O's settle spat over Nationals

By wire services
Published April 1, 2005

Major League Baseball reached an agreement with the Orioles that settles the team's dispute over having the Expos move to Washington about 35 miles away.

The agreement creates a joint venture between the teams that guarantees the Nationals, as the Expos are now called, "fair-market value" for broadcasting rights, according to a news release from baseball.

Financial terms weren't disclosed.

The league, which approved the shift of the Expos to Washington in December, is seeking buyers for the Nationals, which it acquired for $120-million in 2002.

"The relocation of the Montreal club to Washington D.C. certainly creates financial uncertainties for the Orioles, which in my opinion are addressed fairly for the Orioles, the Nationals and all of baseball by this agreement," commissioner Bud Selig said in the statement.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who purchased the team for $173-million in 1993, has said he wanted the club to own and run a regional sports network that would pay the Nationals for their television rights.

"My objective throughout this entire effort has been to protect the Orioles franchise," Angelos said in a statement. "The settlement addresses that need for protection."

The Orioles have provisional cable TV rights as far south as the Carolinas, though those rights are technically owned and granted by MLB. Some analysts believe that MLB's capitulation to Angelos is its response to the threat of an antitrust suit, which would be based on the notion that MLB's ownership of cable rights is a function of its monopoly powers.

At least seven groups have placed $100,000 deposits with the league for the right to try to purchase the Nationals, according to the Washington Post.

The Nationals' stadium will be built by a joint venture that includes HOK, a company that designed 15 of the past 23 major-league parks, including what eventually became Tropicana Field.

The team of Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum Sport Venue Entertainment, Inc. of Kansas City and Devrouax & Purnell Architects-Planners of Washington was chosen Thursday by the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.

HOK led the design of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Petco Park in San Diego.

HOK was the original architect of St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field, then known as the Florida Suncoast Dome, and eventually incurred some criticism over that design, which included low-lying catwalks over the playing field. Washington's ballpark will be built along the Anacostia River waterfront, with the Nationals expected to move in for the 2008 season. Until then the team will play in RFK Stadium, former home of the Senators, now the Texas Rangers.

ATHLETICS: X-rays of Bobby Crosby's left hand proved negative, and the shortstop hopes to start opening day. Last season's AL Rookie of the Year was hit by a pitch by the Brewers' Gary Glover on Wednesday.

INDIANS: Juan Gonzalez, 35, went on the 15-day disabled list and will stay in Winter Haven to rehabilitate his strained right hamstring.

MARLINS: Al Leiter is scheduled to start against his former team tonight when Florida returns to Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, where he trained as a Met. Leiter signed a one-year, $8-million contract with Florida after the Mets cut ties with him in November.

METS: Former Rays catcher Mike DiFelice signed a minor-league contract four days after he was let go by the Marlins. DiFelice, 35, hit .280 with two RBIs in spring training for the Marlins.

PADRES: Dave Roberts, the team's new centerfielder and leadoff hitter, probably will start the season on the 15-day disabled list with a lingering groin injury.

TWINS: The team will head north with four catchers, guarding itself in case starter Joe Mauer has trouble with his surgically repaired left knee. Mauer, rated baseball's best prospect by Baseball America the past two years, played only 35 games last season thanks to the injury.

WHITE SOX: Backup catcher Ben Davis was sent outright to Triple-A Charlotte. The former No. 1 pick was acquired in June in a five-player trade with Seattle.