Baltimore Restored to Road Jerseys, More Like Lipstick on a Pig

October 31, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

I’ve actually always preferred the expression “like putting a silk hat on a pig”, from Good Fellas, but this election season, lipstick seems to be what the pigs are wearing, and so we’ll go with that.

The Orioles will unveil their “new” retro road uniforms, and if you believe the rumors, alternate caps, in the coming weeks, supposedly answering the rally cries of legions of frustrated fans, and attempting to slowly make amends with the frustrated fan base that they’ve seemed to work so hard at alienating. Since I have gone on in this forum ad nauseum regarding my belief that the “effort” to drive fans away from Camden Yards and this team was both deliberate and calculated, I won’t rehash it here.

I will however, point out that in his timeless work, “The Prince”, Niccollo Macchiavelli suggested that in order to maintain favor with his subject’s, if a prince needs to take privileges and liberties away from them, it’s best to take them all at once, rather than repeatedly receiving negative attention for taking things away individually. Conversely, when giving these things back, it’s best to give back slowly, individually, thereby continuously generating positive feelings about your efforts and your leadership.

If the intent was to drive fans away, the O’s did it by employing the reverse Machiavellian tact, of slowly and gradually getting worse and worse over the last several years. As I said, (but promised not to go on about…sorry) if they used this tactic to drive fans away, it worked. All of that said, it makes sense, that now, if they’re trying to win back the fans, they’d continue by the same philosophy.

Over the last 2 seasons, or specifically since the arrival of Andy MacPhal, the Orioles seem to be intent on getting back to operating like a baseball franchise, and not the “trave-sham-mockery” that they had been for 6 to 8 years prior to that. Having lost the war to keep baseball out of DC, and settled the lawsuit and TV deal with MASN and Comcast, it gave me hope to think that Peter Angelos, now getting up in years, might revert to the exuberant owner that he seemed to be in the early years of his ownership. Instead he seems intent to slowly take this franchise from bottom of the barrel to mediocre, in order to continually generate good press, while keeping the bar low and achievable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m mostly happy, strike that, ecstatic with the job that Andy MacPhail has done so far. But with that said, isn’t it at least somewhat pathetic that we’re happy just to finally have a single front office authority, with seemingly unfettered freedom to do the job that he was hired to do? Isn’t that supposed to be the norm?

With MacPhail came the blockbuster Adam Jones trade, and all of the good publicity inherently attached to the first seemingly competent move that the front office has made in a decade or more. Surely if Angelos had his druthers, he’d have preferred that the Jones trade happened this off-season instead of last. After all, he already had plans to unveil the new scoreboard that he had gone to great lengths to make sure everyone was aware was costing the team so much to install. Maybe the big jersey move is a sign that the rest of this off-season will be devoid of any type of excitement.

I can just hear the collective brain trust at the warehouse now, thinking that this off season will see, hometown favorite Mark Texiera, CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe and others on the free agent market, and even if the O’s are willing to enter the bidding, there’s a good shot that some or all of those guys would use the club as leverage only, and never really consider a stay in Baltimore. So they better throw the fans a bone. Let’s put Baltimore back on the road jerseys, the fans have been asking for that for years, that’ll appease the fans for now.

Meanwhile, the O’s have two legitimate pieces of their rebuilding effort in the mix right now, one seemingly short for the club, and getting dangerously close now to his walk year, and the other seemingly pissed off at the O’s failure to offer him a new deal prior to the start of ’08. They have nothing but promise when it comes to young pitching with only one starter from this year’s staff worth banking on for the long term. And if they were unattractive to free agents because of sharing a division with the Yankees and Red Sox in recent years, it’ll be even worse now that Tampa is looking like a contender for the long term.

The O’s may be victims of a couple of wars that they started. After all, it was Angelos and the Orioles that bought their way into the playoffs in ’96 & ’97, beginning an era of unprecedented payroll spending, which resulted in being continuously outspent by 2 teams in much bigger markets in the same division. The O’s also may be credited as the team that ushered in the era of new ballparks, able to bridge the revenue gaps between the small market and big market profit margins. It’s most people’s guess that the new stadium revenue could burn a hole in the Yankees pocket to the tune of another $100 million or more in the next couple of seasons.

And now they also enjoy the luxury of sharing a division with the best and shrewdest of all of the small market teams. Small market success stories were always few and far between before, mostly the result of smoke and mirrors and stadium dynamics. But these Rays look to be built to last, with a wealth of starting pitching, and bunch of their young stars already signed to long-term deals.

Boston and Theo Epstein are Money Ball with real money and imagine how bad things could get if Toronto were ever able to capitalize on being the only team left in Canada. If they were able to get the country as a whole behind them they could be a marketing machine too.

But alas O’s fans, it’s time to rejoice, Baltimore has been restored to the road jerseys. And one day, hopefully in our lifetime, it will once again be a proud representation of this city. For now, it’s just one more effort to dress up what is still by all accounts a pig. Actually, a move into the modern era of broadcasting, and a promise to show every game in HD, instead of just more games in HD would have probably been better received by the fans. I would have rather had the HD. But progress is slow in this era of Oriole baseball, and I’m sure that in time, my HD wish will also be granted.

The pig’s got her lipstick, and her silk hat on too. There are probably plans in the works to get her a dress and perfume and maybe even some pumps, but at the end of the day it’s still a pig. What’s worse, the other pig that she used to commiserate with at the bottom of the division must’ve kissed a prince, or whatever pigs do, because she’s nowhere to be seen anymore. Nowhere to be seen, kind of like the Oriole Way.

Doubt that this club is a pig? Check out how the citizens of Sarasota look at the Orioles as their contingency plan in comparison to the Red Sox. Like David Hasselhoff compared to Brad Pitt? Imagine comments like that 10 years ago.