Major League Baseball made a mistake by putting the Nationals in D.C. rather than Northern Virginia and has therefore hurt Baltimore and Washington’s respective baseball franchises, according to the Forbes article “Baseball and the Beltway: A Bad Marriage.” A lone bright spot in the deal was the creation of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which has put both teams among the Top 10 in cable revenue.
Some excerpts from the Forbes article follow:
“I had guys that came up on the train from Washington, have dinner with me and go back. Then I’d see them again the next night,” he said before the Orioles’ June 18 match-up with the New York Mets. Are the Washington Nationals, born in 2005 out the ashes of the Montreal Expos, to blame? “I don’t think there’s any doubt,” he said.
As the July 4 holiday looms, marking the midway point of baseball’s fifth season in Washington, Powell isn’t alone in thinking the league made a big mistake in matching baseball with the capitol, classically American as both may be. Time may yet show otherwise, but as the Nationals team nears its 1,000th game, it resembles a drowning man pulling others–namely the Orioles, 39 miles to the northeast and struggling at the gate–down with him.
The one silver lining: an attractive cable deal with the Mid Atlantic Sports Network, which the teams jointly own, with the Orioles as majority partner. Baltimore owner Peter Angelos figured that since the league was intent on putting a team right down I-95, he might as well make the best of it. And that meant collaboration rather than an all-out territorial war. The deal was negotiated by Major League Baseball on behalf of the Nationals, before the league turned over its ownership of the team to the Lerner family as it shifted the troubled franchise from Montreal. And while the two clubs have to share, the ability to showcase 324 major league games a year gives MASN a strong enough foothold to ward off any competing regional sports networks, most likely.
The agreement puts both teams in MLB’s top 10 in cable revenue for now. That, along with low payrolls (both rank in the bottom eight in the big leagues), have them in the black.
Industry observers have never liked baseball’s move into D.C.
“People said it could cannibalize the Orioles, and it came true,” said industry consultant Marc Ganis, of Sports Corp. Ltd., of MLB’s decision to bypass Charlotte, Las Vegas and nearby Northern Virginia. The big mistake, he said, was not capitalizing on the fact that Northern Virginia is far enough away from the District of Columbia to eliminate a lot of fan territory overlap–which both clubs estimate at 25%–but close enough to maintain the joint cable venture.
So why did MLB go to Washington, where Forbes currently values the Werner’s $450 million investment at $406 million? Officials didn’t return calls for comment. But Ganis’ thoughts echo those of many others. Labor strife, cable fights and steroids mean lots of congressional hearings. “Baseball decided it needed a beachhead in Washington,” Ganis said. So, call the Nationals a cost of doing business.
The Examiner’s Jay Trucker has his own tongue-in-cheek suggestion for how to improve things for MASN: Shut down the Nats broadcasts and run some baseball-themed Reality TV programming. Some of his suggestions are as follows:
Melvin and Gisel Plus Six
The show featuring the longest tenured current Oriole, his wife, their quintuplets and an additional daughter, would be a lot like Jon and Kate Plus Eight, except Melmo and his wife seem to actually love one another and they didn’t need cable TV blood money to become wealthy.
Making the Staff 13
After a dozen years of unsuccessfully trying to field a winning pitching staff the conventional way, next season the O’s host a Sean Combs’ Making the Band–style reality competition. Of course, hitting the corner of the plate with a 95 MPH fastball is much harder than crunk dancing and warbling like a girl, but the concept could translate well to Spring Training. With all due respect to the coaching staff, I’d let Diddy host this show. He might have more luck fielding winners.
Flavor of Huff
Don’t laugh. In three season’s of VH1’s Flavor of Love, the basic cable channel found 60 women willing to compete for the love of Flavor Flav. I’m sure there are enough female Huff Daddy fans out there to fill a mansion. Just make sure you program your v-chip to keep the kids from tuning in. At the end of each episode Huff would vote one woman out of the mansion by telling her, “I no longer want to knock one out of the park with you.”
(author’s note: If you want to keep your computer disease free, do not do an image search for “Flavor of Love.” You’ve been warned.)