Rich Tandler's Nationals blog.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Nats Scramble to Get Ready

Peter Angelos

It's getting down to crunch time.

The Washington Nationals' move from Montreal, with its on again, off again nature, is nearly complete. Or, perhaps more accurately, it's at the point where it has to be complete. Ready or not, pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday and the home opener against Arizona is two months and two days away.

It won't be a miracle if they pull it off, according to club president Tony Tavares, who was quoted in an AP article:
What will be a miracle is if I make it to opening day without assaulting a lawyer.
If he does get into physical barrister bashing, he might want to start with Orioles' owner Peter Angelos, a trial lawyer by trade. His negotiations with baseball about what he's owed for a team coming into a territory that he doesn't have the rights to are continuing along at a snail's pace. MLB is taking Angelos' threats to hold his breath until he turns blue very seriously. From a Washington Times story that said that MLB "hopeful" about getting a deal with Angelos soon:

MLB president Bob DuPuy said yesterday he "hopes we are getting close to a conceptual understanding. Recent discussions have been productive."
"Hope", "close", "conceptual", "productive"--the next word I want to hear about this whole thing is "done".

Being held hostage to Angelos' threats to do what he does best, sue, are two elements critical to getting the Washington franchise off the ground. One is the establishment of a TV network. As of right now, the only Nats games that are scheduled to be televised in DC are about a half a dozen scheduled on ESPN and Fox. Angelos is the hold up in the deal. According to a story in the Washington Examiner:

A schedule and the amount of games is being worked on, as well as how the geographic regions will break down. Basically, where Nationals games can be shown and where we can see the O's. Once a final schedule is finalized, Mr. Angelos will O.K. the regional breakdown, and the Nats will have a TV deal.

This is only a one-year deal because part of the compensation package between MLB and the O's is a new regional sports network that will broadcast the Nationals and Orioles games. The cable partner would most likely be Comcast, the parent company of Comcast SportsNet, since they have the distribution that it will take to make the network profitable.

Things are very, very early in the game as this deal gets worked out in hopes of having something in place for opening day.
Why does this have to be that complicated? Any Maryland counties that border on DC are the Nats', the rest of the Free State is Angelos'. Oh, you think he might be holding out for, say, Montgomery County, huh? Hmmmm. . .

The other thing that Angelos is messing up is the ownership of the team itself. No potential bidder is going to place a firm offer without knowing exactly how much of the potential profitability the leech Angelos will succeed in sucking out of the Nationals. Quite simply, the ownership question won't be settled until the Angelos question is answered.

The sad fact of the matter is that every day that this drags on is a victory for Angelos. A TV deal slapped together at the last minute will not be nearly as profitable as it could be. And the lack of an owner keeps the Washington franchise rudderless, run by that club of 29 weasels that counts Angelos as one of its mebers.

RFK Stadium

On the plus side, the winter weather has been reasonably kind to those scrambling to put RFK Stadium back into baseball shape. It will still be a scramble, but they are on pace with their hectic, breakneck schedule to get it done for the April 3 exhibition shakedown cruise and the opener 11 days later.

That's but one item on Tavares' 65-item to do list. He listed some of the others:
Locking down our budgets for game-day staff, deciding on how many ushers, how many ticket-takers, how many security guards. Who's the cleaning contract? Who's the parking contract? The concession deal? It's tedious kind of things, like getting our tax ID locally.
Good luck, Mr. Tavares. If there's anything we can do, like go downtown and wait in those pesky lines to get that pesky tax ID, just let us know.

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