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We could watch the team! . . . We could watch THIS team?

A couple days ago, the DC Examiner's enigmatic sports media reporter/prognosticator, Jim Williams, filed an interesting report. In relevant part, Williams wrote:

A number of sources tell me it is likely Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy, Orioles and MASN owner Peter Angelos, Kasten and Comcast representatives will sit down this week and start talking deal points.

A key point is MLB has something Comcast wants. Mr. DuPuy may offer the cable giant something it can't refuse in an effort to help MASN get either a deal or a merger.

Comcast owns the Outdoor Life Network, home of NHL hockey and Tour de France throughout the Lance Armstrong years.

Ah, but OLN really craves major sports programming and would love to add a package of MLB games to its 2007 roster. The network is changing its name to Verses in September, dropping OLN.

If Comcast could find a way to carry or more likely pull off some sort of merger with MASN, a package of Thursday night baseball games could be sold to Verses for the 2007 season. Last summer, baseball announced a cable deal with ESPN but left the door open for another cable partner to assume a one-night-a-week package. Comcast wants that package.

[Aside: Why is a sports network going to be named "Verses," rather than "Versus"? The latter connotes competitive spirit, something one would think a sports network might want to project; the latter sounds more appropriate for a music or spoken-word-poetry channel.]

Interpreting the excerpted passage above, it would seem the following arrangement might be in order:

  • MLB hands over rights to Thursday Night Baseball;
  • Comcast's subsidiary sports network gains those rights; and, in exchange
  • MASN gets clearance to be carried on Comcast.

Does that sound right?

Off the top of my head, I see two potential issues to consider:

  1. Is that enough to satisfy Comcast? Remember, it has reportedly wanted an equity stake in MASN, and also note Williams' use of "either/or" above. Plus, remember Angelos spoke of a possible "amalgamation" during last month's dog-and-pony show before Congress.
  2. What is MLB getting out of all this?

At any rate, anything that moves the situation closer to carriage by Comcast is a good thing. Will a scenario like this do so? That remains to be seen, I suppose.

[Another aside: I'm not going to rail on about Williams' credibility again---I perceive it's a tired topic---but it would behoove him to stop interjecting little side comments that reveal how far in the tank he is for Angelos. For instance, he states that "soon-to-be Nationals President Stan Kasten [is] . . . the newest member of the MASN team." Does Williams really believe this, that Kasten is a MASN teammate? The characterization strikes me as willfully naive. Later on, Williams states that, in order for "[b]oth teams [to] have guaranteed revenue streams to keep them competitive for years," was the reason "why MASN was created in the first place." Okay, that's willfully naive. MASN was created for one reason, and one reason only---and it has nothing to do with keeping teams competitive. Trust me on that; I've been a close observer and fan of the Orioles "for years."]

* * * *

Television shenanigans aside, I ask with some degree of glibness, though not pervasively so: If tonight's debacle in Cincy is any indication, do we even want to watch his team?

Alright, the question is more glib than I admitted previously. Still, that was one of the uglier defeats of the season so far, and keep in mind that this team has fallen twenty-two times in its first thirty-four games. One night after Tony Armas locked down the Reds and the relievers held the fort, tonight's pitching was the functional equivalent to an episode of Oz. Seemingly everyone got roughed up (aside from Joey Eischen and Jon Rauch, who retired one batter apiece).

It all started with Livan Hernandez, who was bruised and battered yet again. Dating back to last August 5, Hernandez has made twenty starts---and has provided the Nationals with all of five quality starts. (This season, Hernandez is two-out-of-eight in the quality start department.) Now, a "quality start"---defined as a game in which the starting pitching last six or more innings and allows three or fewer earned runs---is not an end-all, be-all measure, although it is useful. And a few of those games are what one might call "elongated quality starts"---not technically "quality starts," but with a seemingly acceptable trade-off of additional innings for an extra run (like Livan's start against San Francisco last September 20: nine innings, four earned runs). Nevertheless, when a pitcher meets the perceived lax requirements for a "quality start" only twenty-five percent of the time over a twenty start timeframe, red flags emerge in droves.

As they do here. Hernandez is either not right or a huge disappointment, or both.

Nevertheless, the Nats---despite Alfonso Soriano's 0-for-5, four-strikeout evening, battled back to tied the game, 6-6, only to fall victim to another deflating pitching failure. Mike Stanton, cursed by walks and intentional walks, surrendered three runs in the eighth to seal the defeat---with bullpen ace Chad Cordero watching from 400 feet away and the other reliable reliever, Rauch, already spent after retiring his batter in the sixth. Should Frank Robinson have saved Rauch for such a situation? Should Robinson have called on Cordero to try to put out the fire? Ultimately, does it matter, if Hernandez is going to keep pitching like this? (To a certain extent, of course---as a victory was still very much in reach. But I think you understand the meaning of my question.)

There were some bright spots; Marlon Byrd continues to deliver a hot and selective bat, and Nick Johnson whomped another one. But, again, it came down to the old saw of pitching, pitching, pitching---and these guys weren't up to the task. On a day when the Red Reporter called out Cincy's hitters, Washington's pitchers did little to make acting on that call more difficult.