Today was a busy day for possible sales of Washington, D.C. area professional sports franchises.
Nationals aka the team that I care about
MLB gets involved in MASN debate to help facilitate sale of the Nationals – The Post (soft paywall)
A group led by Monumental Sports founder Ted Leonsis — which has financial backing from D.C. philanthropist David Rubenstein — has been in discussions with the investment bank overseeing the process, and several people familiar with the process believe Leonsis to be the leading candidate to purchase the Nationals.
But MLB is aware that any new owner would want to know how much money it would receive from MASN for the team’s regional media rights. An MLB official said Tuesday that it is engaged in negotiating certainty about that revenue going forward — a step that could give Leonsis’s group confidence to move forward with its bid.
All things being equal, I’m not thrilled at the prospect of Teddy Email owning the Nats. He once blogged about being bored sitting with Capitals minority partner Mark Lerner at a baseball game. I think that’s been lost to time, though I once suggested Dan Steinberg try to find it in the Wayback Machine.
The bigger problem isn’t that he got a bored at a ballgame though. There are several actually:
- Loyalty to front offices that underachieve
The Caps won it all in 2018 and it was a beautiful thing. Other than that year though, they have not advanced past the second round ever under Leonsis. George McPhee was GM for over 15 years with only one team advancing past the second round — his first after 15ish years of David Poile. Current GM Brian MacLellan hasn’t developed a team that can advance since the Cup either.
The Wizards haven’t done that well and the prolonged Ernie Grunfeld era was painful.
There isn’t anything to suggest Leonsis can build a contender without a generational superstar. Credit goes Leonsis for committing to Alex Ovechkin early and for the duration. It worked out and eventually we got a parade
Of course, there isn’t any evidence the Nats current front office could build without drafting multiple generational superstars. They finally won it all after one of them left, oddly enough.
- Does he just want summer programming?
Leonsis is buying NBC Sports Washington (WTOP) nee CSN Washington, Home Team Sports outright. Six months of the year, he has the Caps and Wiz and then very little live broadcasts. A baseball team would solve that problem and give him as much leverage over cable systems as just about anybody. Regional Sports Networks have peaked, but having three locally broadcast teams would be as good as it gets.
- The gambling thing
Leonsis really likes sports gambling – what’s the double-botton line in that, Ted? It’s oogy. Jersey ads are also gross money grabs.
When it comes down to it, the biggest reason to support a Leonsis sale — it means he doesn’t have the Orioles. Leonsis has never been shy about saying Baltimore is part of the DC market. If he gets the Orioles, the Nats will never be able to take advantage of their market.
The Lerners wanting out or at least bringing in more minority investors isn’t shocking – they made their fortune in commercial real estate and that’s not as good a place as it was in say, 2019. That’s likely the primary reason they are working on an exit strategy,. A bunch of deferred contracts and zero-WAR deals with Stephen Strasburg (sigh) and Patrick Corbin (has anybody thrown away good will as fast as him?) can’t be helping with a long rebuild on the way.
Dan Snyder might be selling too
Daniel Snyder considers sale of Washington Commanders -The Post (soft paywall)
The recent ESPN story on him was damning and crazy old Jim Irsay thinks it might be time for the NFL to move on. Now the feds and state attorney generals are looking into alleged financial improprieties (ESPN).
Is twenty-years of being a toxic team owner catching up to him? I wouldn’t count on it. I fully expect him to still be owner five years from now if he’s still alive. Without this team, he’s nothing. Rich, sure but not important. I really doubt he’s looking for anything more than a cash infusion.
I’ll believe Snyder is gone after it’s been a season with someone else around. I just don’t have a lot of faith the NFL will actually hold him accountable. Thankfully, I don’t really care either. Why spend your Sunday afternoon watching his team try to eek out another mediocre season? I’ll be kayaking.
Of course, the funniest and best result is Snyder sells the Commies and buys…the Orioles. Like Washingtonians could ever hope to get so lucky.