Jonah Keri has a great, in-depth story about the Orioles today. Specifically about their status as a team that rakes in money yet spends relatively little on payroll. He traces the arc of the team from the mid-90s to today, speaking with former Orioles officials and telling a really illuminating story about the team got to where it is. There’s a lot in there that we either didn’t know before or didn’t know quite as clearly.
There’s also a passage in the middle that discusses the Oriole’s TV partnership with the Nationals and the MASN regional sports network. Jonah explains it in detail, but the short version is that, while both the O’s and Nats get the same amount in rights fees from MASN, the Orioles own a much larger percentage of the network than the Nats do. The O’s reap huge profits — profits that are not subject to evenue-sharing — while the Nats get a relative pittance. Meanwhile, there’s a strong argument that the network’s subscription rates are undervalued, keeping even more money away from Washington.
At times there have been negotiations to change this arrangement and at times there have been threats of legal action by the Nationals to get a bigger piece of the pie. Keri reports, however, that there’s a good reason why no one has been sued yet:
For now, the MASN status quo remains. The Nationals aren’t completely helpless, though: According to a source close to the Washington franchise, MLB has sent the team an undisclosed sum every year to help bridge the gap, and to prevent the Lerners from taking matters to court, until the deal becomes more balanced.
That’s pretty astounding. It’s been pretty effective so far, sure, but it’s still pretty astounding. It’s also, one may assume, unsustainable. And in any case it is pretty telling of a system that is increasingly inequitable. If you own your network or struck your deal at just the right time, you’re flush. If not, you’re not. And if you’re flush you have a far greater ability to shield money from revenue sharing than the poor sisters are.
And that’s not very sustainable either.
Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:
The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.
The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.
I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.
In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.