East Notes: Orioles, Nationals, MASN, Braves

In a feature piece for Grantland, Jonah Keri profiles the Baltimore Orioles franchise, tracing the club's recent history to its current position. Keri shows positive perspectives on the team's oft-criticized owner, Peter Angelos, and credits GM Dan Duquette (and predecessory Andy MacPhail) with some shrewd moves that gave the team its solid current core. Nevertheless, Keri writes that Baltimore's generally average-or-below payroll tends to leave the impression that the O's are "spending like the Royals when they can afford to shell out more" and, "in a division that demands greatness, [have] resigned themselves to merely being good."

  • One reason that Keri suggests the Orioles have untapped spending capacity is the team's unique TV rights situation. As Keri explains, Baltimore has a dominant position in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN, the RSN that enjoys both the Orioles and Nationals broadcast rights) and has been able to keep much of its position from the MLB revenue sharing system. Especially after the successful 2012 season for both clubs, the deal has been massively beneficial to the Orioles, but has seemingly not resulted in a corresponding increase in the team's payroll. Keri does note that one valid reason for caution in spending: the possibility of the deal being forcibly renegotiated against the Orioles' favor. 
  • On the other side of the ledger, Keri reports, a seemingly intractable situation for the Nationals has been ameliorated somewhat by league intervention. Stuck with little equity and a middling annual rights fee payout, the Nationals have nevertheless had their side of the deal sweetened by an undisclosed cash stipend that is paid to the club each year by MLB.
  • For the Braves, meanwhile, their own unfavorable TV deal has left the front office looking for creative ways to keep the team's outstanding young talent in Atlanta. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, GM Frank Wren explained that the team's $135MM extension of first baseman Freddie Freeman was the culmination of months of planning and, potentially, the first of several moves designed to maintain the club's core. "We're looking at how we can keep our team together, especially our young, homegrown players," said Wren. "And we looked at how we could strategize to make that happen." Of particular importance, the GM acknowledged, is the team's new stadium plans. "There is also an element of the new situation in Cobb County that allows us to be more competitive, and I think it's evident by this signing," Wren said. 

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