Tag Archives: The Lerners

Ted, Mark, Annette, Marla, Ed, Robert and a bunch of others. They built shopping malls, office buildings and own the Washington Nationals. The are arbitrary and capricious with their money and drive hard bargains.

Don’t expect (m)any changes in the Nats uniforms or Metro policy

In his Q&A with fans, Washington Nationals owner and occasional batting practice outfielder Mark Lerner fielded a couple of questions about uniforms:

The Nats refreshed the team’s uniforms several years ago. I personally feel the set has been a success for the most part, but also could be improved in some ways. How do you feel about them? Do you see any enhancements/additions in the future, or are you content with this set?

“It’s funny, now anywhere I travel I run into folks wearing Nationals team merchandise – Curly W caps, jerseys, T-shirts. I think we have developed a pretty popular logo and brand. We are open to alternate designs down the line, but currently we are sticking with what is proving to be popular.”

Can we have the interlocking “DC” return as a home/away alternate and is it possible to sell the uniforms and caps with the interlocking “DC” logo in the team store?

“We are open to alternate designs, but don’t have any current plans to change the uniforms next season. I’ll share your request for the interlocking DC logo to be made available in our stores with the retail team!”

036

As I mentioned on UniWatch, I came up with some easy tweaks to the Nats uniforms a few years back. Bring back the solid blue road caps and drop the numbers on the front of the home jerseys.

As for extended Metro house:

Why won’t the Nationals pay to have Metro run late for evening games?

We’ve consistently said that as a world-class city – and the Nation’s Capital – D.C. needs to have a world-class public transportation system and that includes an extended hours schedule like every other major American city. Currently our fans contribute millions of dollars and thousands of hours a year to WMATA traveling to and from games during our 81 home games. That usage should be reflected in extended hours.

Lerner isn’t wrong that DC should have world-class public transportation but spending $29,000 on a deposit (which would be refunded by usage) would serve fans who want to know they can go to the whole game and stay home.

Even Dan Synder -DAN SNYDER! knows this

More of the same all-around.

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Nats headline pun watch: Black has bottomed out, Dusty trending up

Now that the chronic impending disaster of the Washington Nationals television rights situation1 has been addressed, albeit in a post that’s more about what the indoor red, white and blue DC teams are doing on TV, we can get to other matters at hand.

I’ve been openly against Dusty Baker since the Matt Williams error ended (if not in a literal sense, but a figurative sense) and was relieved that Bud Black got the job. The knock on Baker (who let’s face it, has a likable name and will henceforth be known as Dusty) is an anti-OBP, pitcher-killer. It’s probably not completely wrong, but he’s shown himself to regularly manage teams that win 90 games or more, sometimes even their division and one time, even a pennant. Ask Russ Ortiz how that went?2

Of course, Black, who had a good reputation with pitchers, didn’t sign — he may have been selected, but the Nats may have low-balled him. It figures, a DC-beat writer breaks the story and it all goes to hell.

Tough break, Wags.

Distinguished Senators, which triumphantly came back in this past season that was the antonym of triumph, had typically strong takes on the situation when Black was “hired”3 and not hired.


ugh, MASN’s feed, I hope there aren’t any ads

Dusty is here and he won the press conference. He brought in Mike Maddux as pitching coach, because ironically, the front office ownership of the Texas Rangers low-balled him.4 His reputation is strong, though that’s all I know about him other than his brother was a pretty solid pitcher for the late 1980s Chicago Cubs.

Keeping with the mid-2000s theme that Distinguished Senators embraced, Davey Lopes is back in the 1st base coaches box. His magical ability to clap and say “let’s go Alfonso” seemed to have worked the last time around and he does wear a Phillies World Championship ring for his first-post Nats position. Perhaps the incredibly-shrinking Barry Bonds can come aboard as hitting coach, though not nutritionist, as well.

The 2015 Nats should have won 90 games just by showing up, but were so poorly managed5 that they barely broke .500 despite having a historical season from Bryce Harper, who by the way, Dusty, doesn’t need humbling. Dusty gets the challenge of getting the back end of the bullpen to remove their heads from their posteriors and focus on pitching well instead of policing their teammates or sulking. I don’t know if Dusty can do it, but at least the press conferences should be better than the “Jim Riggleman with an on-field pedigree” we were getting the last two seasons.

1Modifier “television rights situation” is surely extraneous

2Actually, ask the relievers who blew that series more than Ortiz, but nobody remembers their names as they weren’t given the ball by Dusty.

3How 2005 DCist. Though it was a good pull.

4Technically speaking they have Washingnton Senators 2.0 DNA

5The 2015 New York Mets are forever grateful, though when Matty said “we concede” they were like, “naw, we’ll just take it ourselves.”

