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Bird watching & no hoisting of goblet in Pittsburgh

Posted on 09 June 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

10:42 p.m. — Bring on Game 7! The Pittsburgh Penguins have been plenty feisty daing back to Game 7 in Washington, D.C. in what feels like a lifetime ago. It wasn’t the most exciting first period in Stanley Cup history, but the third period tonight at The Igloo was spectacular. Action, back and forth and up and down the ice. The game almost was tied with just 13 seconds remaining on a close one.

It was Stanley Cup magic. The Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh are 60 minutes away from a second civic championship in five months. Disgusting!

Meanwhile, Brad Bergesen did a nice job tonight against Seattle. The Birds won 3-1. Nolan Reimold hit a big fly. Melvin Mora had one interfered with in the first inning. It was a good, necessary win for the Birds.

8:40 p.m. — I’m in the midst of a typical spring night of wearing out the “previous” on my Comcast remote as I go back and forth between the Orioles-Mariners and Red Wings-Penguins.

The sky is a beautiful blood orange over downtown tonight and the Orioles game has been strange and the Red Wings look poised to hoist Lord Stanley’s chalice on enemy ice once again. Imagine these cockroaches from Pittsburgh having to watch the Red Wings raise The Cup at the Igloo for the second year in a row in front of the Steel City faithful.

Imagine the indignity! (But, it couldn’t happen to nicer folks that our neighbors in Pittsburgh!)

As for the Orioles, if you didn’t see the fan interference in the first inning on a near-home run for Melvin Mora (coincidentally, the kid was wearing an orange Mora No. 6 freebie giveaway that apparently no one knew about) you need to check it out. It was a Jeffrey Maier special, but when the umpires reconvened they rescinded a two-run homer call and the Orioles were suddenly only up 1-0 instead of 3-nil.

It looks like there’s less than 10,000 in the park tonight and the storm that rolled through town at dinner was biblical. Just horrendous where I was in Towson and White Marsh.

I don’t know if I’ll blog all night but I’ve been watching and I just felt like writing. It’s been a long week already and we’re making a lot of changes at WNST and you’ll see this site really come to life over the next few weeks.

Lots of work behind the scenes lately.

But tonight — for a beautiful Tuesday night — I’m watching hockey and baseball and enjoying it immensely!

Nolan Reimold just turned on one and the Birds are up 2-0. Also, my buddy Ed Frankovic keeps texting me from Hershey with Bears-Manitoba updates. Apparently, the Bears are losing.

Red Wings and Penguins are nil. Been a sleepy first period by Stanley Cup Finals standards.

A big night of fun sports…

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The Teixeira conundrum and Angelos conspiracy theory

Posted on 16 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Because this saga regarding Mark Teixeira and the Orioles and the Red Sox and the Nationals and the Angels has dragged on far too long it’s given me way too much time to think about it. And it’s really quite the mystery and little game from the media’s standpoint. And his uberagent Scott Boras just eats this up – when the media pits “offers” against each other with lots of zeroes. It’s gone so far that there were media people in the press box at the Ravens game with binoculars stalking down whether Tex was in the stadium and what sky box he might be in.

Yes, it’s gotten a little nutty and I have been entertained if not totally perplexed by the whole thing. There are still people in Baltimore (and many in the media who are being handsomely paid by Angelos via CBS Radio, MASN, The Sun, Orioles Hangout, Pressbox and others to be, ahem, “optimistic”) who honestly believe in their soul that the Orioles might actually be involved in a pennant race again sometime this century. For the record, as long as Angelos is alive and owns this team and continues to run it like he has for 15 years, I really don’t believe they’ll win. I believe it’s karma at this point. I would LOVE to be wrong, actually because this city is a morgue in the spring and summer compared to what the Ravens and hope bring us each Labor Day.

But as a fan and a Baltimorean what do you really want here?

There’s certainly a part of me that begs to have real baseball back in the Baltimore – the kind we see in October in the cities where it perpetually matters like New York, Boston, Chicago or in places like Philadephia or Detroit or even Denver where we’ve seen the game resurrected by a winning team. Or at least the mere chance to win.

Because I’m a little more removed and less emotionally involved in it on a daily basis (most of my energy to truly care has waned again), I honestly haven’t given a lot of thought to the Teixeira drama until the past week when all of a sudden it somehow miraculously seems like they have a shot to sign him. As recently as a month ago, general manager Andy McPhail was telling most people that it was extremely doubtful that the O’s would be involved in the Tex Sweepstakes at all. And that’s when most thought he’d get “about” $100 million.

