Baseball commissioner Bud Selig contends that the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network television rights dispute between the Orioles and the Washington Nationals can be resolved before he leaves office in January and that both Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are viable candidates to host an All-Star Game in the near future.
Perhaps more important for Orioles fans, Selig said the two issues are not connected — that there is no consideration in holding the All-Star Game hostage from either franchise if the MASN legal entanglement continues.
"No. None. Absolutely none," said Selig, who is in Baltimore for two days of quarterly owners meetings, which are expected to include the naming of his successor Thursday. "I like to take the All-Star Games where they're meaningful, where the franchises deserve them, where the fans deserve them. And if I let off-the-field stuff enter into it — I never have, and I wouldn't do that here."
The Orioles, who have not hosted the Midsummer Classic since 1993 at Camden Yards, are hoping to be awarded the game for 2016, when it is slated for an American League city. With next year's All-Star Game in Cincinnati, a National League city, it's likely the Nationals won't have a chance to host until 2017. Washington hasn't hosted baseball's All-Star Game since 1969 at RFK Stadium; Nationals Park opened in 2008. The last time franchises in one league hosted consecutive All-Star Games was in 2006 and 2007 in Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
"I try to alternate leagues, although some people told me I emphasize that too much, but I don't think so," Selig said. "So certainly Baltimore is a prime candidate, and so is Washington."
There's been a sense that Selig would choose one or the other, but not have consecutive games in cities so close together. The most recent example of that was in 2002 and 2003 when Milwaukee and Chicago hosted the games in consecutive years; it hasn't been done in one state since Cincinnati in 1953 and Cleveland in 1954. But Selig said he knew of no specific rule against geographic rivals hosting consecutive All-Star Games.
"Nothing in the constitution that would forbid that, I don't believe," he said. "No, it would be fine."
Selig, who turned 80 in July and has been in the commissioner's role since 1992, is expected to leave office Jan. 24. He said he hopes to have multiple All-Star Games awarded by then. He also said he was hopeful that the Orioles and the Nationals would resolve their dispute over television rights fees from the shared regional sports network.
"I think it's an important goal before I step down. Look, we've tried. We've tried very hard. We'll continue to try," Selig said. "One of the great problems in baseball for many decades, before I took over, there was a lot of infighting. … I think it's one of the things that held the sport back, so I preached peace and calm and quiet and labor peace and everything else. So, yes, I like to avoid this situation, but we'll just keep on working."
The battle, at its center, is about how much money the Nationals should receive from MASN, a network created and run by the Orioles after the NL team moved into its region. The sides are locked in, and Selig has played both mediator and administrator — reportedly threatening sanctions if an agreement isn't reached. He said Major League Baseball is "doing everything we can do," but he would not comment Thursday about potential sanctions or what he has said to either ownership group.
"I don't want to discuss my correspondence with the clubs," he said. "They know what the rules are, and I know what the rules are. We're having actual constructive dialogue with both clubs."
He described his relationship with Orioles managing partner Peter G. Angelos as "good. He's on the executive council, and I have no problem with him at all. In fact, [he's] one of the reasons we're here."
The owners will choose between three commissioner candidates Thursday: MLB's chief operating officer Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan and Boston Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.
A candidate needs to receive 23 of 30 votes for election, and there's a sense that it could be a contentious decision. Selig said he has not yet considered what would happen if a candidate is not selected Thursday.
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