Not allowing MacPhail and Trembley to speak costing the O’s fans

June 27, 2007 | Drew Forrester

Most of you who follow the local baseball team on even a casual basis are no doubt aware they instituted a series of new media-relations policies prior to the start of the 2007 season.  These policies were developed and implemented by the club’s Communications department in an effort to help their broadcast partners (namely MASN and CBS Radio) capture an audience dedicated to seeking up-to-date, significant information on the Orioles.

The team is now nearly three months into the ’07 season and it’s quite evident these new policies have backfired.

That’s never been as evident as it is right now, with a new President of Baseball Operations calling the shots and trying his best to inject some new enthusiasm into the Orioles faithful.  Add to that splash of hope a new manager who – granted it’s only a week – seems to be saying all the right things and maybe, just maybe, could be a fire-and-brimstone type guy that reminds some old O’s fans of that Earl-guy from years gone by.

Alas, no one out there is hearing much of MacPhail and Trembley right now – because the O’s are following through with their silly little marketing thesis that states:  “only give your significant voices to your flagship rights holders – thereby mandating that the loyal fans will patronize YOUR partners and your partners only.”

That’s all well and good if you feel like having such a blind, snobbish approach won’t cost you customers, revenue and the chance to generate some much-needed goodwill.  But in this instance, the only people the Orioles are hurting are themselves.  And, of course, the fans.  They’ve become experts at diminishing the enthusiam of “the great unwashed”.  Intentional or not, it seems the team goes out of its way to make sure the fans don’t feel like they have a role with the club.

Have the powers-that-be over there at the Warehouse conveniently misplaced this season’s attendance numbers?  Well…I happen to have a copy of them right here with me.  I could bore you with a detailed explanation of percentages, game-by-game numbers, weeknights vs. weekends, promotional give-away crowds, etc. – but I won’t bore you.  I’ll just tell you what you already know – attendance is down by nearly 2,500 a game so far this season and those, of course, ARE THE PUBLISHED NUMBERS.  Any of you who have been down to the ballpark on a Tuesday night to see Oakland, or a Thursday night to see Toronto, or a Sunday afternoon to see Arizona all know what’s really going on with the attendance.  The numbers aren’t accurate.  But what IS accurate and what IS a fact is this:  attendance is down – again.

But the discussion about accurate numbers is one we should save for another day.  Right now, we need to make the Orioles understand that allowing their two new rock-stars to ONLY appear on MASN-TV and CBS Radio is doing one thing and one thing only: It’s keeping fans from learning more about the team…it’s keeping fans from getting excited by the vision of MacPhail…and it’s keeping fans from hearing Trembley speak and wondering, “hmmm, can this guy turn the team around this season?”

Showing this mysterious allegiance to a broadcast partner is NOT something the Ravens do.  Ravens personnel appear on virtually every radio and TV station in town.  All the time.  Sure, the Ravens have a broadcast affiliation with WBAL Radio and there are times when WBAL is afforded additional luxuries that some other stations aren’t, but we all understand that.  But the Ravens would never blackball the remaining radio and TV stations in town and restrict access to team information or team personnel.  They’re smarter than that.

Given that Ravens example, it’s hard to understand why the Orioles intentionally suffocate the various radio and TV stations in town who would willingly promote MacPhail, Trembley and any of their players who would like to pay a visit to WNST, WCBM, WBAL, Channel 2, Comcast SportsNet, etc.

This is a time when the Orioles should be driving MacPhail around town to meet all of us – to say “hi”, to privately proclaim he’s going to fix this smelly mess of an organization he’s working for and, if nothing else, to let the fans hear him reiterate again and again that he’s in control of things at the Warehouse.

This week would have been a perfect occasion for the club to discreetly alter their media relations policies and send MacPhail (and Trembley – the team WAS off yesterday) out on a caravan of sorts to meet and greet the fans via the radio and TV airwaves.

For the record, I requested an on-air interview with Andy MacPhail last Wednesday and again today.  I contacted Communications Director Greg Bader on both occasions and each time, my request was ignored.  No e-mails came with an explanation that MacPhail was busy and couldn’t do it.  No text messages saying, “Andy would love to do it but he’s just getting back from the weekend and he’s not available.”  Nothing.  No replies at all.  That’s how the Orioles respond to the fans.  By ignoring a civilized request for one of their executives to appear on the radio to pass along interesting team information to the ticket buyers.  Tragic, isn’t it?

Earlier today on The Comcast Morning Show, I asked listeners to call-in or e-mail their response to this question:  “Are you going to any of the three home games against the Yankees this week?”  The final total?  52 said “no” – 16 said “yes”.

I wonder if any of the 52 would have been moved to change from “no” to “yes” if, later on in the show, they would have heard MacPhail talk about his goals for upgrading the franchise – or Trembley speaking about the series with the Yanks and vowing to send those New Yorkers back to the Big Apple with their tail between their legs.

This baseball franchise needs hope.  The two guys who have been brought on to help create that hope are uniquely exciting, well spoken and, apparently, trustworthy.

Too bad no one knows it.

But that’s the team’s fault.  They’ve employed this ridculous, narrow-minded media policy for the better part of three months and it’s done nothing but LOSE fans instead of GAINING them.

It’s continues to be a Sad Summer in Baltimore.