Why is somebody dropping hints the Orioles could move to Nashville?

I missed this on Sunday — probably because it ran in something called the Baltimore Post-Examiner that is run by former daily-paper journalists and is a mix of news reporting, poetry, and song lyrics (?) — but former Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Examiner columnist Michael Olesker claims that unnamed sources tell him that with Baltimore Orioles principal owner (or, as the Post-Examiner spells it, “principle owner”) Peter Angelos now 90 years old, the team could be sold or moved to Nashville, Tennessee:

If the family were to sell, that means another complication: Would they sell to local investors, or to out-of-town owners who might move the team? The lease on Oriole Park, which helps tie the team to Baltimore, ends in 2021.

One rumor has the family retaining ownership but the club moving to Nashville, where [Peter’s son] John Angelos and his wife have one of their homes. That rumor takes on legitimacy mainly because of sinking attendance at Oriole Park.

Okay, so about that “sinking attendance”: While Orioles attendance is indeed in the toilet — third to last in MLB at present, ahead of only the two Florida teams — it was over 30,000 a game as recently as 2014, when the O’s made it to the American League Championship Series. The team currently has the second-worst record in baseball and is playing like it doesn’t even belong in the league, so it really shouldn’t be any surprise that fans are finding other things to do with their time.

A relocation to Nashville might not seem that crazy on mere demographic grounds — Baltimore and Nashville are about the same size in terms of TV households — but there are other benefits to staying put. In addition to a stadium that, at what now passes for the advanced age of 27, is routinely ranked as the most popular in baseball and continues to draw out-of-town fans, the Orioles were granted control of the Washington Nationals‘ TV rights when the former Montreal Expos moved to D.C. in 2005, and reportedly continue to take a cut of Nats’ TV profits before passing along fees to that club. (The issue is the subject of never-ending lawsuits.) Leaving Baltimore would not only mean giving up that tasty slice of TV money, but, as Maury Brown notes in Forbes, possibly paying a cut of Nashville TV revenue to the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds, who currently share the Nashville market as far as TV rights go.

The question then, as it always should be with unnamed sources, is what’s their motivation for leaking this news? It could certainly be people close to the Angeloses trying to drum up enthusiasm for a local buyer to step forward — buy the Orioles or we’ll shoot this team — or even conceivably for a new push for subsidies to improvements to Camden Yards, something that was rumored to be in the works back in 2015 when the Orioles still employed professional baseball players, but hasn’t been heard much about now that Baltimoreans don’t even want to give the O’s their ticket money, let alone cash for stadium upgrades. Or it could just be somebody speculating hey, John Angelos has a house in Nashville (among other places), maybe he’d move the team there? Really hard to say without knowing more about the sources, which is yet another reason why unnamed sources should be used only as a last resort.

Olesker does go on to write that “knowledgeable sources say the family would much rather sell — and keep the club in Baltimore, if a local buyer can be found,” so clearly even the sources are mostly just saber-rattling. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on, especially with that lease expiration coming up: Peter Angelos hasn’t been one to play extortion games with Baltimore, but that could certainly change if ownership passes to his sons or to a new buyer entirely. Stay tuned — but not to Orioles games, unless you like bleak comedy.


28 comments on “Why is somebody dropping hints the Orioles could move to Nashville?

  1. Neil you are being too generous to Nashville. Nashville’s Metro area is about the size of Milwaukee. Unless the Brewer, which markets to the state of Wisconsin, Nashville will be confined to its MSA. Nashville is broke, the mayor emphatically said they will not foot the bill for a stadium. Plus they have 3 professional sports. Why they are even mentioned anywhere is beyond me. There are only two markets available that might, might!! pass as MLB cities, Portland and Montreal. That’s it

  2. After losing the Bullets and the Colts, Baltimore and Maryland stepped up in a big way to keep the Orioles. A publicly funded, state of the art facility was constructed for them at Camden Yards. After they moved there, Peter Angelos bought the team. Everyone was elated about now having local ownership. It didn’t take long for Peter to meddle into the baseball business, which unraveled this once proud franchise. Beyond that, he refused to invest in a competitive team payroll, opting instead for low cost retreads and Rule 5 players to fill the roster. He has spat upon this franchise like Roberto Alomar on John Hirschbeck. I want the birds in Baltimore with proper ownership. I sincerely hoped that the Angelos boys were trying to rescue this franchise for the fans of Baltimore with the hiring of Mike Elias. Sadly, if the rebuild is intended to sweeten the deal for a move to Nashville, that would be the ultimate betrayal. This city has already been hurt by the loss of pro franchises in the past. The triple play of crime, violence and losing the Orioles surely would certainly spell the end for what was once Carm City. Sad.

  3. I have been an orioles fan for 60 years and also a colts fan until they left town. I went as far west as Pittsburgh for the Colts. Probably go no farther for the O’s.

  4. I think “principle” owner is the correct word unless some irony is going over my head.

    • I guess maybe Peter is the only Angelos with principles, but I doubt that’s what the writer meant.

  5. I have MLB Extra Innings, thru Dish, and since they rarely show YES Network telecasts, I usually see the MASN feed. The sad thing about the Orioles is the broadcasts ( especially Gary Thorne) ( not to mention the stadium) are bettet then the team itself. If I was an Orioles fan, I would be worried about Montrral as well as Nashville as a possible landing spot.

    • If these Orioles don’t draw in Baltimore, can you imagine how they’d do in Montreal?

    • The broadcasts are good. The team is pathetic. Apart from a few solitary years of reasonable contention, the Orioles have been pathetic since the mid 1980s. Much of that is down to Angelos’ ownership style (bad decisions, under investment… except when the there has been investment but it’s been very poor… see ‘bad decisions’).