Now, at the 13th hour and a week before Christmas it appears as though Angelos has gotten personally involved in the bidding war – same as he did in New York that day when he spent $173 million on the franchise that he has summarily destroyed on the field and in the community (but not in his pocketbook, thanks to Bud Selig getting a rectal examination and the threat of a whopper lawsuit on the Washington territorial rights issue).

It’s all become very clear to me. This mating call with Scott Boras has all of the fingerprints of Peter Angelos and his intense will to get Teixeira in a orange uniform on Opening Day. And it’s not much different than when Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti “strongly recommended” to Ozzie Newsome that Joe Flacco needed to be a Raven eight months ago. Turns out, Bisciotti has made several good calls in 2008.

It’s not like Ozzie to want to deal up in the draft and give up picks on draft day. And it’s not like Andy McPhail to want to pay a first baseman $150 million or more over seven years. It’s almost against everything in his baseball DNA. McPhail, who was told 18 months ago to slash the payroll and save (and or make) the team more money by promising the populace “young talent” and “working through the draft” and “obtaining lots of young arms” and “building through the farm” (all his words, not mine), clearly understands the team’s ongoing public relations nightmare and lack of passion within the fan base. There’s nothing about signing Mark Teixeira – short of the price tag — that is a bad play for the Orioles in a short term “win back the people of Baltimore” ploy. It’s a good ploy, mind you. It’s the best thing the franchise can possibly do to say: “We’re trying and we care as much as you do!” (Even though I think answering questions from real journalists would be a distant second place.)

They have millions of excess dollars that they’ve pocketed over the past few years via their obscene MASN deal. They finally have some useful, young talent on the field (Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Luke Scott, Jeremy Guthrie and potentially Matt Wieters) to build around. And let’s be honest – when will the team EVER get a chance to sign a superstar player who grew up in Baltimore and actually remembers the greatness of the Orioles that we all are wondering if we will ever experience as a community again?

Angelos NEEDS to get Teixeira in an orange jersey before Christmas. At least HE feels he needs to and at no point does McPhail even appear to factor into the equation. And, honestly, Angelos is probably right.  He needs something to “make a splash” and it’s not signing more minor league free agents in March. Bringing in Teixeira shows that they’re serious about trying to win. And it’s been a little while since we could say that.

But that’s the just the Orioles side of the story. Hometown boy comes home, gets huge payday and…

Well, there’s a few ways this could go:

1. He’ll come here and the pitching will suck and the team will suck and the Yankees and Red Sox fans will continue to own Camden Yards 20 times per year. (This is the most likely short-term scenario with or without Teixeira.)

2. He’ll be part of a return to mediocrity and the team might squeak out an 81-win season in the first few years and maybe play a game in August that matters in the wild card race.

3. He’ll be the cornerstone of a baseball renaissance in Baltimore that will return the Orioles to perennial 90-win seasons, greatness and Camden Yards and downtown and the city of Baltimore will become electric in the summer of 2010 and the city will love the team like they love the Ravens.

* This is all assuming that he comes here and hits .300, mashes 35 homers per year and drives in 120 RBIs each season in any scenario. If they pay him $20 million a year this is a baseline expectation.

But that’s just a few possibilities from the Orioles’ perspective of what result they’re ultimately getting as an organization for buying a player who they’re paying TWICE as much as they’ve ever paid in the history of the organization for anyone. What’s Mark Teixeira really going to mean to the only two bottom lines that matter: winning and selling tickets? (Of course even THAT doesn’t matter too much when their Mickey Mouse television network is earning $100 million per year by just turning the lights on via the tax base civicly funding MASN.)

But what if you’re Mark Teixeira? What’s in it for him, besides getting richer?

As I wrote four days ago he’s getting wealthier (he’s already made $35 million playing baseball and he’s only 29) no matter where he goes and I believe it’s ultimately about happiness, the ability to win and perhaps somewhere the ego of “getting paid as much as you can” or being the “highest paid” this or that.

The four suitors – if there really are four suitors, with Boras who the hell knows what the truth is? – all have situations that I’m sure Teixeira and his bride and family could find palatable after he cashes his paycheck each week for $400,000 until he’s 37 years old.

