A holiday message to Peter Angelos and the Orioles

December 24, 2008 | Nestor Aparicio

The Baltimore Orioles can try to silence their critics today and attempt to ban the free speech of all of their many disgruntled customers and fans from posting angry diatribes on message boards like WNST on the internet, but there’s no getting around it if you’re Peter Angelos today. If you are from Baltimore and love Baltimore sports and you are celebrating any religious holiday from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanza to Festivus over the next 48 hours and anywhere from Highlandtown to Hong Kong, inevitably amongst so many family and friends with food and drink and cheer, you’ll be talking about two things:

1.    How much the Orioles suck and once again what a disgrace it is to be an Orioles fan (and/or a MLB fan in general) after this whole Mark Teixeira fiasco

And …

2.    How much fun the Ravens have given us this year and whether they can win this Sunday against Jacksonville and whether they’ll go far into the playoffs and give us the thrill of a Super Bowl again

Clear advantage: Ravens

“WNST” has no control over any of your holiday conversations. There is no “WNST stance” at your dinner table. There are just facts and opinions. Yours and mine. My opinions are listed right here, under the heading “Nestor Aparicio’s blog.” Yours are listed below in the comments and as long as you don’t write like a complete jackass and you’re staying on the topic – which is Mark Teixeira and the Orioles and the Yankees and free agency and baseball or the Ravens and the Jaguars and the NFL playoffs – your unabridged words get YOUR name on it just like mine do. And agreeing with me – or disagreeing with me — is not even remotely part of the equation. Just say what’s on your mind. Write what’s on your mind. And have some sensible, logical argument loaded with facts and documentation to back it up. And as the Ravens would say: “Don’t be a jerk!”

And there’s nothing Peter Angelos can do to ban you from speaking your mind on the internet. (Although I’m not really sure he knows the internet exists based on the Stalinist manners in which the team is positioned publicly by not answering legitimate questions from legitimate journalists about the issues of the team and the economic strife it causes the downtown business community.)

That’s what WNST.net is all about: free speech. And people have really been speaking up on this Teixeira situation. Not just here, but all across the internet and on our Facebook page as well.

The informed and “smart” people are pissed that the Orioles continue to print money with a Wayne’s World television network that we are all funding publicly via our cable bill and then refuse to reinvest our money back into the community via putting a quality product on the field that resembles Major League Baseball. The uninformed (or those who continue to get their “state-run news” from places like MASN, The Examiner, The Sun, Pressbox and CBS Radio, who all are directly funded and thereby controlled by Peter Angelos) will say that Mark Teixeira is a “traitor” and his filthy agent Scott Boras is a rat and did the Orioles dirty all because they refused to take a measly $40 million dollars less to come and try to salvage this disgraceful franchise from itself.

People ask me all the time about the Orioles and Angelos and MASN and being “banned” from asking any legitimate questions about the franchise to anyone inside the franchise. You know, the way I did for 20 years to make a living and feed my family. You know, like a real journalist, which I’ve been since 1984 through both big city newspapers and a variety of radio stations here and across America.

And my answer is always the same: it’s not what I think that’s important. I’m just one voice and in the old world before the breakdown of a “closed” media in America and before the internet, mine was one of a dozen significant voices in Baltimore that could be heard by the masses – four guys via television, four or five sports talk radio hosts and the handful of sports columnists from The Sun.

But over the last few years – let’s say since Miguel Tejada signed here – it’s changed greatly because of the internet and the ability for the “common fan” to speak out on more than just sports radio. And it’s their ability to put their real name and their real pictures with their thoughts. Are you on Facebook? If you are, you know what I mean. (As an aside, if you’d like to blog here at WNST.net, just drop me a note and I’ll do my best to get you started. We’re looking for people who love local sports as much as we do!)

And over the next two days anyone who is from Baltimore and is having a ham or a turkey or an egg nog or some cookies with their holiday cheer will be talking about the Orioles and Ravens. That’s always been a fact, sports and conversations with family during the holidays. But those conversations are now open for the public to view via the internet. Social media is a bitch, like that. There’s nowhere to hide anymore…

It’s not just “that loudmouth from Dundalk” screaming on the radio.

