I have obtained copies of the documents supporting the temporary restraining order issued today preventing Major League Baseball and the Nationals from enforcing the arbitration which ruled in the Nationals’ favor in connection with its dispute with the Orioles over cable rights fees. They are embedded below. Click on the document name for a larger size.
The upshot of the arguments, for those who do not wish to read: MASN is asking that the arbitration be set aside for conflict of interest for the most part. 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 . . .”
Some of this is silly. Major League Baseball and its clubs, for certain purposes, are always represented by the same counsel and everyone knows this. As such, claims that these alleged conflicts “were not disclosed” don’t seen particularly important here. The one about the panel not being impartial because they are owners of other clubs and thus have a stake — and maybe a conflict — regarding the rights fees may be more legitimate.
It’s worth noting, however, as we noted in the A-Rod/Biogenesis case, that having arbitration awards set aside is extremely difficult.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”