In the final weeks before the Washington Nationals’ pitchers and catchers will report to spring training, it’s the team’s broadcasting network—as opposed to its players—who’ve been stirring controversy.
When the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network announced Monday the lineup of telecasters who would be on air this season, according to the Washington Post, some of the names most familiar to Nats fans were left off the list, including: dugout reporter Alex Chappell; analyst Bo Porter; and pre-game host Dan Kolko.
Incredible few years covering the @Nationals for MASN. 2019 was filled with so many special moments & memories ?? Thankful for my time & most thankful for the people. #Nats fans are the best fans! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/N0ODi7VIbS
— Alex Chappell (@AlexChappell) January 25, 2021
In an unusually strong rebuke, the Nationals expressed displeasure with the development. “To say that we are incredibly disappointed and upset by MASN’s decisions would be a gross understatement,” the team said in a statement to the Post. “To be clear — these decisions were made by MASN and against our wishes.”
MASN has been mired in controversy for its entire history. The network, which is co owned by the Baltimore Orioles and the Nats, was established in 2005. The shared revenue was used to compensate Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who claimed his franchise would be harmed financially by the relocation of a team to the bigger DC market. Over the subsequent decade and a half, legal fights over broadcasting revenues have become routine.
MASN has cut talent from the Orioles broadcasts as well. According to The Athletic, via the blog Awful Announcing, MASN is letting go a number of longtime members of the Orioles on-air team, including Rick Dempsey, Tom Davis, Mike Bordick, and Gary Thorne.
The decisions—though unpopular with many fans—may simply reflect the current economic realities facing MASN. From Awful Announcing:
The Orioles have not been a .500 team since 2016, and likely won’t be one in 2021. The Nationals won the World Series in 2019, but stunk last year and might very well struggle again in a tough NL East in 2021 … Given the revenue declines related to the pandemic and the potential of a tidal wave of past rights fees going to the Nationals, slashing costs and coverage is a tough, but perhaps ultimately reasonable, decision.