We’re a little more than a week into Spring Training 2021, and there’s no shortage of news out of West Palm Beach. It’s nice that we have so many news outlets reporting the goings on of the Nationals. If you’re on Twitter, or follow your favorite baseball blog, it doesn’t take long to get caught up.
It’s great that there are so many sources of reporting on on Jon Lester’s health, Max Scherzer’s velo, Patrick Corbin’s change-up, Ryan Zimmerman’s homers, or the Nats releasing reliever Jeremy Jefress less than two weeks after signing him.
You know what else would be good?
Watching the Nationals play baseball. On TV.
We’re only a few games in, and we haven’t even heard the first radio broadcast of Spring Training. But Nationals fans don’t have a clue yet as to when they’ll be able to turn on their sets at home and watch the Nationals play a Spring Training ballgame.
We caught the Grapefruit League opener thanks to the St. Louis Cardinals’ broadcast network, wondering whether stoner comic Tommy Chong might have been filling in for long-time Cards’ broadcaster Mike Shannon. The Nats have also been on ESPN. But so far, no word on whether we’ll get to see the team or the broadcast crew of Bob Carpenter and FP Santangelo before Opening Day.
The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the regional network created to carry the Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles when the Nats moved to Washington from Montreal, has not announced a Spring Training schedule. There’s word from The Athletic’s Dan Connolly that MASN could air four Nationals Spring Training games, but no firm plans have been made.
The Athletic reports that most teams are broadcasting between six and 14 Spring Training games in March.
Only a handful — including the Nationals and Orioles — have not announced TV plans or will cover five games or fewer.
It was in late January that the Nationals announced that MASN had — against the team’s wishes — slashed pre- and post-game coverage. The team also said MASN had cut ties with familiar pre- and post-game announcers Dan Kolko and Bo Porter and in-game reporter Alex Chappell.
MASN has announced that there will be 30-minute pre- and post-game shows for every game but has released no details.
The run-up to the 2021 season is the latest chapter in the long-running legal dispute over how much Nationals should receive in rights fees.
MASN was created in response to the Nationals’ 2005 move into the Orioles’ broadcast area, where they had been the only major league team on the air since the Senators moved to Texas in 1971. As compensation for lost broadcast and ticket revenue, the Orioles control the majority interest in MASN and broadcast rights to Nationals’ games, paying the team rights fees.
The two sides have been arguing in court since 2012 over how much MASN should pay. A New York appeals court in October upheld a ruling that would pay the Nationals $100 million. The Orioles and MASN are appealing.