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No Need to Read Between the Lines

"It was always 'Buyer beware' in that Baltimore market," added the executive. "Look at all the times baseball considered Washington for an expansion team. We were flying our expansion committee people over RFK Stadium in a helicopter to evaluate it as a site."

It's going to be hard -- no, it's going to be impossible -- for Angelos to convince any court that baseball considered, on several occasions, putting an expansion team in a market where the Orioles already had exclusive TV rights.

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The real reason Angelos had to pay a record price for the Orioles had nothing to do with Washington TV rights. Angelos must think that everybody has amnesia. Camden Yards was opened in '92 and drew a million more people than the Orioles had ever attracted. Angelos paid a premium price because he was purchasing a proven gold mine.

"As to the broadcast of Nationals' games," wrote the Orioles, "we have repeatedly advised MLB that we would welcome the Nationals to our regional sports network and are prepared to televise Nationals' games throughout our television territory."

Oh, the Orioles would welcome the Nats to "our regional sports network" throughout "our territory," would they?

Finally, the Orioles/Angelos state that, "the Orioles are prepared to offer a fair and appropriate fee to the Nationals in the many millions of dollars annually for the telecast of their games."

Who but Angelos would be both pompous and obtuse enough to say "in the many millions of dollars annually." And who would determine what was "fair" to the Nats in such an uncompetitive situation? Angelos?

"Did Peter mention whether the Nationals would get any equity interest in the combined network?" asked the team president.

For example, the Red Sox were sold three years ago for $700 million. It's probably a good guess that the team's equity interest in the New England Sports Network was worth at least $200 million. That gives an idea of how much the Nats would be chiseled out of if they accepted just an annual fee, but no equity interest.

The final countdown has started. Selig has no tenable choice but to call Angelos's bluff. The owner must settle or sue. If Angelos presses his bet, he may suddenly find that he ends up with a much smaller pot than he already has in his hands.

Hold 'em or fold 'em, Peter?

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