O’s today: I think I’ll keep doing it the same way…

June 10, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Tuesday morning, a little after 7am, Joey in Perry Hall called the show and asked a question that turned into a 20-minute on-air discussion between the two of us. 

His question has sparked this blog, in fact.

The question:  ”If you had to do it all over again, would you do it the same way?”

Joey was referring to my “battle” with the Orioles (as he called it) and the manner in which my relationship with the club has eroded over the last three years or so.  

“If you had to do it all over again, would you do it the same way?”

The other option, obviously, would be to do it differently…if I had it to do all over again, that is.

In this case, there are no mulligans, “breakfast balls” or do-overs.

What’s happened between me and the Orioles has happened…and it can’t be changed.

But it IS (or was) an interesting question.  

Would I do it all the same again if I the opportunity presented itself?

The answer is “yes”.

And, in all honesty, I AM doing it again, right now.  My relationship with the Orioles front office took a turn for the worse when I stayed on them – long and hard, admittedly – about putting Baltimore on the front of the road jersey.  I was unrelenting about that, because I knew it was the right thing to do and, more importantly, I believed it would be the first symbolic step in the club’s attempt to re-connect with the local fan base they had disassociated with in the early part of the decade when they were busy chasing more affluent Washington DC baseball fans.  

There’s no doubt that I wrecked my relationship with the Orioles over the road jersey issue.  It turned personal once they stopped providing me with a season media credential and then forced one of their employees to lie to Rick Maese (then) of The Sun on opening day 2007.  A team official told Maese “Drew never picked up his ’06 season credential and we decided to change his status to a game-by-game request” — and that was a complete, 110% fabrication of the highest form.  It was a lie. And Maese wrote it.  On opening day ’07, I approached an O’s executive about the story, the lie and the team’s refusal to provide me with a season media credential and we had a heated exchange.  It’s never been the same since then.  

That brings me to now. 

My relationship with the team still stinks.  They’ve been treating me unprofessionally since 2007. All of them.  The person in charge of “Communications” hasn’t communicated with me in 24 months.  He hasn’t returned a call, text or e-mail since May of 2007.  

So, with the team’s Baltimore-on-the-road-jersey-issue now cleared up, all should be well between Drew and the team, right?

Nah.

I’ve tried — Lord knows, I’ve tried — at least two dozen times to have a man-to-man sit down with folks over there and air our respective gripes.  I even petitioned Major League Baseball to intervene and mediate a discussion.  All I heard from  the apologists was “why don’t you call the O’s and try to sit down and iron things out?”  That was my intention because, like most human beings, I don’t really like tension and strife.  A meeting would have been beneficial for both parties.  I would have NO problem telling them what I think of the way they’ve treated me and, likewise, I’d be more than willing to hear what they have to say to me about my coverage of the team.  Men – grown men – should be able to sit down and hash out their differences, have a beer, and move on.  I’ve tried.  It’s not happening.  We move on.

So, Joey’s phone call today sparked an internal debate between me, myself and I.

Joey asked, “If you had to do it all over again, would you do it the same way?”

Well, I AM going to do it the same way.  Recently, I’ve written and spoken at length about the team’s policy to not allow any of their players on any local radio or TV stations (live) unless they’re part of the O’s very limited “broadcast rights holders” group. This policy is the most insane thing the organization does — restricting their own players from going on public radio and TV to promote either the club, a home game or, perhaps, a charitable or civic endeavor they’re involved in.  

On Tuesday night, for example, the O’s held “Melvin Mora T-Shirt Night” at the ballpark.  Why wasn’t Mora a regular on local radio and TV late Monday and throughout the morning-early afternoon on Tuesday promoting HIS t-shirt night?  Why didn’t the club send out 10 t-shirts to every radio station in town to help promote Mora’s night and his appearance on the air?  

Is it, a) because the club doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing?

Or is it, b) because they just can’t give in (like they wouldn’t give in on the Baltimore road jersey issue?) and do the right thing and allow their players on the radio and TV to help promote their product?

It’s probably a little of (A) and much more of (B).

But I’m going to stay on them about it.  And they’re not going to like it, just like they didn’t like it when I stayed on them about putting Baltimore on the road jersey. 

I’m going to stay on them about their bizarre and impractical marketing and PR policies because they’re robbing themselves of fans every single time they don’t allow a player to promote himself or the club in Baltimore.

And then, in the off-season, they have to conveniently “pass” on quality players who want a lot of money because their revenue is down.  They bellyache about the economy, naturally, but the real truth of the matter is that 24,000 empty seats – on average over 81 games – contribute more to their poor-boy cries than the economy.  I notice – even with the economy “so bad” – they’re not lowering the beer and food prices out there at the ballpark. 

So, I’ll continue this “campaign” against their practice/policy because it’s ultimately another not-so-subtle swipe at the fan base that they supposedly need to survive.  I’ll continue to ask them to allow Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and anyone else on the team to come on my show and when they refuse, they’ll get their ass kicked for it.  Because it’s wrong.  And dumb.  Jason Berken can come on my show when he pitches for Bowie, but he can’t come on my show when he pitches for the big-league club in Baltimore?  And you want people to come out to the ballpark and spend money on the team but you pull that silly stunt?  “We were born at night…”

Nick Markakis and his wife, Christina, recently started a new foundation to help distribute funds to needy citizens of Baltimore.  Nick’s not allowed to talk about his endeavor with any stations in town that aren’t part of the O’s flagship radio station network.  

How insane is that?

Here’s a guy now making his home in Baltimore and dedicating some of his time, money and sweat equity back to the community and he’s not allowed to come on the air with me or WBAL or WPOC or 92Q and talk about it.  

In-friggin’-sane.

They have 13,000 fans in the ballpark about 40 nights a season — leaving 35,000 empty seats 40 nights a season — and the front office is stuck on doing it “their way” even though anyone with a brain knows all they’re doing by restricting access to their players is keeping fans out of their ballpark.  

I could just say, “ah, forget it…let ‘em keep doing it the wrong way…what do I care?”

But I’m not going to do that.

I’m going to stay on the Orioles about marketing and promoting their players the right way.  They won’t like it.  Then again, I don’t like how they do business, as well.  So from that standpoint, ring the bell and let’s get going.

I know I’m right.  Anyone who knows marketing and PR knows I’m right.  Plenty of media people in town who don’t have the freedom to fight the team also know I’m right.  I’ve talked to them about it — and they laugh at how stupid the policy is from the Warehouse.  But those media folks can’t afford the backlash of having their credentials pulled if they were to “campaign” for something that questions the team’s policies.  I, fortunately, can campaign for anything I want.

Joey in Perry Hall wanted to know if I’d do it differently if I had to do it all over again.

He’s going to find out.

The answer is “yes”.

I’ll keep the heat on them.  They won’t like it.  But I’m not going to stop now.  I’ll remind them as often as possible that they’re doing it wrong.  

And, when they do start doing it right, fans will go back to the ballpark and they’ll be thrilled to see the seats filled again.

And, of course, so will I.

After all, if they win on the field and sell the stadium out again (regularly), the rebuilding process will be complete.

Until then, I’ll be the bad guy and keep the pressure on them.

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