It’s the thousands of people from Owings Mills to Oakland, from Aberdeen to Arbutus, from Hunt Valley to the ‘hood, who feel the same way I do saying the same things I’ve been saying since the firing of Jon Miller and Davey Johnson. Try as they might to make Andy McPhail the “fall” guy on this one, the truth is pretty clear to anyone with a brain: nothing has truly changed in this franchise except for the Baltimore script on the road, gray sweaters.

Because I have created a public forum here on WNST.net I don’t have to speak for the many, many people who are disgruntled. Most of them are like me — disguised summer night after night as empty forest green seats that used to be filled with people from our community who felt aligned with the team and felt a part of a civic bond that brought our parents and grandparents joy in being Baltimoreans and being Orioles fans. It meant something. It meant a LOT. It made grown men by the thousands openly sob when Memorial Stadium was abandoned for Camden Yards over 17 years ago (God, has it really been that long?).

(If you doubt that the “feeling” exists, think about how the Ravens made you feel around 11 p.m. on Saturday night on TV from Dallas or how you’ll feel at 4:15 this Sunday, with your heart pounding and your pride on red alert…that’s what I’m talking about it. When you can feel that way about the Orioles again, you’ll know and recognize it as one and the same.)

Through the comments section of this website and many others (including Facebook, which is amazing), the “little people” get to say what’s on their minds now and it ain’t pretty for Angelos, McPhail and the Orioles. It’s impossible to be an Orioles fan or a fan of MLB without the obvious “truths” slapping you on the skull like a Daniel Cabrera or Armando Benitez floater: THE GAME OF BASEBALL IS BROKEN and has been broken for YEARS! And the Orioles are just terrible at “playing the game” of modern baseball. Whether it’s drafting or signing players or marketing or being good community partners and treating fans, customers, employees and the media with any dignity or respect with truth and honesty, this franchise finds ways of alienating just about everyone consistently.

The community is comfortably numb and has been for years. People are “ho hum” about the Orioles’ inability to get out of the cellar.

This inability to come even remotely close to getting a local boy the stature of Mark Teixeira into a Baltimore jersey – and then blaming it on the agent or the player’s heart or saying “too much money” when the truth is that their efforts to land him were predictably insulting and lame – is Standard Operating Procedure. From Syd Thrift to Mike Flanagan, from Jim Beattie to Andy McFail — you could see this coming a mile away if you are a student of the “Oriole Way” under Angelos’ tenure.

Did you really believe that Angelos and McPhail would find a way to land Teixeira? C’mon…really? I’ll put this in a language Angelos would understand: What precedent would have predicted a victory on this one?

It’s really rather uncanny that they seem to screw up everything all the time, even when they have the money to make a “tipping point” change in the direction of the franchise. Being known as the “anti-Pete” here in Baltimore (again I’m just an educated guy with a voice…most people I meet feel the way I feel), I almost never have to worry about “eating crow” or them ever getting any good anytime soon because when they hit the “Y” in the road of decision – during those pivotal times in the growth of the franchise — they allow occasions like this Teixeira situation to happen over and over again.

(And for the record: I’d LOVE to “eat crow” and watch the Orioles win 92 games next year like the Rays did. Nothing would be better for our city than to have the Orioles win…)

This Teixeira fiasco is what makes them perennially losers, on and off the field, inside and outside the stadium and The Warehouse.

For them to blame it on “money” is just ludicrous. It’s a sick joke, really, that they put $22 million more back into their pockets yesterday all while pointing to the Yankees and MLB and Boras as the “evil villain.” This franchise and the Angelos family and investment group is simply awash in millions of dollars from MASN and the entire premise of the public financing the betterment of the franchise via our cable bills was their civic promise to get better and to compete. On — and off — the field!

And if they can’t compete with the Yankees on the only player of this generation who would actually consider coming to play for the Orioles in the prime of his career and change things for the better and change the public sentiment about whether Angelos really cares about seeing a World Championship in Baltimore before he dies – then why are they even in business? Are they playing for third place in AL East?

