By Associated Press - Thursday, May 21, 2015

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will eventually be forced to pay increased rights fees to the Washington Nationals.

Both the Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles own stakes in MASN, with the Orioles hold a controlling interest. When they could not agree on the Nationals’ rights fees for 2012 through 2016, the dispute went to MLB’s three-man Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee.

After the committee ruled last summer the Nationals should receive about $298 million for the five-year period, MASN and the Orioles sued, complaining the process was tainted. Justice Lawrence K. Marks issued a preliminary injunction preventing the Nationals from ending the deal and listened to arguments this week. The Orioles want the RSDC decision thrown out.

”I think the agreement’s clear in MASN,” Manfred said Thursday following his first owners’ meeting since replacing Selig as commissioner in January. “I think the RSDC was empowered to set rights fees. That’s what they did, and I think sooner or later MASN is going to be required to pay those rights fees.”

Manfred addressed a plethora of other topics following the meetings, including the New York Yankees’ reluctance to pay Alex Rodriguez a bonus in his contract and Major League Baseball’s presence in Cuba.

• On Rodriguez, Manfred said he thinks the Yankees have grounds not to pay him a $6 million marketing bonus for tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the career home run list.

When Rodriguez signed a $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees in December 2007, the sides also agreed to a separate deal that called for $6 million each for up to five milestone accomplishments. The accomplishments were contemplated to be Rodriguez hitting home runs 660, 714, 755, 762 and 763.

After Rodriguez hit No. 660 on May 1, New York refused to make the payment. The Yankees said making the payment was their right and not an obligation.
“The Yankees have a well-founded legal position,” Manfred said.

Rodriguez returned to the Yankees this year after serving a season-long drug suspension.

• As for Cuba, Manfred hopes to move ahead with plans for an exhibition game there next year.

President Barack Obama announced in December his intention to restore diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba.

U.S. teams played spring training games in Cuba before Fidel Castro’s revolution, but none appeared there from March 1959 until the Baltimore Orioles played Cuba’s national team in Havana in March 1999. MLB has not returned since.

• Pete Rose’s role at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati will be determined by Major League Baseball and the Reds after they determine what other obligations the banned career hits leader has.

Rose agreed to a lifetime ban in 1989 after an MLB investigation concluded he bet on Reds’ games while managing the team. He has applied for reinstatement, but Manfred has not given a timetable for a decision.

• Manfred understands why the Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins did not interview any minority candidates when they hired new managers this month.
Milwaukee replaced Ron Roenicke with Craig Counsell, and Miami general manager Dan Jennings took over from Mike Redmond.

Manfred said the rule is difficult to apply to in-season changes “because time obviously is of the essence.”

• There has been talk of shortening the regular-season schedule from 162 games. “A 154-game schedule is a huge economic issue,” Manfred said. “It would require a lot of analysis before we would we would be prepared to bargain on a topic like that.”

• The average time of a nine-inning game has dropped to 2:54 minutes through Wednesday, down from 3:02 through a similar period last year. “We are very encouraged by early returns,” Manfred said. “We’d like to hold that number. That’s the trick now.”

• While Manfred doesn’t “see expansion as a hot topic” now, it is possible it could be considered in five to 10 years.

• The restraints on international signings of amateur players under 23, put in place in the current labor contract that started in 2012, have not worked the way MLB expected. “I think that the increased flow of talent from Cuba has stressed that system, and it hasn’t done as well in response to that stress,” Manfred said.

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