      Despite Baltimore’s well documented economic problems (obviously made worse by bad stadium deals for other sports), fans there have shown they will turn out for a team that at least makes an effort to compete. They won’t pay for garbage. Given what’s been put in front of them the last 4-5 years, I can’t say I blame them. This is a team trying not to compete.

      Fan apathy in such cases is not unusual. After all, in fairly recent memory the Dodgers were playing to 5-6,000 fans (that is not a typo). Solution? Ditch the deadbeat jackass owner(s). Done.

      • You must have a good memory because the last time the Dodgers average attendance was that low was 1944. 1937 was the last time they were below the NL average for attendance. 1976 was the last time they averaged under 30,000.

        • The numbers you quote are tickets sold, not people attending. There have been some games this year where the announced attendance was in the 27,000 range, but people in the Park was probably closer to 7000. Why the 20,000 people didn’t show up who knows. Maybe they probably bought season tickets and just decided to stop this game. Maybe they got stuck in traffic.

          Also while the average is 30,000 that doesn’t mean an individual game cannot be much lower.

        • I do have a good memory… and I can actually read. What I said was the Dodgers were playing to 5-6k fans, not that they averaged that many over the course of a season. If you do a quick google search you can find articles relating to this very (McCourt related) phenomenon…

  6. I heard rumblings that the New York Yankee are thinking of relocating to Billings, MT

  7. Being a season ticket holder for several years i have the following suggestions to help increase the attendance at the oriole’s home games.1- stop charging inflated ticket prices to watch minor league players playing against major league quality teams.2-Eliminate the different tiers of tickets such as classic premier and elite.One price for every ticket for every team at every game.3- Return several oriole games to a local non cable station on television so fans that can’t afford cable can enjoy the games again and are not alienated from the team.4-If you are going to have a giveaway promotion make it a true giveaway and not increase your ticket prices for that game.The fans are staying away because of the poor decisions made by your marketing staff and the players you are paying millions of dollars and getting miserable results.Wake up before your next promotion is a pick your own seat night for the scant crowd attending the games.5- Bring back bargain night for Tuesday night games.$10.00 for every upper reserve seat at those games.Win or lose i will still attend the games because of the staff that work at all of the games.The kindness they have shown me since 2011 has been priceless.

      • Catering to well heeled fans willing to pay hefty prices to watch AAA players (or worse) doesn’t seem to be all that successful. As an AL east guy I see many games from Baltimore a season… the announced crowds might be 15-18k (putting them behind Detroit and KC, ahead of only Tampa in the AL), but many games have perhaps half that many actually in the stands. You can certainly count tickets sold v used, but never forget that unused tickets produce no concession or merch revenue on gameday

      • Well, yeah. Most fans don’t have a lot of money, and would rather spend whatever discretionary income they have on something less depressing than watching the Fauxrioles. Make the product worth the price, or the prices worth the product.

    • There was a recent article in the Baltimore Sun about how the Orioles are basically wedded to the Houston Astros model (much of the leadership team is from there) and that they are definitely not going to appeal to the less well-heeled fan with lower prices while they “rebuild.” (To be fair, compared to the horrific prices of most other teams, the Orioles are a bargain, and you get a nice ballpark with your awful team.)
      https://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/bs-sp-orioles-attendance-20190618-story.html

      The Orioles have often been a tough draw since they moved to Baltimore. They are squeezed in between Philly and DC and were often a below-average attendance team until Camden Yards was built (with numbers in their often-lean years boosted by 18 games against the Yankees and Red Sox every year). The city is not particularly wealthy and neither is much of the area of MD/DE/Central PA where they have drawn most of their fans.

      That said, Baltimore and the surrounding area have way more people than Nashville ever will.

  8. It might be less about the lease expiring on Camden Yards–hey let’s give every team a chance to extort more money every 30 years–than it is about Angelos Sr. perhaps close to his own expiration date. Lots of crazy stuff gets revealed during these “passing of the guard” milestones, so who knows what kind of problems, disputes, sibling rivalries, etc., might be lurking beneath the surface. Admittedly, I’ve paid little attention to the Orioles or Baltimore stadium politics in recent years, but if other “leases”–do the Orioles even pay any rent–are coming up for “renewal” in the near future, I suspect we’re going to go through another insane round of giveaways. How’s that Field of Schemes revision coming, Neil?

    • A Field of Schemes revision would just be the existing book with one page added, reading: “Soak. Rinse. Repeat.”

      • Yes, but, twenty years later, it would still be timely. Not every book has such a long shelf life.

        • Fully one-third of the book is only eleven years old! That’s not even old enough to be torn down because it doesn’t have air-conditioning!

  9. Move the Orioles to Tampa. Keep the Rays in St. Pete. Move the Marlins to Jacksonville and the A’s to Miami.

  10. I don’t think St Louis actually has any TV claims in Middle Tennessee. I think only in West Tennessee.

    • But presumably a Nashville team would want market access in West Tennessee (as well as East Tennessee, northern Alabama, and probably parts of Kentucky). Nashville is a much less appealing market if the team doesn’t get TV access to Knoxville, Chattanooga, Huntsville, and especially Memphis.

  11. I for one don’t want another team here in Nashville. The current slew are costing more than enough. No kick on The O’s – we just can’t afford it. Terrible city management, apathetic population and new people moving in from all over the country. We need to digest what we’ve got and not add to the trouble. Just my opinion.

    • If I were graduating from College Nashville and Indy are the towns to move to if you are in the Midwest. I might think of moving there. But MLB was be a collossal failure for the reason you mentioned. Support the Braves instead