Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Endgame

With a little less than two weeks until Jon Lieber lobs the first pitch towards our new team, it appears that the stalemate with Peter Angelos is nearing an end.

Jim Williams, who apparently is in tight with the Comcast people, says:
Comcast SportsNet, the Orioles and the Nationals will be partners in a newly-formed regional cable sports network. Baring any last-minute hang-ups the deal will be signed within the next 24 hours and thus complete over six months of deal-making between Major League Baseball and Peter Angelos. (We know that last-minute hang-ups are commonplace in this deal)

CSN, the Orioles and the Nationals will work together to sell ads and on a variety of marketing projects. This will also allow both the Nationals and O's to share the region and thus both teams can be seen throughout the CSN area.

It should also make life much easier for fans since CSN will use existing channels to distribute the games.

If Williams is right and Angelos has ceded his claim of exclusivity, and is willing to work as partners with the Nationals (presumably while reaping a lion's share of the new network's revenue), it’s probably a good thing -- as long as Angelos isn’t getting toooo fat off the Nationals backs.

I’m not one of those people who want to see the death of the Orioles, just the banishment of their owner. And hemming them in to a market consisting of Baltimore, Harrisburg and Frederick, would do extensive harm. There are generations of Oriole fans extending down into the Carolinas and it simply wouldn’t be fair to them, or even those Oriole fans here in DC, to just go away. Sharing the market is the easy answer.

And besides, for you and me, it means more baseball on TV. And that’s always a good thing. If you love the game, you’ll even suffer through the internal-hemorrhage-inducing Cubs announcers as they call a meaningless game against the Brewers.

I was lucky. Growing up in upstate NY, I had my pick of Mets, Yankees and Red Sox games. Unfortunately, they all pretty much stunk! But, you could always flip around and find an interesting game, or an interesting pitching match-up. When the Cardinals are blowing out our fair team, won’t it be kind of nice to be able to flip over and watch the Yankees pound the Orioles?

Williams also says that Angelos will get all the revenue protections he asked for (A guaranteed $350MM sale price and revenue guarantees each year.) The Post explains that they're settling on a $30MM figure for lost stadium revenues. It's unclear if that's a yearly figure, or how long a period of time the indemnification would last.

The Orioles are claiming that ticket sales are down 17% from a year ago. Considering how many consecutive losing seasons they've had, and how, until recently, Steve Kline was their only notable addition, they were destined to decline in attendance, even without the presence of the Nationals. (A 17% decline puts them just a smidge behind their 2003 attendance level, and until last year, their attendance had been in decline every year since 1997.)

Hopefully Jim Williams is right. The best thing for both these teams is to get this mess out of the way and to march forward. With a truly equitable relationship, these separate but linked markets can support two teams.

The time for posturing is over. Now, it's time for some results.

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