Why doesn’t this miserable group just sell the team already and let the healing begin for the city and the franchise? Ya know, FREE THE BIRDS already…

Here’s the real question for Teixeira: if the money had been equal, would he have really signed in Baltimore knowing what he knows about Angelos, this franchise and how unhappy all of its players have been for a decade? Only he will know the answer to that question but – sure — I have my doubts…

(I bet if Cal Ripken owned the team, Teixeira would be an Oriole. But, who wants to take that bet or play that game?)

No doubt about it: the way the Yankees sign players is an outright embarrassment to the game and the fact that their payroll is over $200 million and the Orioles will be $65 million creates a competitive imbalance that is almost impossible to overcome. And that’s with or without a luxury tax. And that’s with or without Teixeira in orange and black. (And you can fill in your Tampa Bay or Marlins feel-good story here, but that’s an anomaly over the course of the past 12 years.)

The real story is this: the Orioles have PLENTY of money. They have been stealing money from the cable companies for almost three years now. MILLIONS of dollars have been lining their pockets simply because the Washington Nationals exist. As much as Angelos fought to keep the Nationals out of the nation’s capital, it’s by far been the biggest financial windfall of his awful stewardship of our civic treasure that’s been so sordidly tainted that it’s almost unrecognizable as Orioles baseball. The franchise has gone from being worth $172 million in 1993 to more than $750 million because of the cashflow of MASN and the undercurrent of cash that the Nationals pay King Peter.

So just what do the Baltimore Orioles stand for in 2009? What is their mission statement?

Are they in business to bilk the public out of tens of millions of dollars via their Mickey Mouse TV network or are they trying to fix the team on the field, bring back enthusiasm for their core product – Major League Baseball – and help the city get stronger on summer nights with a full ballpark and a bustling downtown business community? Are they committed to making their fans proud to put those “Baltimore” sweaters back on or are they presenting lip service by signing Cesar Izturis and saying Teixeira “cost too much”?

I’m honestly not sure what they’re trying to do, other than “save face” when another big ticket ballplayer spurns their “Confederate” money to go to New York and play for the Yankees. And they’re even doing a lousy job of covering up what happened over the past few weeks.

The truth is this: they didn’t really want Mark Teixeira.

Sure, you can harbor all of the anger and resentment you like in the direction of Mark Teixeira. It’s not his mercy mission in life to come and play for the dreadful Orioles who refuse to offer him a market rate salary and then expect him to come here and play for 20% less money and also expect him to be a miracle cure for all that ails this woeful, woebegone franchise. He’s a baseball player, not a martyr. And quite frankly, why should he take LESS money to play for the Orioles, especially when Angelos and the franchise actually had the money to pay him?

Ask yourself – and ask honestly – if you were Mark Teixeira, why would you take $40 million LESS to come play for Peter Angelos when you could go to New York and play in front of the biggest crowds in the best environment and with the best chance to be successful and have fun?

If you were Mark Teixeira, you would’ve done the same thing he did yesterday. You’d be wearing pinstripes just like him.

You really would…

And the Orioles have no one to blame but themselves for allowing this to happen. Peter Angelos had a chance in the last negotiation to attempt to get a salary cap for baseball. Instead, Don Fehr bent him and his buddy Bud Selig and the MLB owners over for another decade of days like yesterday when the best players in the game (ARod, Jeter, Sabathia and Teixeira are the four highest-paid players in the business) opt not only to wear pinstripes, but also to get the most amount of money while they’re doing it.

Instead, six years ago, Angelos fought for social welfare with his own customer base by taking Comcast to court and winning nearly $3 per month from every household in the state. He’s getting paid well over $100 million a year just for having that lightweight television network. He’s been getting drilled in the public forum for years for doing the “wrong thing” with the baseball team and the community. He had a chance to step up and change that yesterday. He could’ve “bought” himself a few years of peace by stroking a check and stepping up and saying, “I’m trying hard and it’s as important to me as it is to you!”

But once again, he’s the fool with the deep pockets. Instead, King Peter “passed” on Mark Teixeira. And he put the money back into his own pocket. That’s just a fact.

And I’m just one voice in a cacophony of people screaming “FREE THE BIRDS” over their holiday meals this week.

And of course, “GO RAVENS” as well.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Cheerful Kwanza.

Festivus, of course, doesn’t begin until Sunday at 7…

At least we hope…
P.S. Tell your family you love them this week!

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