The Red Sox, to me, are the first place he should start if winning and playing in a “real” baseball environment matter to him. He got his first taste of the postseason this year (and hit .467 no less) and that should be all he needs to know about the difference between playing out the string in the boiling heat of Arlington and being involved in something akin to fun and what he remembers about being an Orioles fan when he was 16. If you are a man of integrity involved in any competitive industry or athletic pursuit, there’s NOTHING ON EARTH better than winning. If you’re not serious about WINNING, then why the hell are you playing? (Oh, that’s right. The money…)

It sounds like his experience in Anaheim didn’t completely win his heart despite the fact that he was a “rented hat” for two months there. (And he “inherited” a pennant race in Southern California. He didn’t “earn” it, by and large.) If a full stadium, a winning tradition, a great manager, a great owner, Rally Monkeys, pretty girls in the stands and unlimited sunshine (think of those dreadful April and September games when it’s 45 degrees on the east coast) didn’t win him over this year then I don’t know what the heck he’d want in a Major League Baseball career. This is an outstanding place to make $150 million for any human being. You could make a case that it’s a BETTER option than Boston, if you’re wired a certain way.

The Nationals is a weird, twisted concept to me. If he wants to be “home” then that’s Baltimore. If Tex wants to win, there’s not much tradition or reason to believe that the Nats will become the UCLA of the N.L. East. Yeah, you get to live in Annapolis and play in a pretty ballpark with low expectations, but that’s a lot different than going to a winning franchise like the Angels or the Red Sox. And it still ain’t home.

And finally, the Orioles. Maybe Peter Angelos just will up the ante (like he used to in the “old” days of Chris Sabo and Albert Belle and Brady Anderson and well, you know the rest if you’re reading this…) and offer “the most money” if that’s his thing. And maybe Teixeira really can be convinced – and I don’t mean by money, I mean REALLY convinced in his soul — that the Orioles can be saved and he can be part of saving them by coming here and fulfilling his childhood destiny to be the “Cal Ripken” of this generation. (Even I can get emotional writing that because ANY of us could put ourselves in Teixeira’s shoes and squirm a little with this decision if we’re being truly honest.)

One thing is for sure – if he signs here it’s not because it was truly his best option. If Mark Teixeira really does sign up to play with this sham of a franchise (and it’s Siberia for any real free agent this side of Miguel Tejada over the last decade and anyone from Mike Mussina through Brian Roberts would have nothing good to say to recommend it as a “career” choice) then he is to be roundly applauded and supported because he’s CLEARLY doing it because of his heart WAAAAY more than his head or his wallet. If Teixeira is at The Warehouse wearing a “Baltimore” road gray sweater later this week at a press conference (one that I’ll no doubt be banned from asking any legitimate questions) it’s because he really DOES want to save this moribund franchise and pitch in to make Orioles baseball and the city of Baltimore fun again on summer nights.

And what could possibly be bad about that? And this is the ONLY way Peter Angelos can be given the “hero” treatment by the fans who’ve unwittingly lined his pockets via MASN through all of this mess while the city has rotted and decayed on summer nights downtown. And we all know Peter “The King” longs to be loved and short of winning a World Series, this is the best he’s gonna do in this lifetime. He CAN’T buy a World Series. But he CAN buy Mark Teixeira! I can just hear him crowing on MASN sitting on a couch with Roch Kubatko and Steve Melewski and in that goofy voice saying: “We… did what we needed to do… to restore the pride… to the Orioles!”

There’s only one hometown superstar of this generation. And Angelos has his sights on him. And he doesn’t like losing. (Witness his senseless feud with me and with WNST, people who truly LOVE the Orioles! It’s all about him “winning” — whatever that means? What good is it doing them to continue to be complete jerks in dealing with any legitimate media member who has questions about what is a publicly-funded, civic trust for profit that has gone awry? NO ONE wants the Orioles to be great more than WNST. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that.)

So where does Angelos’ personal kryptonite, Scott Boras, fit into this equation? That’s really hard to say given his propensity to pit egotistical and wealthy baseball owners against each other in bidding wars that are silly farces when most are reviewed years later. Where is Tom Hicks now? (He gave up on ARod and Texeira, which is the Boras Daily Double!) Does Boras really have a say here with Tex or a dog in the hunt, other than his commission on the transaction? Only time will tell…

Here are a few random observations on Teixeira:

1.    I’ve never met Teixeira but I’ve never heard anything glowing about his marketability or personality. As a matter of fact, he routinely eschewed any “hometown” press coverage on his first visits back to Camden Yards as a big leaguer. It’s not like he’s got a foundation here or a civic cause here or has ever even “appeared” here doing any worthwhile community endeavor that I know about. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here…but no one has ever called or written me with a story, picture, essay or ANYTHING involving Teixeira publicly or charitably in Baltimore.) If he walked through White Marsh Mall today for lunch I honestly don’t think anyone would recognize him. My point isn’t that he’s a “bad” guy. I don’t know a thing about him beyond what I’ve written about. But I do know he’s NOT Cal Ripken. No matter how much you pay him!