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Nats: Angelos/Orioles delay MASN trial into 2015

The Washington Nationals grievances against Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles will have to wait until March to get addressed in court, according to a report from The PostMASN hearing pushed to March after discovery dispute entangles Commissioner Rob Manfred

The legal saga between the Nationals and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will drag for months longer than previously expected after a skirmish over discovery bumped a pivotal trial date from December to March and entangled incoming commissioner Rob Manfred. The delay ensures the Nationals will not receive a potential financial windfall until after this offseason.

We won’t know until March at the earliest whether there is anything to this and if there is, whether it was deliberate incompetence by MLB or just the standard variety. Nonetheless, it’s bad news for the Nats, who will continue to be low-balled on television revenue.

It’s probably also a loss for the Orioles franchise and their fans.

The corrupt bargain MLB imposed on the Nats and their fans states that both franchises receive the same broadcast fees, so the business side of the Baltimore franchise is also being short-changed. Angelos owns roughly 80% of MASN, so he pockets most of the profits personally. Now, perhaps there is some trickle-down from him, but that seems rather unlikely. Avarice and spite are his ethos, though I cannot say which is stronger.

Should the Nats ultimately prevail in this round, it will not be much of a victory. To summarize, here is how the arrangement has worked using the bully in the cafeteria model.

In 2004, the Orioles were the bully who wasn’t even letting the Nats into the school cafeteria. In 2005, the bully grudgingly acquiesced to let the Nats in, but they weren’t allowed to sit at a table. At the end of 2006, the bully let the Nats have some table scraps and a chair and acted like he was doing the Nats a favor. The principal went along with it and told the Nats they should be thankful. In 2012, the principal thought that maybe the Nats deserved a seat and some more lunch, but wouldn’t say so directly, appointing three other students to make the decision. The bully did not accept the decision and was willing to have a smaller lunch, just so that the Nats would have a smaller lunch too. The principal retired, leaving behind the vice principal who may have not followed school policy.

It’s a mess and it puts the Nats in a tougher spot moving forward, as illustrated in last week’s WTOP story The Nationals’ financial dilemma. The author, sports editor Noah Frank, formerly worked for the Nats and thus has more of an insider understanding and hometown bias which I welcome given the Baltimore bias much of the DC sports media.

Overall, the Nats are losing this war and the Lerner family is just battling to improve the terms of the occupation.

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anti-masn

Could MASN be a Pyrrhic victory for Peter Angelos? Let’s hope so.

Earlier this month, Grantland published a story by chronicler of Les Expos de Montréal, Jonah Keri on the Baltimore Orioles and their reluctance to spend. That’s nothing new or of even relevant to D.C. sports fans. What is relevant are details of Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) which is primarily owned by Angelos/Orioles.

In 2005, MLB and Angelos worked out a deal allowing the Nationals to operate in D.C. in exchange for a new local TV deal that overwhelmingly favored the Orioles. In July 2006, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network launched a full-time sports programming slate headlined by O’s and Nats games. The terms dictated that each franchise would receive the same amount in rights fees, but that Baltimore would control a 90 percent share of MASN and any MASN-owned spinoff networks at the start; the Nationals would pick up an additional 1 percent stake each year after an initial two-year wait, until eventually reaching a 33 percent cap. Angelos got his lopsided deal, while the Nationals, who play in the nation’s seventh-biggest market, got screwed.

While the Orioles are bringing in quite a bit more than the Nationals, neither team is profiting from MASN as much as it could be. According to SNL Kagan, a group that analyzes cable and broadcast network deals as well as regional sports networks (RSNs), MASN properties generated $167.8 million in total revenue in 2012. The bulk of that money came from advertising and subscriber fees, with 5.4 million consumers paying $2.14 a month. That’s well below the $2.47 industry average for 2012 and $2.69 projection for 2013, and several of the media experts and sports deal makers interviewed for this story said MASN should be getting much more. Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, which primarily airs Washington Capitals and Wizards regular-season games, got $4.02 per month in 2012, indicating the market would likely support a higher rate for MASN. It’s hard to know whether to blame the network’s low subscriber fee on inept management, the timing of the deal, or other factors, but whatever the reason, it’s clear MASN will be leaving tens of millions on the table until it renegotiates with local cable providers.

First off, I have to acknowledge that while the “low” subscriber fee is bad for the revenue of the franchises, it’s not a negative for cable subscribers whether they watch those channels or not. It won’t go as far to say that Angelos is “saving” cable subscribers by having the “low” rate because if not for him, CSN would probably have the Nats and we were already paying for that channel. Angelos was successful in keeping MASN off of most DC area cable systems well into 2006, the Nats second season.

