Do you watch MASN and see what I see?

July 10, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

I was going to title this blog “Why I love Rick Dempsey” just to keep in line with all of the bizarre email and comments I received on my “Why I love Jim Palmer” titled blog. So, I’ll just start this briefing by saying that I DO love Rick Dempsey.

And I was watching MASN last night and I gotta comment on what I’m seeing and how lousy these broadcasts are in general. And I’m not watching with my “media” hat as much as just being a fan. The only way I’m allowed to see and experience the team now (thanks to their ban of free speech) is via MASN. It’s back to 1985 for me, the last year when I didn’t have a press pass before Angelos went all Fidel Castro on me for telling the truth about how the franchise has injured the city on summer nights.

MASN’s coverage is beyond embarrassing in its nightly pandering and bush league insults to the fan base, especially when Jim Palmer isn’t around. It’s kinda like watching an old “WWWF” match or watching Gordon Solie call NWA action. It’s one giant infomercial that I’m paying a few bucks a month to have the privilege to watch. And it’s trashing some of the best baseball the team has played in more than a decade.

I have no particular axe to grind with Jim Hunter, who’s a pretty decent guy and a very ordinary broadcaster. And I’ve loved Rick Dempsey – the player and Oriole — ever since the trade with the Yankees in 1976.

Dempsey signed autographs for me in 1979 at Games at Eastpoint Mall. I saw him literally run into Section 10 (my section in left field at Memorial Stadium) with shinguards on looking for his wife. He’ll forever be the MVP of the 1983 World Series (nice to see Peter Angelos has “allowed” for the team to be honored for its 25th Anniversary just two years after the 1966 team was persona non grata on their 40th Anniversary, which is unforgivable).

I even remember when Dempsey pitched and tried to bat lefthanded. If you loved the Orioles in the 1970s and 80s the way I did, you just loved Rick Dempsey. He was a hustle guy with a great arm and he gave great rain delay! He led O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheers from the bullpen and waved a white towel when Dave Skaggs caught. He did goofy videos with Shore Patrol at local bars.

What was NOT to love about Dempsey?

Rick Dempsey personifies all that was ever RIGHT about Orioles baseball and Orioles Magic.

Hunter is a misplaced Yankees fans who is trying to feed his family, kicking around midlife as the Orioles broadcaster. That is, until he gets tapped on the shoulder by “the big man.”

Both of these guys have been “kicked around” pretty good behind the scenes by the organization over the years with not a lot of “options” elsewhere. They’ve all seen what happens when you don’t “bleed the black and orange.”

You don’t feed your family.

Hunter has been passed over, moved around, had contract stalls, weird assignments – you name it, and he’s experienced it (as has his family) since he was anointed “the next Jon Miller.”  He sounds frightened to say ANYTHING of significance beyond pimping the next “fan celebratation night” during his rare “in game” moments. And his postgame shows are just dreadful because it cries for commentary every night – true criticism AND true praise. Hunter just can’t say ANYTHING remotely “unpositive” about the Orioles. That night when they gave up 30 runs last summer was a real doozy!

Honestly, I feel bad for Jim Hunter and I’ve said that many times. He deserves better and is capable of better than what I get in my living room every night. It’s sad.

Dempsey, meanwhile, has been ex-communicated from the clubhouse after honestly believing he should’ve been the manager when Lee Mazzilli came into town with his entire family chowing food in  Little Italy in Yankees gear every Sunday that the pinstripers visited Baltimore.

I openly politicked for Dempsey to be the manager. I thought it would be a nice nod to the old-school fans and he was a very decent manager during his minor league stints. I’m a Rick Dempsey fan. And I don’t think for a nanosecond it could’ve been any worse during any of the past 10 years with the Dipper holding the reigns.

I know one thing: dudes would’ve been running out ground balls en route to 90 losses!

Of course, the front office has treated Dempsey like a running joke, insulting him beyond belief and giving him the “cousin we don’t talk about” treatment.

They’ve moved him so far out of the inner circle with the team that he barely qualifies as “around.” Next step might the witness protection program that Mike Flanagan is leading.

But, somehow, he’s still on their stoop in a pretty big was as a broadcaster and diehard “cheerleader” and he just stinks. He should NEVER do color commentary on a game. It’s almost unwatchable to my eyes. (And I love Rick Dempsey!)

And, of course, with Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer at MASN on some “select” nights (kinda like HD – you get it when they decide to drop a dime and “provide” it) – two absolute masters and pros at what they do – there will always be a drop off. Thorne and Palmer are probably the best 1-2 team in local baseball anywhere in MLB.

