Nationals Baseball: MASN ruling in plain speak

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

MASN ruling in plain speak

MASN ruling went against Nats. Here's a quick primer on the decision (from a non-legal expert)

Orioles said that the award (55-60 mill) should be vacated because :
  1. MLB is a bunch of lying cheats!
  2. Arbiter went out of bounds to get that number! Bortz!
  3. MLB wasn't being fair!
  4. Process was against the O's from the start - see the MLB to Nats 25 million dollar loan! 
  5. Process was against the O's from the start - the law firm involved represented everybody in there except the Orioles/MASN! 
Judge said :
  1. Come on, man!
  2. No. Maybe they were wrong to not use Bortz, but that's ok as long as they seem to stick to the basic rules you agreed to, which they did. 
  3. No. Seems adequately fair in terms of what they did procedurally which is the point here. 
  4. Nah. MLB loaned the money to the Nats after you all knew what the award would be. It didn't cause the award to be high, it was because the award was high. Plus it's not like whatever the award was, the Nats couldn't pay back $25 million over the life of it. 
  5. Now you got something. 
That last part basically said because the law firm representing the Nats worked for MLB and all three teams on the arbitration panel AND (and this is impt) because after the Orioles said "Hey! This doesn't seem right!" baseball said "Meh don't worry about it" and did absolutely nothing about it that's enough to show there may be bias here.

In other words it wasn't enough that it looked like there may be bias with the lawyers. The ruling went through because the Orioles pointed that it looked like there may be bias and then baseball did nothing in the slightest to try to address that. It was that inaction that showed enough potential bias to vacate the ruling. 


SM said...

As if "Proskauer's abundant concurrent representations" weren't damning enough of America's litigious judicial system, the ruling also cited a Hooters case as precedent.

I think I'll watch The Wire again.

Harper said...

to be fair I think they were mainly Arbitration representations.

SM said...

Fair? You mean the Hooters case? Where Hooters created "a sham system unworthy even of the name of arbitration..."?

I'm going to re-watch the early episodes of "Better Call Saul," too.

Harper said...

I meant "Proskauer's abundant concurrent representations"

I really want to know what Hooters did. Like was the arbiter Johnny Hooter?

SM said...

Hahaha. Okay, Harper, I concede.

I stand corrected. (More accurately, I sit corrected.)

John C. said...

Excellent summary! I would have phrased the bit about the Bortz Methodology differently. As I read it, the court said that the agreement did not mandate any particular methodology. While the Bortz methodology was one, the RSDC's method was reasonable on its face and therefore fine.

One more important note. While noting that Angelos (MASN's puppeteer) had something on the COI grounds, the court also noted (in part as a basis for tossing the panel's decision) that there were a lot of ways MLB could have dealt with this. The court listed about a half a dozen, including the Nationals retaining separate counsel or even retaining Proskauer but having their counsel "walled off" from the other parts of the firm internally.

Don't sleep on this point. Angelos tried to have the court mandate that the matter be sent out to a neutral third party on the grounds that the RSDC was too tainted by the COI to be fair. The court flatly rejected this argument, and noted that The court noted that the Nationals could simply retain separate counsel and go back before the same RSDC for a decision.

My reading: for the Nationals, this is justice delayed, not justice denied.

Munson said...

I would agree with John C. Of all the circumstances raised by MASN/Orioles this is the most easily curable. I will be interested to see if the next round of arbitration will yield higher values based upon the reality of the last four years. The initial decision apparently was reached in June 2012 even though it was not disclosed until two years later. Now that we have four of the five years of this renegotiation period in our rear view mirror it would seem annual contract should be easier to determine. Of course once this one gets done it will be time to start the next five year negotiation. The fun never ends!

BTW, is MASN required to pay interest on rights fees in arrears once the amounts are finally determined?

Rob Evans said...

Broadcast market? Bologna! Somehow the Mets, Yankees, Phillies work it out.

Speaking of the Phillies. Bodymore, Murderdump is only 90 miles from Philadelphia. Why is Angelos not crying about that?

blovy8 said...

If only this kept my TV bill low...

Harper said...

John C - The interesting thing will be to see what MLB tries to do next. They could appeal, and it doesn't really hurt anything other than drag this out longer, but they'd probably lose. They could do the bare minimum. Like you suggest - just change Nats legal counsel or something - then go back. The RSDC has no reason to amend it's figure downward. The Orioles would probably sue again though - my guess would be trying harder to prove fraud (which there does seem to be an undercurrent of here - that MLB/Nats had a pre-agreement that future rights would be negotiated in a way to favor the Nats as opposed to in good faith) but that'll be tough to prove, and by attacking the idea that the methodology was "reasonable". I think they have something with the latter given the courts lack of willingness to review extrinsic evidence on the matter. The key here is if the court decide on the reasonableness of the award without reviewing previous awards the RSDC made. The ruling here seems a mish-mash that doesn't get at the attempted legal meaning of RSDC established methodology. Of course that only helps the Os if the RSDC had used Bortz pretty much every time in the past.

Harper said...

By "sue again" I mean the Os would have to appeal THIS decision.

DezoPenguin said...

@Harper: One thing to be considered is that if the Orioles don't appeal the decision on the various counts that the judge found in the Nats'/MLB's favor, then if they go back to arbitration and lose again with separate counsel, etc., then those points would likely be considered res judicata in any new action and they wouldn't be able to raise them again unless they had different allegations of different fraud.

John C. said...

"The ruling here seems a mish-mash that doesn't get at the attempted legal meaning of RSDC established methodology."

Actually, the court explicitly ruled that the panel is not bound by the Bortz methodology. It noted that the MASN agreement doesn't define methodology, and said that the panel's decision could not be overturned on methodology grounds because it is "reasonable on its face" and "more than sufficient" to meet the applicable legal standard. Which is very low, btw: it only has to be "a barely colorable justification for the outcome." The court ruled that the methodology "must be upheld even if [the] Court were to conclude that [panel's] interpretation of its own established methodology was legally and factually incorrect." Opinion, at page 14-15.

Those curious can read the opinion here:

There's really a lot to like about the opinion from the MLB/Nats perspective.

Harper said...

Here's where I run into a problem (and call it a mish-mash). The court first states that a "well defined, explicit, and clearly applicable authority that unequivocally defines the established authority" was never found but latter states what you say about the established methodology could be interpreted incorrectly and the court must uphold the award. Why even bring up the former? It seems like the court is saying two different things here. The first being "well if you had it in writing somewhere that the RSDC did everything this way you could use that" and the second being "it doesn't matter what the established methodology may be if the one in use seems to be reasonable" It doesn't seem to me that the court is confident on how to defined the phrase "established methodology" and is trying to have it both ways. Maybe it is defined by something unequivocable and maybe it doesn't matter if it's defined outside of the contract at all.

Maybe it's just the way it was written. Maybe more cogently it could be written as "We've seen established methodology defined as a unequicovable outside source and we've seen it not even matter. Either of those work for the award being upheld. You try to define it using a group of awards. We haven't seen that and I'm not inclined to allow that to be used"

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