SBJ/November 21 - 27, 2005/Other News

World Baseball Classic TV deal ‘basically done’

Major League Baseball and ESPN are finalizing a TV deal for the inaugural World Baseball Classic, scheduled for March.

No rights for the Classic were included in MLB’s recently signed eight-year, $2.4 billion deal with the network. Both ESPN and MLB have extensive global TV interests, and much of the negotiations for the World Baseball Classic have centered on settling out these non-domestic logistics.

“It’s basically done,” a baseball source said. “We pretty much just need to announce it.”

NEW DAY IN LABOR RELATIONS? Much of the chatter in and around the meetings surrounded last week’s agreement between management and the MLB Players Association on a toughened steroids policy.

Selig (left) called the steroids deal one of his greatest accomplishments; Sternberg (right) won owner approval.
Selig called the deal one of his greatest accomplishments in 13 years of running the game. League and union officials see the agreement as a sign of better labor relations that could bear fruit in talks next year for a new collective-bargaining agreement. The current deal expires after the 2006 season.

“Every negotiation stands on its own, but there’s no question our relationship is more constructive than ever before,” Selig said.

WASHINGTON OWNERS DELAYED — AGAIN: A long-awaited selection of owners for the MLB-controlled Washington Nationals, targeted as recently as two weeks ago for last week’s meeting, was put on hold again as MLB executives and District of Columbia officials continue to squabble over a lease deal for the club’s new ballpark in Southeast Washington. MLB, wanting a maximum sale price for the club, is making the lease a prerequisite for the sale of the Nationals. Already fractious negotiations hit a deeper snag when district officials demanded that MLB guarantee the Nationals $6 million a year in stadium lease payments, even in the event of the work stoppage, natural disaster or terrorism. The demand runs counter to language in the Baseball Stadium Agreement that governed last year’s relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington.

“They are putting things forward that we simply don’t view as appropriate,” said MLB President Bob DuPuy.

The stadium bonds must be issued by the end of December to keep the district in accordance with that portion of the relocation agreement.

STERNBERG GETS APPROVED: Stuart Sternberg’s acquisition of a controlling interest in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays was unanimously approved by the other 29 clubs, who are watching him with great expectations that he will turn around one of baseball’s most troubled markets.

“Our first step is still to rebuild the infrastructure of this franchise, lower the barriers to entry to see our games, and repair some fractured relationships with the business community,” Sternberg said. “What we’re talking about is a complete brand upheaval, and one that’s just getting started.”

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