Birds of a feather?

January 03, 2008 | Drew Forrester

I’m hearing the Ravens aren’t pleased with being compared to the Orioles as it relates to Monday’s firing of Brian Billick and the way it went down.

I can’t blame them for being upset.  They should be.

But, if they’re in touch with their fan base – like I think they ARE – then I’m sure they can understand that a hands-on Owner and another executive lacking in true staff/player personnel experience are the ingredients the baseball team has used over the last decade or more to create their bad batch of soup.  And, now, there are appearances that perhaps the Ravens are using the same recipe as the baseball team when it comes to terminating their Head Coach.

True?  Maybe.  The Ravens say it’s not true.  I’m sure the last thing they want over at Owings Mills is to have people in town think Steve Bisciotti has become Peter Angelos.  And, in all honesty, I don’t think it’s fair to say Bisciotti has taken on an Angelosian appearance with the Billick firing…but I DO think it’s fair to say that the whole process definitely resembles something the Orioles would have done.

As far as history goes, Angelos has a track record – which now might be getting cleaned up with Andy MacPhail’s arrival – of sticking his hand in the pie far more times than any of us would like.  Steve Bisciotti has said time and time again he wants to be OUT of the limelight and would prefer "his football people make the decisions" (sound familiar? lol).

In comparing the Angelos-Bisciotti meddling-report, it should also be noted that Angelos has involved himself in matters that went AGAINST the grain of what the fan base desired.  The baseball faithful in town certainly didn’t want Davey Johnson fired in 1997 after he had just led the O’s to consecutive playoff appearances.  Yet, Angelos fired him.  Or did Davey resign?  I forget.  Anyway, there are a handful of other instances where Angelos and/or his "people" made decisions about baseball matters that weren’t popular with the fan base, and that’s one reason why he’s been so villified in Baltimore over the years. 

In Bisciotti’s case, he fired a man that at least 75% of the fan base wanted fired.  That’s probably one of the reasons why most people aren’t looking more deeply into the how’s and why’s of the Billick canning.  "Who cares?  He needed to go anyway," is what most are saying. 

Orioles fans are still waiting for the current ownership group and/or front office to do something that 75% of the fan base approves of…oddly, it sometimes even seems like they do things just to antagonize the people that support the club (see last spring’s Road Jerseys fiasco as proof). 

I don’t think the Ravens have an "antagonizing bone" in their body.  And they’ve shown time and time again they are an organization in touch with the people that fill the seats at M&T Bank Stadium.

But, the situation involving Billick clearly became an issue of Bisciotti and Team President Dick Cass wanting Brian gone…and others wanting him to stay.  They can say whatever they want publicly, but the fact of the matter is that Ozzie Newsome did NOT want Billick fired, never endorsed Billick being fired and, ultimately, was as much in the dark as any other staffer on Monday morning when Bisciotti and Cass announced their FINAL decision on Billick’s tenure-end.  Ozzie was INVOLVED in discussions about Brian’s future…true.  But Ozzie did NOT want Billick out. 

And, as Clive Owen says at the beginning of "Inside Man" (great movie, by the way) — "therein lies the rub".

Do we want the Owner of our sports team to involve himself in matters that might not be completely under the umbrella of his experience level?  Or not?

Are we OK when he makes decisions that are approvable by the fan base but not OK when he makes decisions that AREN’T?

After all, had Bisciotti NOT fired Billick, fans would be saying, "I can’t believe Bisciotti didn’t step in and fire the man."

When Davey Johnson got canned, everyone in town hammered Angelos for getting involved in an area that wasn’t his true calling.

Steve Bisciotti owns the football team and he can make ANY move he wants.

In fact, Bisciotti has the right to make even the ULTIMATE move.  He can call the Mayflower Vans and move the team to – anywhere, really – Birmingham, Alabama today if he wakes up and "changes his mind" about the team being in Baltimore.

He owns it.  He can do ANYTHING he wants with it.

But that’s not the issue, at least in our city.

In our city, the issue is this: We’re ultra-paranoid about our sports owners who put their hands and fingerprints on the team – or, give power and authority to someone (in this case, Cass) who doesn’t have the experience of, say, the team’s General Manager or Vice Presidents-of-whatever. 

Owners can’t have it both ways and neither can the fans.

And, ultimately, that’s why I think the Billick firing was handled wrong by the Ravens.  Their "football people" didn’t want Brian out.  The "business people" did…and they won out. 

And, yes, I realize, it’s "all business".

But, we can’t annilihate the Orioles when their owner meddles in team affairs and then look the other way when the Ravens do something similar.

That’s just not fair.

And, at the end of the day, our obligation (or at least mine, I believe) in the media is to be fair. 

If the Orioles would have tried to pull off Monday’s stunt, we’d already be taking orders for "Free The Birds3".

That’s the truth.

And it’s certainly not time to hatch our "Free The Ravens" eggs.  Far, far from it.

But you have to call it like you see it and what I saw on Monday looked very Camden Yards-ish.

 

 

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