2.    He’s been traded TWICE so it’s not like any other franchise has found him  “irreplaceable.” Actually, it’s more like the opposite. I’m always skeptical when a team takes a player who has had Teixeira’s statistical prowess and decides, “Yeah, he’s OK but we’d rather have these OTHER player(s) instead in a trade.” That’s always a major red flag. The dude has raked at the plate. He’s a legitimate force offensively in the big leagues. And if he signs here, he’s on Team No. 4 and is only 29 years old and six years into his career. That really doesn’t sound like a “guy you build your franchise around” or break the bank for to me.

3.    Are the Orioles doing this to win or to sell tickets and get some mileage out of the marketability of a “Baltimore kid” in a “Baltimore uniform?” I’m really unsure of what Angelos’ intent is here. Sure, he’s a nice player and a good hitter but $20 million a year is a little obscene given the position he plays and the fact that I’m not sure there’s going to be a rush on season tickets because he’s an Oriole. That might be the case, but I’m skeptical that he’ll move the needle on ticket sales in any more than in a negligible way. Maybe the “we’re trying!” part of it will sell more goodwill than the actual numbers or W-L record Teixeira produces in the short term. As a matter of fact, I’m 100% sure Opening Day would be a “big deal” again this year (re: sellout) if they sign Teixeira on Thursday for $156 million. But is THAT worth $156 million?

4.    Bottom line: Couldn’t the Orioles spend that $20 million per year on pitching and truly have a better chance to win over the next 36 months? (I ask this rhetorically…I have no answer for this.)

Either way, Baltimore has a MUCH better chance to win if Teixeira comes than by having another Kevin Millar or Randy Milligan or David Segui or B.J. Surhoff playing first base. It’s certainly a major upgrade in that department. And it’s not my money. (Or maybe it IS our money with what these crooks are stealing via our Comcast bill every month and not utilizing on behalf of making the baseball team and the city better?)

It’s getting more and more interesting every day that this drags out. And it’ll be interesting to see the civic reaction and the Orioles’ reaction if he eschews his hometown team and leaves King Peter at the alter by signing with the Red Sox or the Nationals. Would that be unlike Scott Boras, pulling down the Emperor’s trousers with the ONE guy he HAD to get? And, no less, delivering him to Larry Lucchino up in Boston? Wouldn’t that be Boras’ “tea pah-tay.” (For a brief laugh, just click...)

We’re hearing that Angelos and the Orioles really think they’re going to get Teixeira. And that will make it all the more painful if they don’t get him. There’s a lot to digest here and a lot of risk. The Orioles just don’t offer $150 million to ANYONE. EVER! So, if this is legit, it’s a major foundational, tectonic shift.

The coolest part is that this is a major “Y” in the road for the franchise. One way or the other, Mark Teixeira is going to greatly affect Baltimore and its baseball future for years to come over the next week.

The Orioles always have the “fall back” position of painting Teixeira as a modern day Benedict Arnold if he “elects” to not sign in Baltimore after the Orioles made a “fair and reasonable market offer.” I can hear and see the somber McPhail at the podium now saying, “We did our best…We made him a generous offer and he elected to go to (City X).” Blah, blah, blah…

Keep the popcorn warm. This is getting good!

The Orioles have lit a spark just by “being involved.” (Hey, we’re TALKING and WRITING and THINKING about them during a week when the purple guys with helmets are playing for their playoff lives…)

But who’s zooming who and who is serious? And where will Teixeira sign? And for how much? And what wild stories are going to unearth afterward when the “truth” is told. One bride. Three bridesmaids.

I think King Peter wants the white dress.

But who the heck knows?