There are more interesting details:

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…

…when the Lerner family bought the Nationals in 2006, it was saddled with this lemon of a deal, in which neither it nor the team’s first president, Stan Kasten, had any say. The terms stipulated that the deal could be renegotiated after five full seasons, and the Nats took their first opportunity to challenge the terms after the 2011 season. When that challenge dragged into 2012, those terms looked even more unfair. After spending years rebuilding a franchise that had been decimated by penny-pinching and mismanagement in Montreal, the Nats finally made the playoffs for the first time, winning 98 games and the NL East title. That same year, the Orioles made the postseason for the first time in 15 seasons. MASN viewership skyrocketed, enhancing the network’s already rising economic profile, but the Nats saw just a fraction of the returns.

The suggestion that the team or possibly, the Lerner family themselves, are getting payola under the table additional compensation is new to me. Whether that statement is accurate or not will certainly not be mentioned by the Lerners (see, publicly financed Nationals Park roof for reference) so we’ll have to take this cocktail party supposition with a grain of salt. An aside – several years ago I heard a rumor from a one-time employee that in addition to the $450 million purchase price, the Lerner ownership also assumed over $100 million in debt from when MLB operated the franchise. Of course, I’ve had mixed results from that source.

Given that the Lerner family is the richest in MLB, they may have the patience to wait this out a while and if they get a little good behavior money on the side, well, why not. There is risk in that as well, but TV deals have gone up so much across the league, they seem unlikely to regress all the way back.

The motivations of Angelos on the other hand, are not completely clear. As the rest of the article notes, he hasn’t not been a big spender for most of his tenure as Orioles owner (BREAKING: Since I finished writing this post, Baltimore signed Ubaldo Jimenez for four years to which Cleveland fan Vince Guerreri invoked Bill Veeck’s maxim about “the high cost of mediocrity“), this offseason being another example of that and doesn’t seem motivated by his team winning on the field. Seemingly, his motivation for being loved, liked or even respected by his fan base is not significant either — he has had a dozen years to bring Maryland’s favorite son Cal Ripken, Jr. into a meaningful role with the franchise and choose not to go that way. Hiring Ripken would be at minimum on par with bringing in Dan Duquette to take credit for Andy McPhail’s improvements. It seems as though Angelos, in addition to being duplicitous (2004: “There are no baseball fans in Washington, D.C., that’s a fiction.” 2010: What’s good for the Nationals is good for MASN) lacks business sense. Perhaps he is self-aware of that, but it isn’t a stretch to say he’s more motivated to be vindictive. What’s really weird is that he and the Orioles still enjoy relatively uncritical coverage in either his home market of Baltimore or the market he is envious of, Washington, even though he isn’t good at his job.

Another possibility is that the three main participants are quite old. Selig will be 80 in July and has pushed back his retirement date for years. Officially, he plans to step down at the beginning of 2015. Angelos will be 85 in July while Lerner is 88. The three of them could be punting or should I say, pitching around the hitter, to the next generation. That’s not necessarily bad for the Nats, the next commissioner may not have a friendship with Angelos. Of course, what the descendents of the principal owners want and are willing to do is an unknown, though Mark Lerner and his brothers-in-law seem to be in for the long haul. Whehther Angelos’ family is the same I cannot say.

Left unsaid in Keri’s piece is a wild card in all of this – Ted Leonsis. The owner of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, holding company of the Washington Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and Verizon Center, has won’t shut up been very vocal about his plans to create a new cable channel as soon as his broadcast deals with CSN expire, going as far to start an online channel. Obviously, CSN and unless Angelos is really oblivious, MASN, have to be quite interested in this development. For CSN, they are looking at extinction unless they reach a deal with Leonsis. Angelos and MASN probably realize that too and should they team up with Leonsis, that channel would be the dominant sports channel in multiple regional markets without any meaningful competition — i.e. what Angelos wanted from MLB and lost, yet on terms very favorable to him, even if he lacks the business-sense to make it work. Of course the question is whether split profits would be a deterrent to some or all sides. CSN is but one small part of the Comcast empire that includes, many other RSNs, cable/broadband systems and something called the National Broadcasting Company. Fighting over the DC & Baltimore markets might not be a big deal to the diagonally integrated corporate conglomerate.

These are but a few possible scenarios presented and I’ve looked at it more at a mostly local & regional level; FOX Sports or some other corporation may want to be a player too. Ultimately, I expect the endgame to be not terribly palatable to Washingtonians or the Nats franchise. The likeliest situation has Angelos and not necessarily the Baltimore American League ball club coming out far ahead of anybody else. The Lerners may ultimately buy him out, holding their noses as they do it. Regardless, it is worth pointing out that the demise of the Baltimore Orioles is an acceptable, albeit unlikely outcome, for the Washington National League ball club and their fans should it result in the restoration of television rights. Since in the Angelos and Orioles point of view, Washingtonians were acceptable as collateral damage, the same can be applied to Baltimoreans. Perhaps Mr. Keri’s city would be a suitable relocation site for Orioles, whose lease ends in 2021.

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