Responding to O’s Hangout…

February 19, 2008 | Drew Forrester

Over the last couple of days, a few members of Orioles Hangout have reached out to me (I assume they’re legit members of “The Hangout”…I can’t verify that) to express their anger, frustration and disappointment with my treatment of the baseball team in town. 

 

One member who contacted me urged me to log in and contribute on the Hangout and respond to some of the threads relating to either myself or WNST in general, but I think that’s only going to end up in more back-and-forth spewing and, frankly, that doesn’t benefit anyone when it’s all said and done.

 

Let me say this from the outset, as I’ve said on the air before and written previously at WNST.net.  I think the Hangout is an outstanding web-site.  It’s probably the best “fan-driven” web-site in Baltimore and that includes the various Ravens-related sites that boil over with enthusiasm during football season.  As I’ve noted before – and often – the baseball team is lucky to have such a loyal group as those who contribute regularly on O’s Hangout.  At the rate they’ve been losing fans over the years, all by their own doing, it really IS a tribute the die-hards who remain steadfast supporters of the team.  That said, after that glowing introduction, I have to continue on with a reasonable piece of honesty here – very, very few people on the site are objective enough to be able to look at the situation involving me/WNST and the baseball team and have any ability to say, “Yeah, as much I love the team, they are the ones not willing to “make peace” with the radio station.”  To do that, you’d be conceding that our fight at WNST has been fueled by a common belief that the fans deserve better from the organization.  Many of you think our “fight” has been about publicity, PR and embarrassing the team.  Far from it.  My constant credo is:  “I just want to see the team win again and I want to see the stands filled…with Baltimore baseball fans, not Yankees or Red Sox supporters.”

 

First off, I should emphatically remind all of you that my position on the team is MY position.  I’m not motivated to speak out against the team in any way because that’s what Nestor Aparicio wants me to do – and I’m not motivated to speak glowingly about the team because that’s what a bunch of anonymous baseball fans on a web-site expect of me.  If you lump ME in with WNST and/or Nestor, you’re just as wrong about that as if you lump Bob Haynie in with WNST and/or Nestor.  Nestor has his own position on things and he makes those points clear when he so chooses.  There are a lot of things about the baseball team that Nestor and I DON’T agree on, in fact.  He doesn’t really see the importance of having BALTIMORE back on the road jerseys, for instance, while I think it’s one of the most asinine things the team DOESN’T do each May when they disregard every morsel of common sense they possess and fail to make that change once again.  That’s just one example of how Nestor and I differ…there are others.

 

Some of you have commented that WNST should “extend an olive branch to the team.”

 

To borrow a line from A Few Good Men:  “You have the luxury of not knowing what I know…”  And what you DON’T know (I’ve said this and written it a lot but you all evidently refuse to believe it) is that I have tried on a half-dozen occasions since last May to meet with team officials/executives to set-up a face-to-face meeting where we can each “make our case” to the other and determine what path we might both take to achieve some kind of improved working relationship.  SIX times I’ve tried to arrange a meeting.  Not only have those meetings not happened, the club hasn’t even responded to my requests with a polite, “no thanks”.  In January, frustrated at yet another lack of response from Andy MacPhail, I contacted Major League Baseball and filed a grievance through the PR Department asking the league to oversee a meeting in New York in which we would all get together (me, the baseball team execs and MLB PR) and have the league mediate a “hearing” of sorts so that I could be treated professionally by the team during 2008.  After reviewing my request, MLB PR recommended that I take up the matter directly with the baseball team in Baltimore.  Strike three.

 

I’ve gone out of my way to try and “man-up” as one or two of you wrote on O’s Hangout and initiate a get-together with the team to iron out some issues we each have with one another.

 

It takes two to tango, though.  They’re the ones who don’t “man-up”.  That’s not my fault. 

 

Have I been hard on the team over the last few years?  Sure.  They’ve lost for ten straight seasons, their crowds are now down to roughly 12k-15k actual bodies in the seats for about 60 of their 81 home games and yet they continue to create and enforce media relations policies that make it impossible for anyone other than a “partner” of their’s to have access to the club.  I’ve been hard on them because that’s the only HONEST way to review their progress and the circumstances that surround the decisions they’ve made both on and off the field. 

 

If you want the super-glazed orange-and-black glasses outlook on things, zip right on over to their flagship station where no one is allowed to ask the team any tough questions.  Once you start asking tough questions or offering an honest assessment of  their decisions and misgivings, you get kicked to the curb.  Just ask WBAL Radio.

 

Many of you write, “I wish Drew/WNST would just cover the team, talk about the players, the games, the strategies…”  Fair enough.  That’s what I SHOULD be doing.  But, how can I/WNST cover the team when we’re not allowed to have any kind of access to players, coaches, executives, etc.? 

