationals President Tony Tavares has been given no formal permission from MLB, which is still the owner of the Washington club, to pursue local TV distribution. Every other MLB team not only knows its 2005 TV schedule, but is using spring training games to prepare broadcast and technical crews.

Mr. Tavares declined to comment yesterday on the Barry letter, but has been waiting for weeks for the clearance to solidify the Nationals’ future on TV.

Mr. Barry also fears the creation of a regional sports network inevitably will lead to an increase in the monthly cable or satellite TV bills for D.C. residents. Before his January inauguration, Mr. Barry repeatedly attacked the District’s efforts to fund the construction of a new stadium in Southeast for the Nationals. But with the core of the funding deal now approved, Mr. Barry has shifted the focus of his baseball ire toward Mr. Angelos and MLB.

“Washington residents know when we are being treated like second-class citizens,” he wrote. “Enough is enough. Washington, D.C. and its baseball team should be treated like every other MLB city.”

Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, who also a vocal critic of the Angelos talks, applauded Mr. Barry’s letter.

“I think it’s great he’s staying engaged. He’s a good ally to have, though I just don’t know what’s going to come of all this,” Mr. Evans said.

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