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February 28, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

 

“Thyrl’s Mobtown Blog Pound”

Mike Preston sure looks like a one trick pony. They guy who spent the last several years beating the same drum suddenly has little to talk about since his nemesis has been ousted. He proved that this week when he took his focus off of lacrosse for one of the few times since Billick’s firing, to rebut Billick’s references to the Sun in recent radio interviews. If he doesn’t find a new tune soon, he’ll quickly be exposed as what most of us have suspected he’s been all along. Those used to routinely bashing the O’s might learn a lesson from this.

 
Preston’s absence has been wise on his part actually. Whether intentionally or not, Preston’s bashing is controversial and debate inspiring, most of the time. It sells papers. But now, in the wake of the shakeup, fans don’t want to hear about negativity. Fans are talking about bringing in big time QBs and trading for DBs or WRs that we clearly don’t have the cap room for, there’s a strong contingent that believes that the Ravens should be competitive again in 2008. Preston’s negative message wouldn’t go over well right now, so maybe he is being prudent.
 
If you really think about it, Preston’s reputation is on the line here too. If Preston actually believes all of the things that he’s been writing for the past few years, than he should be expecting a banner season for the Ravens this year. If the Ravens come back with basically the same roster, and bad coaching was the root of all of their problems, than this team should be ready to at least compete for a playoff berth right? The young O-line will have more experience together this season, and you’d have to think the team would be healthier in 2008. Even if they aren’t, that wasn’t an excuse this year.
 
Preston will have to choose his approach carefully when it comes to the ’08 Ravens. Anything short of him endorsing a championship run, and then the Ravens achieving it, could come off as either hypocritical, dead wrong or both. O’s bashers may be on that same slippery slope now too.
 
Bashin’ has been in fashion when it comes to the O’s for a decade or more, and most of the time it was either well deserved, understandable or both. Much like Preston’s columns bashing Billick. But the O’s it seems have turned the page, and maybe now it’s time for fans and bashers to do the same.
 
I’ll make no attempt to rationalize or to defend the actions of the front office prior to June 2007. Since then though, the O’s have been slowly giving the fans what they have asked for. The fans deserved better than they have gotten, and are still being sold short in a lot of capacities, but things are changing. Angelos has been mostly absent, the new front office has been shrewd and active, the ballpark has a new scoreboard, and we’ll be getting part of this season in HDTV. It’s a good start.
 
Fans want to buy into this team and it’s direction. Furthermore expectations are low as far as wins and losses in the short term. As long as this front office doesn’t go out of their way to look bad, as they have in the past, fans will slowly but steadily gravitate back. Fans eager to buy back in are already starting to grow tired of the continued bashing. If Angelos is out of the picture, which he seems to be, than continuing to bash him for his actions in the past is pointless.
 
There is still plenty for O’s fans to be pissed off about, so those determined to be negative can take heart. And contrary to popular belief, not all of our problems can be blamed on Peter Angelos.
 
Here’s a news flash, Major League Baseball is a mess. The sport is hemorrhaging money despite seemingly doing everything that it can to alienate fans in most markets, and close to half of the league has no economic shot of putting a competitive team on the field. If the O’s are able to fulfill their blueprint, than in 3 or 4 years they should have a quality young nucleus. But they’ll have to spend money to retain their own free agents and probably entice a couple of good free agents in order to fill in the blanks and be competitive. Enticing free agents into a division with the two biggest spenders in the league is one problem. The other is the fact that those two big spenders seem to be a lock for 90-100 wins every year. You can’t back into the playoffs in the AL East.
 
Now, if you were the owner of the O’s, with the deck stacked against you as such, and saw the city shell out a ton of money to bring a football team here, then give the owner a big fat loan on lovely terms, and stadium naming rights, wouldn’t it upset you just a little? After all, Art Modell came to town cash strapped in a business where you can’t help but make money. The NFL is much like communism in its economic approach, and insures that even teams in the smallest markets won’t be priced out of a chance to compete. Not only did we do little to help our club keep another team out of its backyard we seemingly slapped them in the face by kowtowing to a seemingly bad businessman.
 
Maybe it’s time for the city to make amends for that oversight, make the team a little more economically viable and get something from the team that many have been asking for. The city of Baltimore should sponsor the Orioles. I am already being taxed to death by the state and the feds, and the government seems more and more involved in sports anyway. There are a million and a half people in Baltimore County and City; surely we could scrape together $100 million or so to subsidize the O’s. We could stipulate that it has to go to payroll, and be matched by the team, or forfeited. Then we could make them put Baltimore on the jerseys and the logo. We’d better hurry before some corporate sponsor beats us to it and they become the Utz Orioles or Under Armor O’s.
 
While they’re at it, they could sell the stadium naming rights too, on a nightly basis. The stadium could have a different name every night, you could charge more for high profile games like the Yankees or Red Sox, or dare I say (in my best Jim Mora voice) playoffs. On nights when the Royals or Rays are in town it might be cheap enough for fan groups to buy it. We could call it the Juice Box, Empty Stadium (instead of M&T), or the Please Sell the Team Park and You’re a Peter Yards. If they’re going to sell the naming rights to Wrigley it’s worth considering.
 
The last and only semi serious suggestion is to take out 10 to 15 rows of seats across the outfield and move back the fences. Now is the best time to do that, since no one seems to be sitting in them anyway. The teams who seem to be able to be consistently competitive with small budgets, coincidentally all seem to play in unique ballparks and have tremendous home records. The white roof of the Metrodome gives the Twins a distinct home field advantage, as do the cavernous confines of the home parks of the A’s and Marlins. Although these aren’t the only two teams to play in big stadiums, they seem to be active traders who consciously build their teams to suit their parks. They also do well at trading pitchers who put up good numbers in those big parks.
 
Even if the O’s do everything right for the next 10 years, they’ll still have their work cut out for them. That’s the reality of baseball, particularly in the AL East. For now, expectations are low and excitement is high. It’s a nice combination but it won’t last. For now though the bashers will have to find a new tune. The rest of us are ready to move on and ready to move forward. There’s still a long road ahead.
 
Peace,
T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

“Thyrl’s Mobtown Blog Pound”

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