 

I worked for a professional sports team for 17 years, started in the PR/Marketing department and later ran the club for six seasons.  I fully understand – from the team’s standpoint – the value of having broadcast “partners” who pay for the right to have special privileges and upgraded access to players and team personnel.  The Ravens do a masterful job of giving WBAL Radio (their flagship station) special treatment and, yet, making sure no other media members in town feel slighted or get left out.  We all understand it.

 

The baseball team simply gives EVERYTHING to their broadcast partners and the rest of the gang gets the privilege of paying $9.00 for the media dinner at Camden Yards and a few sound bites from a star player or two at the end of the game – that’s if you get to him before he sneaks into the shower.

 

I followed the proper protocol a week ago and requested a credential for spring training with a plan to do my morning show from Ft. Lauderdale on March 3-4-5…live…four hours a day…to once again try and show the club I was willing to come down (at our expense) and embrace this new team with its new players, new attitude and new hope for the future.  Once again, it was (supposedly) a “rights holders issue”, even though the “rights holders” don’t broadcast any live shows from 6am-10am in the morning.  At least, for the first time in almost a year, someone (Bill Stetka) with some integrity returned my phone call and had the guts to tell me “no”, even if it was a bush league decision by one of the higher-ups.

 

Lastly, a couple of points to clear up regarding some things I “supposedly” said on the air in the last week.  It amazes me how people will write “I don’t listen to that show” and then make three paragraphs of comments about stuff they hear/see second or third hand.

 

I did not, ever, say I hope the baseball team wins 50 games in 2008.  I said without Brian Roberts (if he gets traded), there’s a chance they might not win more than 50 games…but I certainly NEVER said that I hope that happens. 

 

Second, I said earlier in the week that I was willing to “follow” (NOT root for, but follow) another team during the 2008 season if I could have some kind of access to their players, coaches, executives, etc.  I WANT to talk baseball with real baseball people and if that means I have to talk to people in Washington, Philadelphia or some other major league city, then perhaps that’s what I have to do.  I received a number of e-mails from people who listen to the show who are interested in hearing more about the Nationals…well, if the Nationals are willing to give me some kind of access to a player, manager or executive every week or so, I’d be foolish to turn that down.  But I never, ever said we’d “root” for another team.  In fact, a couple of guys called the show and said, “I think I might follow the Tigers this season…you should arrange a trip to Detroit” and I immediately looked at the Baltimore baseball schedule to see when our team plays in Detroit…maybe that WOULD be a fun road trip in August.

 

I think that’s enough for now…I think I’ve fulfilled my obligation, if you will, to answer some of you who contacted me and basically challenged me to go toe-to-toe with “The Hangout”.  I’m not interested in going toe-to-toe, per-se, but I’m also not afraid to tell you all what’s going on because it’s the truth. 

 

I’ve been critical of the way the club has run the team.  Yes.  But I’ve been honest.  I’ve been critical of the way they’ve treated me, professionally (or, should I say, “unprofessionally”).  But I’ve been honest.  I’ve also spoken and written very highly of Andy MacPhail since he arrived last June.  Oddly enough, in your message board vomiting, none of you – not one of you – mentioned that.  Go back into the blog archives and www.wnst.net and see how many blogs I’ve written praising Andy MacPhail. 

 

I will continue to be honest about the team.  If they do well, I’ll praise them.  If they don’t do well, I’ll criticize them.  That’s the way it should be.  That’s the way it works in real sports cities where the teams don’t expect the media to be paid promoters of the team.  Can you imagine if the Eagles or Phillies organization treated a Philadelphia media member with such open unprofessionalism as the baseball does me every time someone in Philly criticized one of those teams?  That’s the dirty little secret that none of you want to admit:  The baseball team mistreats ME because I’m critical of them.  And, since they have no respect for WNST – as a station and a media entity – they feel they can get away with it. When Peter Schmuck writes something negative about them, they merely send him a nasty e-mail but always welcome him back with open arms.  He is, after all, a writer for the major daily newspaper in town.  As much as it burns them up to admit it, the baseball team NEEDS The Sun.  They shun me because they can.  But, what they fail to realize – mainly because they’re marketing simpletons I suppose – is that by treating me poorly, all they’re really doing is performing a public disservice to their fans. 

 

You all can continue to make Orioles Hangout the place for the die-hards to “hang-out” and speak proudly about your orange-and-black feathered friends.  Your day will come sometime soon, I believe.  I think the team, under Andy MacPhail, will likely win again someday. 

 

You all can continue to do what you do best – which is root for the team – even with blind-faith at times – because they desperately need it.

 

And I will continue to do what I do – which is call it like I see it.

 

You are always welcome to call the show at 410-481-1570 and talk baseball with me.  I don’t bite.  I took a half dozen calls about the team today and welcome any and all conversation about the team or your perception of how I treat the club.  I’m there every morning ready to talk baseball. 

 

 

 

 

 

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