Would Fielder indirectly be on the Orioles’ payroll?


If you believe the news reports coming out of the national media the past few days, Prince Fielder might well be coming to the neighborhood. The issue of course is that he’s being talked about as going to the Washington Nationals as opposed to the Orioles. Some see this as a PR nightmare for the O’s, however I would disagree. In fact, I’d rather have Fielder playing for a totally irrelevant team (from the Orioles’ standpoint) as opposed to an American League team. First and foremost he would be in the AL East, and secondly he wouldn’t even be in the American League. Granted the O’s play the Nationals six times per season, but again I wouldn’t fret too much about that. The PR aspect of it is another column for another day…

My concern is that not that he might go to the Nationals, but more importantly who’s paying for him? I’m not going to get too much into the business aspect of the MASN deal, short of the fact that Peter Angelos (the owner of the Orioles) owns approximately 85% of MASN, while Ted Lerner (the Nationals’ owner) owns approximately 15% at the moment. Part of the contract that the network has with the Nationals became public since the end of the 2011 season was that after the first five years of the contract the Nats could “re-set” the deal for higher stakes (given the market value of television rights and so forth. What this means is that if the Nationals feel their TV rights are worth more than they’re currently being paid, they can re-negotiate this with MASN.

From what I understand, the Nationals are trying to do just that (as is their right). However part of this perceived “value” in terms of TV rights might well be coming from the fact that they believe Prince Fielder will be on their roster in 2012 and onward. In a sense that’s kind of like “paying it forward.” I get that; they’re trying to grab the bull by the horns and improve their franchise. However given the fact that Peter Angelos owns the majority share of MASN which might now have to pay more for the rights to televise the Nationals, could one not argue that the Orioles would indirectly be paying for Fielder (or helping to pay for him)?

Presumably the Orioles and MASN have separate bank accounts and so forth, however the fact is that the both go to the same routing “number”: Peter Angelos.  So in theory Angelos having to pay more to televise the Nationals due to Prince Fielder would mean money that Angelos could (theoretically) put into the Orioles when instead he’s indirectly subsidizing the Nationals’ payroll. Again, the Orioles and MASN’s operating revenue are presumably two different things. However if it all comes and goes to and from the same place, what’s really the difference?

Incidentally, this “re-set” doesn’t mean that the Nats’ TV rights are up for sale to another network. I believe that the contract is locked in for thirty years or so, however what could happen is that the deal goes to arbitration in court and a judge in essence orders MASN to pay the Nationals more. That in itself is mere speculation. I don’t have an issue with the Nats trying to re-negotiate the deal because that’s part of the contract. In fairness I will say that one team in essence controlling the TV rights of another isn’t right. Angelos negotiated himself a pretty sweet deal in that he owns the TV rights for his own team and another. However the two franchises are mutually exclusive, which should remain the case.

Here’s the other thing; if MASN ends up having to pay the Nationals more, would they not in theory be able to demand more from the Orioles? It’s kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul, but you get my point. (I’m not sure if the Orioles’ deal with MASN includes a re-set point, be it now or at any point in the future.) If that were the case at some point, the Orioles’ operating revenue would take a direct hit. Angelos/MASN/the Orioles have no say in whether or not Prince Fielder signs with Washington, nor should they. (That is of course unless the Orioles make a push to bring him to Baltimore, and I wouldn’t rule that out either.) However that move would potentially have an affect on the Orioles by way of Peter Angelos.

This is all theoretical in terms of the Orioles indirectly paying Fielder’s salary. However I know that often times mutually exclusive aspects of business can affect one another. I once worked for a hotel owner who owned various properties; we had some renovations that needed to be done at our hotel, however the owner couldn’t spend the money on it because he had just finished a $70K renovation at another property. So even in cases where business assets are separate, they can affect one another. It happens, and it’s part of business. Angelos may well be printing money off of the Nats as a result of being a shrewd businessman and a great negotiator. However in negotiating such a great deal for his businesses, I hope that Angelos hasn’t out thought himself in a manner that could be detrimental to the Orioles’ franchise.

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