Fuse lit: MASN goes to court to keep from having to pay the Nats more money for TV rights

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Last week the Hollywood Reporter got inside the ongoing Washington Nationals-Baltimore Orioles-MASN dispute over the dividing up of rights fees. The big takeaway there was that everyone was preparing to go nuclear, abandon negotiations and run to the courthouse. And that Bud Selig was warning everyone involved NOT to take this to court because, well, baseball just doesn’t want that. He said in a letter to the clubs that he would level “the most severe sanctions” against them if they do.

Well, get ready to level, Bud, because MASN has gone to court in New York and obtained an injunction against a Major League Baseball arbitration which ruled in favor of the Nationals on the fee dispute. Basically: a court order to prevent the Orioles, the Nationals and MASN from having to comply with it. You can read all of the documents filed and the court order below. The upshot of the arguments, for those who do not wish to read: MASN is asking that the arbitration be set aside due to a conflict of interest. The argument includes the following claims:

  • The same lawyers represented the Nationals, Major League Baseball and the clubs of the three owners who comprised the arbitration panel;
  • “The three arbitrators, MLB and the Commissioner of Baseball, all had a direct and significant pecuniary interest in the outcome of the arbitration.”
  • The authority set up to determine the amount of money the Nats were supposed to get from MASN “exceeded its authority by intentionally refusing to use its established methodology to determine the fair market value of the telecast rights fees as mandated . . .”

Worth noting that there are many levels of conflict of interest here. For all intents and purposes, MASN is the Orioles in this case. The Orioles are the majority shareholders in MASN, they have the same lawyers and, in not paying a lot more money to the Nationals, the same general interests. To the court they are a separate party, to be sure. But I wonder if Bud Selig and Major League Baseball feel obligated to view them that way. Because, either way, the same bad purpose (in MLB’s eyes) is being obtained: the undermining of its arbitration and taking an internal dispute out into the open.

Whether the court is willing or able to untangle all of these many layers of conflict is unclear. It is worth rememberng, however, as we learned in the A-Rod/Biogenesis case, that courts are extremely reluctant to overturn arbitration rulings, so this may all ultimately be an exercise in posturing and delay.

But that’s the legal stuff. The practical aspect of all of this is that, at essence, MASN and the Orioles do not want to pay the Nationals what the Nats and what Major League Baseball, per its arbitration, think their broadcast rights are worth. Or, it should be noted, they may not be able to. You see, per the agreement between the parties, (a) the Nationals are to get market rates for their broadcasts; and (b) the Orioles are to get increases in their payout that match the Nats’ increases. In this market, however, that would probably bankrupt MASN. So no amount of negotiation under the terms of the agreement is likely to solve the problem. It may be an utterly untenable agreement.

So, while this is somewhat amusing from the point of view of baseball’s failed efforts to negotiate a settlement in private between the parties, the parties may now be in an impossible situation. Maybe the court steps in, but it’s hard to see the court wading in to this matter beyond the preliminary way in which it already has. One other possibility is that a third party could step in. As in, the Nats buying their way out of the MASN deal entirely and going out on its own with a separate broadcaster. Which, for their part, MASN and the Orioles probably don’t want, as they make money off of Nats broadcasts and don’t want the competition. But as of now, I see no other way out of it.

For now, though, it’s in the court’s hands. Here are the documents it’s working with right now, including the court order and MASN’s petition to set aside the arbitration ruling:

Order

Petition

Mem

Carlos Gomez questions Collin McHugh’s manhood after benches-clearing incident on Monday

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Tempers flared between the Astros and Rangers on Monday in Arlington. In the bottom of the second inning, Astros starter Collin McHugh threw a first-pitch fastball inside to Rangers outfielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez didn’t like it, so he stared at McHugh for a few seconds. Gomez fouled off the next pitch and jawed at McHugh before taking a few steps towards the mound. McHugh came in and the benches emptied. Fortunately, order was quickly restored and both teams were issued warnings.

The Astros and Rangers had a benches-clearing incident earlier this season as well. In a game in Houston on May 1, Astros starter Lance McCullers threw inside to Mike Napoli, which caused the benches to spill out onto the field. McHugh also hit Gomez with a first pitch fastball in the second inning on August 31 and Mike Fiers did the same in the second inning on August 12. As a result, Gomez thinks the Astros have it out for him. Via Levi Weaver of WFAA Sports:

Gomez referenced manhood a couple different times, saying, “I’m a man and I’m responsible.” Referring to McHugh, Gomez said, “he’s not man enough to tell me [that he’s going to hit me] face-to-face.” He continued, “So if you’re a real man, you tell me to my face, not send me a message.”

Per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and Sam Butler, McHugh said after the game:

The second pitch, he took a big swing and fouled it off and took about five steps out toward the mound, looking me straight in the eye. I just asked him if we had a problem. It was a rhetorical question because, clearly, he’s got a problem with me. I don’t exactly know what it is, but whatever the case, he came out and I asked him what the issue was and he said, ‘Yeah, I got a problem with you.’ That was it. Everybody else was out there by that point in time. The game goes on. I don’t want to spend any more mental effort thinking about Carlos Gomez.

The series resumes on Tuesday night as Dallas Keuchel will oppose Cole Hamels. It will be interesting to see if the drama bleeds over into this one.

Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the nachos guy from yesterday’s game

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In the bottom of the second inning of Monday night’s game at Busch Stadium, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell dove into the stands down the left field line in an attempt to catch a foul ball. A Cardinals fan holding a tray of nachos was in Russell’s path and had his tasty treat knocked onto the dirt in front of the stands. Russell did the fan a solid, though, bringing him a new tray of nachos and posed for a selfie. The fan was also later seen taking selfies with other fans.

That peeved Cubs starter Jon Lester, who started Monday’s game. Via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Great effort,” pitcher Jon Lester said. “But I don’t understand the other stuff.

“A guy fell into him and got nacho cheese on his arm and now he’s taking pictures and signing autographs. It shows you where our society’s at right now with all that stuff.”

It wasn’t like Lester had a poor outing and that’s why he was salty. The lefty yielded just one run on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts over six innings. Lester just, uh, hates selfies, I guess? I’m also not sure how the whole scenario is a reflection of American society, unless he means that people can turn a disappointing situation into a fun and heartwarming situation.

At least Russell and Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a good sense of humor about it. Maddon said the whole thing was “pretty entertaining.” Russell said, “You don’t get between a man and his nachos.”