O’s big story: Markakis bypasses MacPhail and heads straight to Angelos

June 27, 2010 | Drew Forrester

The guy least likely to cause waves with the Orioles might have caused a tsunami last week when he decided to spill his guts to owner Peter Angelos in the wake of the club’s woeful 19-52 start.

Someday, maybe, Angelos and the entire organization might thank Nick Markakis for his honesty.

This much is certain:  Rarely has such an insubordinate act by a star player ever been as widely applauded.  In other words, most folks said, “It’s about friggin’ time someone said something to the old man.”

It took Markakis going over Andy MacPhail’s head and reporting directly to Angelos on the issue of the team’s poor play to wake the Orioles out of a season-long snooze, as the Birds have won a season-high four games following a weekend sweep of the lowly Washington Nationals.

Actually, Nick rattled a bunch of cages two weeks ago on the West Coast when he foamed at the mouth during an interview with The Sun and chastised everyone in orange.  He beat up players for being unprepared, openly said “guys are clueless up there” and talked about losing with a rare glimpse into how much he’s learned to detest it.

But The Sun article was a prelude to the big move by Markakis…arranging a lunch with Angelos where he did most of the talking and gave the owner a hi-def account of how bad things are in Birdland.

Of course, Peter watches the games and sees the standings and checks the box office receipts.  He knows things aren’t great in Shangri-La.  But Angelos has also bought into the Andy MacPhail plan, where patience and “waiting for things to play out” are evidently more important than putting the best team possible on the field.

In no uncertain terms, Markakis told Angelos what everyone else in town is starting to think about MacPhail’s grand plan.  It stinks.

It especially stinks for Nick, who signed off on a 6-year deal in 2009 that pays him $66 million but costs him $166 million in misery payments.  All he’s ever done in orange is lose.  And this year, it’s worse than ever before.  Finally, Markakis cracked.

But it might have been the best thing that’s happened to the Orioles in the last three years.

The star player, rather than sit down with the team’s head-honcho, goes right to the owner to voice his displeasure.  This kind of stuff used to happen in New York, with the Yankees.  We laughed at it back then…talked about how “the inmates were running the aslyum” and all that stuff.  A few years back, rumors persisted that Ray Lewis and Jon Ogden went directly to Steve Bisciotti to discuss the future of then-head coach Brian Billick.  Plenty of folks bristled at that story, rumor or not.

A star player going above the GM’s head and speaking directly with the owner?  Sure, it happens, but it doesn’t happen with the Orioles, where everyone in town has been afraid to take on the Orioles – well, almost everyone (ahem) – for a decade or so.  The players simply play the part of good soldiers, reporting to work, getting their fannies kicked 95 times a season and then heading off to some sunny destination in early October.

That Markakis stepped up and spoke out is shocking.

But he was right to do it.

Since he laid waste to a bunch of players in The Sun, several guys have mysteriously started to play better, including Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Julio Lugo.

On a side note, Markakis couldn’t fix Garrett Atkins…proving he’s not a miracle worker.

But in all seriousness, it might have taken a Markakis blast-session in the local paper to wake some of these guys up.

And who knows, his Italian lunch with Peter Angelos might have been what Andy MacPhail needed to wake up from his summer slumber and actually try to do something about this travesty of a season.

MacPhail, up to this point, seemed content to do apology videos and occasionally – when he can be found – mention to the media that he’s “disappointed with things” but not yet ready to give up on the season.  After re-hiring Dave Trembley last November, MacPhail was forced to fire him last month, and several of his recent veteran acquisitions (Uehara, Gonzalez, Atkins) have turned out to be questionable investments at best, with Atkins getting the boot on Sunday.

At some point, someone in the club was going to say “this losing stuff is getting on my nerves” and that someone turned out to be Nick Markakis.

And good for him, I say.

It must pain Markakis greatly to go to New York and Boston and Los Angeles and see how professionally run those franchises are and then watch his team wallow through the misery of a horrendous start with little veteran leadership in place to help stem the tide of a rocky start.

It pained him so much he went right past MacPhail and took the issue up with Peter Angelos.

I’m sure MacPhail didn’t appreciate it, but I know the fans sure did.

Someday, perhaps, Angelos himself might even appreciate it.

When the star player talks, people should listen.

That’s the way it is in New York and Boston, after all.

When Derek Jeter speaks, no else does.

When Jason Varitek says something, it’s important.

And, for once, Nick Markakis spoke up and people took notice.

Let’s hope it’s not the last time he does it.

And more than anything else — let’s hope Peter Angelos listened to all of it.

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