The Washington Post

MLB makes hires as it prepares for possible takeover of local TV broadcasts


Major League Baseball added three executives to its new local media department as it prepares for a possible takeover of local broadcasts for 17 teams amid the financial deteriorat­ion of the Bally and AT&T Sportsnet regional sports networks.

Doug Johnson was hired as senior vice president and executive producer of local media, Greg Pennell as senior vice president of local media and Kendall Burgess as vice president of local media technical operations, the commission­er’s office said Wednesday.

Diamond Sports Group, the subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group that operates networks under the name Bally Sports, has the rights to 14 major league teams and skipped about $140 million in interest payments due Feb. 15. Diamond said as of Sept. 30 it had debt of $8.674 billion. The company has nearly $1 billion in rights payments, mostly to baseball teams, due in the first quarter this year, and a bankruptcy filing is possible.

Diamond owns rights to the broadcasts for the Arizona Diamondbac­ks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Guardians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s AT&T Sportsnet networks told the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates last week that the companies do not have the money to make scheduled rights fee payments. The networks told the teams they have until March 31 to reclaim their broadcast rights and if there are not deals, the networks would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

● YANKEES: Infielder DJ Lemahieu went 1 for 2 for New York against Washington in his first game since he was sidelined in September and the postseason by a right toe injury.

He singled off the left field wall in the third and played four innings at second base in the Grapefruit League game in Tampa. More importantl­y, Lemahieu enjoyed his first pain-free at-bats since the middle of last season.

“I’m excited about that,” Lemahieu said.

● RED SOX: Boston pitcher Chris Sale could make his Grapefruit League debut next week.

Sale, 33, a seven-time all-star was limited to just two starts last year and a total of 11 since 2020 because of a variety of health issues.

● GUARDIANS: Cleveland is hoping some rest will help highly touted outfield prospect George Valera, who left Tuesday’s exhibition with an apparent right hand injury.

Valera, the No. 2 prospect in Cleveland’s organizati­on, was forced to leave during his at-bat in the second inning after fouling off a pitch. He underwent surgery on the same hand during the offseason to repair a hamate bone fracture.

Manager Terry Francona said Valera will receive treatment before the team’s medical staff considers any imaging tests. . . .

Also, Francona said lefty reliever Sam Hentges is dealing with shoulder inflammati­on and will be evaluated weekly.

● ROYALS: Kansas City signed veteran Jackie Bradley Jr. to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training, where he will have an opportunit­y to earn playing time in a wide-open outfield.

● MISC.: Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer failed in another of his defamation cases after a New York judge dismissed a lawsuit he had filed against the website Deadspin and its managing editor.

Of the six defamation cases Bauer has filed, three have been dismissed. Only one has survived a challenge to dismiss, and lawyers for that defendant — baseball writer Molly Knight — have asked an appellate court to intervene.

In 2021, Bauer was accused of sexual assault by a San Diego woman, but her request for a restrainin­g order was denied, and Bauer was not charged with a crime.

After an investigat­ion that also considered the accounts of two other women, Major League Baseball suspended Bauer for violating its policy against sexual assault and domestic violence.

The Dodgers released Bauer in January but remain liable for his $22.5 million salary this year. He remains a free agent.

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