Late on Friday, May 6th, MASN filed 48 documents with the New York State Court, this was the deadline set by Judge Marks for them to file a motion to stay the Nats request to force them to return to the MLB arbitration panel as mandated in the original contract between MLB and the Orioles that defined the terms of Angelos’ ownership of the Nats TV rights dating back to 2005 which was before the Lerner’s purchased the Nationals in 2006.
This filing marks the end of any chance for a deal between Angelos and Lerner via mediation (which was so obviously a lost cause it is hard to understand why it was even attempted) and sets up the next round of arbitration, with the question being whether the dispute returns to the MLB panel or a neutral arbitrator. The Nats now have until May 27th to reply to this motion; and subsequently MASN will have until June 17th to respond. (I’m not a lawyer so please excuse any misuse of legal terms.)
The 48 documents consisted of a short motion to stay the Nats request to re-initiate arbitration, along with a large set of exhibits supporting their motion, a set of documents providing a history of the case, and the original contract.
The motion filed by MASN consisted of three distinct parts (although it was not divided into sections). 1) The first paragraph was the motion to stay the Nats request. 2) The second paragraph noted that MASN is still working on “perfecting” their case, as if they have not had more than sufficient time. 3) By far the vast majority of the document was concerned with proving that the Nats are flush with cash, arguing against the Nats claim that they are being harmed by the MASN deal.
In addition, the Os noted that they have asked the Nats and MLB for help in paying for the costs of documenting the results of the previous hearings. Angelos wants the Lerners to help pay his legal fees. MLB actually agreed to help; the Nats didn’t even respond.
Browsing through this document, I had flashbacks to reading TalkNats last off-season, the Os referenced every article we debated here questioning whether the Nats had a “Toxic Clubhouse” and why free agents would not sign here. MASN’s point was that the Nats had one of the leagues top payrolls in 2015 and the only reason that payroll dropped in 2016 was because of the list of players who passed on the Nats’ offers. MASN referenced articles from CSN, the Washington Post, WTOP, CBS, The Nation, ESPN, Bleacher Report, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and Forbes. The only media source they didn’t reference was MASN. The best irony out of the filing was a company owned by Angelos referring to the Lerners as “Steinbrenneresque” for their hiring of free agents.
One real interesting item was that MASN used reports from Forbes to claim that the Nats are the 9th most valuable franchise in MLB while the Os are only 17th. Interesting in that implies the Os are confirming the numbers as reported by Forbes. However I suspect that they are using the Forbes article with the knowledge that the Nats would never challenge this claim because the Nats and MLB would have to provide real team value and operating profit numbers to refute the claim. (I also suspect that the Os are only worth so much less than the Nats because a great deal of their value is in MASN.)
What really struck me about this motion was how little relevant information it contained. The Nats financial status should have no bearing on how much MASN should have to pay in rights fees. In fact I’d argue that MASN was inadvertently making the case that the Nats deserve more money, that the Nats are one of the top earning teams in MLB, which would lead to the conclusion that the Nats deserve broadcast rights fees that are in line with the large market teams.
MASN states that they are prepared to begin arbitration immediately, as long as the arbitration panel is not associated with MLB (which is not part of the contract they signed which they are so intent on enforcing). MASN also states that the Nats are ignoring two sources of income in their statements to the court, the nearly $10 million in operating profits on top of the rights fees, and the 1% annual equity increase (Nats will own 17% of MASN this year), which are good points, 1% of a billion dollar company is not insignificant; however, the Os own 83% this year.
Finally, lots of arguments that the $25 million given by MLB to the Nats was a gift, with no requirement for repayment. It was hard to follow all of the counter arguments, seems like the Nats were supposed to pay the money back once they won the case, but it also seemed like MLB was giving whatever answer was convenient under the current line of questioning. Best quote I’ve read so far was from MLB attorney John Buckley, “In terms of the size of Major League Baseball, it’s a — $25 million is not a material amount.”
Thanks to Twitter user Matt Perez of the Camden Depot blog for pointing us in the right direction to find these documents. So much information and not enough time to read it all, I’ll have to revisit this over the next few weeks.