I watched Dempsey painfully suffer through nine innings last night and it’s just putrid. And you know what’s really weird? He did the postgame show (where Bill Ripken was similarly “stiff” sitting with Tom Davis) and he was actually really GOOD in the post-game analysis, especially regarding his affinity for his nephew, Gregg Zaun, who is one of my personal favorite ex-Orioles.

Honestly, I don’t think Dempsey or Hunter or Ripken (or anyone else they bring in to do the thankless job of kissing every Oriole player’s ass ad nauseum) get a fair shake at MASN. I think they all know a lot of baseball and if they could REALLY say what they think, feel or believe, maybe it would be a lot better for all of us to watch it every night.

But we ALL know how it works when you work for Mr. Angelos.

These are ENTHUSIASTIC people by nature who are basically censored, dumbed down and very “unfunny” when doing something like talking about baseball, which I know is a joy to them personally. They love the game and with Dipper and Rip, they have plenty of personality to spare.

Again, it’s an ideological issue, especially with Peter Angelos writing EVERY paycheck you see from beginning to end. It’s truly like a Cuban state of media over at The Warehouse. It’s like a big “made for TV” production out of the old WWF studios Vince McMahon had in Owings Mills 20 years ago.

I keep waiting for Lord Alfred Hayes to show up with tea…

Of course, maybe that’s Fred Manfra or Joe Angel’s role?

So, instead of getting “free speech” from people like us at WNST asking questions to George Sherrill or Dave Trembley, the fans of the Orioles get this “exclusive” convoluted, muted and bizarre role call of washed-up former “heroes” to the fans doing these pandering “info-mercial” broadcasts that would probably make Rex Barney and Chuck Thompson even blush at some of the “inside commentary.”

I’m sorry we don’t have Brooks Robinson doing games any more. But if he had to be awful every night and lock his personality up in a closet to do games on MASN, I’d just as soon not see that side of Brooksie. He’s in a much better place.

I know all of these people. They love baseball. They love the Orioles. They know the game. And WORST of all?

They’re all kinda FUN, JOYFUL people. And the atmosphere during these games – especially at the funereal Skydome (or whatever they’re calling it this week) – has been so bad you almost want to turn the game off. Even when the game isn’t bad!

And they don’t even realize how bad it all looks and how amateurish and pollyanna the whole thing sounds when you put meaning behind any of the hollow words of praise, especially when you’re subjected to it 6 1/2 nights a week.

If they had any heart (or sense) at all, they would immediately banish those horrible MASN promos and “This is Birdland” house ads. We’ve all seen them hundreds of times and they’ve only gotten worse since they were unveiled.

Maybe one day the Birds will truly be freed. It’s getting better, for sure, just the fact that they’ve discovered that there’s a community here that wants to embrace the franchise. We actually WANT to care and like the team and like the players and watch the games even when they don’t mean anything.

We’re BASEBALL FANS, for crying out loud.

The best “sales tool” they have to sell you tickets to the game is by making the TV broadcasts outstanding (isn’t that what the NFL tries to do on games that Gus Johnson isn’t calling?).

On some rare nights it is quite good – like anytime they’re playing the Yankees or Red Sox when we get the Palmer/Thorne/HD trifecta.

But most nights, it’s beyond dreadful — every bit as bush league as the play has been on the field for 11 years.

Of course, if Mr. Angelos loosens the reigns on guys like Dempsey, more episodes like the infamous “Jay Gibbons’ wife episode” might rear their ugly heads. A little freedom for Dempsey and Bill Ripken could be scary, honestly.

But, sometimes, a little faux pas and some “off color” commentary might go a long way toward keeping me awake during the broadcasts.

It wouldn’t make me believe that these guys aren’t “bleeding orange and black” for the old franchise.

But of course, convincing Angelos that free speech is still an American tradition and a way of life is a hard thing to do.

He took my press pass because I’m “very unimportant.”

He’s only taking their integrity, dignity and their “voice” as insiders and experts.

You only get one chance in life to sell your credibility. Mine is not for sale.

But they’re getting paid to do the job and they have families to feed. Pray for them! They might all be unemployed next year, especially if they say anything that pisses off the owner.

And it sure does look, feel and sound like a lot of “work” these days.

One day, we might get to find out how Dempsey, Bill Ripken, Dave Johnson, Tippy Martinez and any of the rest of them really feel about things.

But, of course, Angelos might revoke their status as Orioles alums if they did that.

Just like they like to tell folks that I’m not a real fan because I’ve been critical of their ineptitude…

They only hear the criticism. They never hear the praise.

It’s the Angelos Way…

 

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