Silent James and friends “get loud” with me

February 22, 2009 | Drew Forrester

It was a critic’s-have-at-it weekend around here as a handful of folks lashed out at me for various reasons.

Gotta take the good with the bad, I guess.

More and more, I’m finding people are amazed, stunned and sympathetic with regard to the on-going battle between me and the Orioles.  Well, it’s not really a battle.  The O’s won by a knockout last week when they refused to credential me for spring training.  I’m not going to try and convince you it’s an even fight. They’re crushing me.  It’s not quite Rocky vs. Clubber Lang the first time around, but it’s pretty darn close.

While it’s always good to receive e-mails, text messages and phone calls of support, I’m also smart enough to know they have zero connection to what’s really happening with our respective abilities to operate more professionally.  I’ve tried to be as professional as possible with them.  They’ve gone out of their way to be UNprofessional with me.  Hence, the problems linger.

And, as a few bashers showed over the weekend, it’s fair to note there are still some out there who feel like it’s the Orioles being mistreated in this continuing saga.

Ron from Baltimore checked in on Friday afternoon via my WNST e-mail account.  

All I want to know from you is this.  When will it all stop?  When will you end the badgering, the silly web blogs from spring training and the attacks on the team?  When?  I’ll be back when it ends because I enjoy your show otherwise.  Ron

Here’s what I wrote to Ron, with some additional thoughts included.  Sort of like a “hidden song” or “bonus track” on a CD.  Ron got his answer, but here’s a little extra sumpin’-sumpin’ for him. 

I’m not badgering the team.  Far from it.  I’m “covering” the team.  That said, I’m not covering them to the best of my abilities because they’ve removed my access by not providing me with a media credential to spring training.  If you expect me to accept being banned from spring training and not speak out about it, you’re kidding yourself.  I wasn’t “badgering” the team when I applauded the Pie-for-Olson trade was I? Was I “attacking” the team when I openly praised them for the Ty Wigginton signing?  I thought they spent bad money on questionable pitchers in the off-season. I’m allowed to have that opinion…well, actually I’m NOT allowed to have that opinion, evidently.  But I digress.  That’s what off-seasons are for, right?  We watch what the team does and we react to it.  If the Ravens don’t re-sign Ray Lewis or Jason Brown, I’ll be speaking out about that too.  As for “when will it all stop”, I think you’d be best served contacting the Orioles and asking THEM that question.  They know – because I’ve not only contacted them, but also Major League Baseball – that I’ve gone out of my way to try and establish some sort of meeting or get-together so that we can both sit down and “say our piece”.  I’m a big boy.  I can handle a one-on-one b*tch session with the best of them.  However, rather than be professional and iron out any differences (like I’ve done with the Ravens before, by the way) we might have, they’ve shut me out.  They can do that, of course, but I’m not going to take it without exposing them for doing it.  So, “when will it stop”, you ask? Easy answer:  Whenever THEY want it to stop.  If they win 5 in a row to start the year, I’ll be saying and writing, “Way to go!” and if they start the year losing 5 in a row, I’ll be saying and writing, “This isn’t good enough.”  Both responses are well within my rights.

TC sent me two different e-mails over the weekend.  The more he read my “Spring Training 2009″ blogs, the more incensed he got, evidently.  

Here are the basics of his issues:

What baffles me is why you wouldn’t have just spent five days writing something about the team or the players or the guys on the fringe who have a chance to make it.  Take a cue from Roch Kubatko and give us some information about Brandon Snyder, David Pauley or Cesar Isturis (sic).  You’re doing a disservice to your listeners by carrying on with this silly game of “live from Fort Lauderdale”.  I thought the first one would be the end of it but no, you stayed with it all week.  TC

My response: TC, I wanted to spend five days writing something about the team or the players or the guys on the fringe. I requested a media credential from the team for that very reason — to go to spring training and promote the team for a week.  Roch Kubatko does a great job bringing everyone that kind of information.  Guess what?  HE IS THERE.  Forget for a moment that he’s semi-employed by the Orioles through his job at the MASN web-site.  He has a credential.  He’s ON SITE.  It’s easy for him to write about what’s going on today or tomorrow because he’s in the stadium.  They wouldn’t let me in.  You’re right, my weeklong “live from Ft. Lauderdale” blog WAS silly.  It was supposed to be.  They’re silly for banning me, so why not counter with something silly?  No one got hurt.  And I can’t imagine they’re going to treat me with more unprofessionalism than they already have, can they?  I mean, seriously, how much lower can they go? If they can get my Ravens, Caps, UMBC or Towson credentials removed or restricted, than perhaps they can go lower.  For now, though, I think they’ve pistol-whipped me about as much as they can.  

