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Is MASN in play?

Every once in a while, we’ll hear rumblings of Peter Angelos selling the Orioles. None of those reports has played out yet, so the latest rumors about a possible sale of the Orioles-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network could well be of the same vintage.

Alan Rifkin, counsel for the Orioles, denied MASN is on the block in the clearest possible terms.

“There has been no contact,” he told the Sun. “There has been no offer. There has been no discussion of it. MASN is not for sale.”

The report that MASN — which carries Orioles and Washington Nationals games — might be sold was contained in a larger story by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal about how Fox Sports is on the prowl for more regional sports properties after buying 49 percent of New York’s YES Network offering $6 billion for rights to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 25 years.

The article didn’t say a MASN sale was imminent. Ourand described talks between Fox — which has no regional network presence in either Baltimore or Washington — and MASN as “on-again, off-again” and now in the “off” stage. Likewise, efforts by Comcast — whose Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic does not carry any Major League Baseball — “did not progress far,” Ourand wrote.

But the juiciest piece of the article concerning the Baltimore-Washington market was this:

“Fox’s involvement in talks with MASN came at MLB’s urging, sources said. MASN still is involved in a rights fee dispute with the Nationals. That dispute hasn’t been resolved, though both parties met at MLB’s New York offices last week. MLB hoped that a deal with Fox would solve the dispute.”

As part of the deal with the Orioles to allow the former Montreal Expos to move to D.C., Major League Baseball granted the O’s ownership of the Washington team’s television rights. Under the arrangement, the Nationals can own a piece of MASN, but no more than one-third. So even if the Nats negotiate a higher rights fee, they won’t receive anywhere near the amount of the market value for a contending team — the Nationals won their division this year — located in the large Washington market.

“All the parties signed the contract,” Rifkin told The Sun. “They did so with eyes wide open. Major League Baseball has the responsibility to make sure the contract will be enforced and effectuated.”