And, finally, Silent James checked in via Orioles Hangout to launch his own bag of grenades.  He was hardly “Silent” James — in fact, he was as uninformed and viperish as he was NOT-Silent, yapping about not getting credentials, walking-out on the team and what the O’s DO and DON’T need with respect to the local media.  

For starters, James needs to understand something that, apparently, he DOESN’T comprehend.  The much-discussed, HIGHLY blown-out-of-proportion “Free The Birds” rally in September, 2006, did NOT result in my credentials being taken away by the team.  I worked – with credentials – about 20 games in 2007.  Even last year, after their Communications Director made me jump through hoops and say the alphabet backwards to be “graced” with a credential for opening day, the team allowed me in the building.  

Something changed this January, though.  I requested a credential for spring training and was not provided one.  My ability to cover the team in the same manner as people like Peter Schmuck, Roch Kubatko, Dave Ginsburg, Brent Harris, Bruce Cunningham, etc. has been terminated by the team.  They’ve given no reason, no response to my inquiries and no opportunity for discussion.  Oddly, unlike James, they’ve been SILENT on the whole matter over the last six weeks.

I’m not going to be silent about it, though.  They’ve removed my rights to a credential because, in THEIR mind, I’m too critical of the team.  I suspected that all along…and someone formerly associated with the organization verified that earlier this month.  ”You just get under their skin because you’re always pointing out the bad stuff.”  Well, do LESS “bad stuff” and I won’t have to point.  

So, I’ve been banned because I’m too critical.  What a merit-badge that is.  No one else in the country – in the media – can lay claim to that award but me.  All of those mean so-and-so’s in New York and Philadelphia..and none of them have been booted by a team in either city.  I’m not proud of it, per-se.  It’s actually extremely disappointing.  But, it is what it is: Banned.  And then, the Anti-Trust argument begins.  I won’t go there for now.  

One other barb tossed out there by James was this one:  ”The Orioles do NOT need WNST.”  

I realize that’s the prevailing thought in The Warehouse.  James might as well just work for the team with that kind of dumb line of thinking.

The Orioles – averaging about 13,000 per-game for the 64 home games NOT involving the Yankees and Red Sox – need EVERYONE at this stage, including little old WNST.  

In fact, if they were smart (insert your own punch line here, I’m not going there…), they would have actually gone out of their way back in December to PERSONALLY INVITE every member of the working media to spring training.

Right around the time they unveiled the new away uniforms for ’09 (which, whether or not they want to admit it, was a sure-fire sign they are finally starting to understand that making the fans happy IS important), they should have brought in one of their PR staffers and said, “Let’s use this opportunity to start a new, fresh relationship with the media in town.”  Rather than battle, aggravate (in the last two years, they’ve waited until the day OF the home opener to distribute media credentials while the rest of the league does it 3 weeks prior) and otherwise create an air of discontent with the media, why not reach OUT to every single media person in town and invite them to spring training?  How hard can it be?  The Ravens do it every July when training camp opens in Westminster.  

James says, “The Orioles don’t NEED the people at WNST.”

Wrong.

The Orioles need every friend they can get.  Fighting with the media…there’s no chapter in any PR or Media work book that advocates such treatment, regardless of how “critical” the outlet or the individual is deemed to be.

I dealt with the media for 17 years in my “former life” in pro sports.  I forgot more about sports PR during my morning “ritual” on Saturday than some of those folks at The Warehouse have learned.  

Thanks to all of you who continue to provide messages of encouragement during what has now become an annual rite of Spring — getting harangued by the baseball team.

And, honestly, thanks to Ron, TC and Silent James for once again reminding me that communication – as in, responding to people – is still an integral part of anyone’s duty who deals with the public.

I’ll keep doing what I do…which is, mainly, reviewing all things Orioles and rendering my opinion on it all. When I speak favorably of the team, the critics won’t make note of that.  But if I’m forced to speak or write about something I DON’T like, that will be headline news.  ”There he goes again…bashing the team.”  

Whatever.

If they start winning again – and drawing fans to the ballpark again – the team (and the critics) will be thrilled with what they hear and read from me.  Thrilled.  All I want is for the franchise to be successful and for the people to go back to the ballpark.  In between, though, there are always questions that deserve to be asked and answers that SHOULD be provided to the public.  I’ll keep asking them along the way.  How the O’s handle the questions is up to them.  

Happy Spring Training!  That is, unless you’re banned.  It hasn’t been so happy for me thus far.

I was going to write a blog about how the O’s have removed the 6-game mini-plan from their web-site in an effort to make you think it isn’t available and, therefore, swaying you to buy a 13-game plan instead.  I think I’ll wait on that one, though.  I don’t want to come across as too critical.  If Brian Matusz has a good start against Italy on Tuesday, I’ll write about that first.  That way, I can balance it out with the mini-plan issue later on in the week. 

By the way, I think the team’s going to win at least 73 games this season.

Talk about positive…

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