Pass the butter…

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Caps Rally Late to Beat Carolina

Posted on 07 November 2008 by Ed Frankovic

For 57 minutes on Thursday night the Caps had one quality scoring chance after another yet had only one goal to show for it because either Carolina goalie Cam Ward made the save, the Caps shot hit the post or missed the net, or Washington squandered the opportunity by over passing from prime shooting position. Given the offensive futility it looked like the home team would lose yet another 2-1 game, however, Alexander Semin netted two goals on nifty passes from Alexander Ovechkin to give the Caps a thrilling 3-2 victory over Carolina in front of 17,874 at the Verizon Center Thursday night (including 57 people on the WNST Puck Bus). The winning goal came with just 10 seconds left in the contest so instead of being as many as six points back of the Canes the Caps now only trail Carolina by two points and have a game in hand on them in the Southeast Division. Washington is now 6-4-2 on the season.

Brent Johnson once again was superb for Washington in net, stopping 32 of 34 shots on the night. Washington also killed a two man disadvantage (63 seconds) for the second straight game thanks to some superb play by their defense (Jeff Schultz had a very good shift) and great goaltending by Johnson. This critical penalty kill came at the start of the third period with the Caps trailing 2-1.

As I predicted in my blog on Wednesday night this was a game that featured lots of scoring chances on both sides and the Caps were able to play more of their style of hockey. However, they continued to struggle to finish plays until the very end of the game. Nicklas Backstrom had his best game of the season, according to Coach Bruce Boudreau, and, because of an in game injury to Sergei Fedorov, he centered a line with Ovechkin and Semin in the third period. Fedorov had the first Washington goal and he, the Great #8, and Semin were dominant most of the evening. There is no definitive word on Fedorov’s injury yet but he only played two minutes in the third period and left the bench for the locker room with 6:33 to go in the contest. Backstrom’s much improved play is a very encouraging development.

Also joining the injury front on Thursday night was defensemen Shaone Morrisonn who reportedly injured a groin and did not play after the first period. According to Lisa Hillary of Comcast Sports Net both the Fedorov and Morrisonn injuries are day-to-day based on her discussion with Caps GM George McPhee. With the Caps playing the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on Saturday night you can expect Washington to call up a defensemen and Tyler Sloan seems the likely choice since he was brought up the last time the injury bug hit.

Notes: Brooks Laich, who was injured in the second period blocking a shot yet still managed to make a great play to get the puck out of the zone despite being in severe pain, returned after a brief stint on the bench and still played 18:25 on the evening. The Caps Donald Brashear scored a decision over Wade Brookbank in a first period fight. Oveckhin had three assists on the evening and looks ready to break out of his goal scoring drought. Boudreau did say after the game that when Ovechkin and Semin took a two minute plus shift in the second period that he thought he might not be able to play those guys together anymore.

Boudreau said after the game that he continues to get on his offensive players to shoot the puck and go for rebounds and not focus on beautiful passing plays saying those things “only occur two times a year.” Captain Chris Clark struggled again and played just 8:57 of ice time including only one shift in the third period. Viktor Kozlov was demoted to the fourth line tonight.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:

Tyler Sloan is injured and listed as day-to-day in Hershey so if a defensemen is to be called up by the Caps it will likely not be Sloan. Also, Sergei Fedorov was not listed on the injury report provided to the media this morning so if he is indeed healthy he will likely slide back to defense tomorrow night in place of Shaone Morrisonn thus negating any need to call up a defensemen from Hershey. Fedorov played very well at forward on Thursday night so Boudreau may prefer to call up a defensemen. Karl Alzner still costs too much against the cap to bring up from what I’ve been able to determine.

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Schmuckfest & the Fighting Phillies in the World Series

Posted on 17 October 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

So I’m home tonight after the Peter Schmuck roast (I worked “blue”…I was surprised by how many people don’t know what that term means but the FCC never allowed it and the Comedy Club did…it was a goof and Schmuck is a great guy), and I’m watching Pat Gillick, who was run out of Baltimore in disgrace right around the last time the Orioles didn’t suck.

Or least not suck as bad as my attempts at humor tonight. LOL.

So, while the Schmuckfest was a wonderful affair to benefit a nice cause, Cool Kids, it’s strange that roasting a guy who I know through baseball led me to stay up late to watch the Philadelphia Phillies go back to the World Series for the first time since 1993.

The Philadelphia Phillies are in the World Series.

Wow…

It’s been a strange week for me. We’re at the finish line to launching the new website and the images of everyone from John Steadman to Mike Fiorelli to a major tragedy we endured in our inner circle of friends last week, it’s been a wild week to turn 40.

Because everything significant in my life is marked by baseball, it’s just strange. I realized while talking to Mickey Cucchiella and Pete Eibner tonight that it was 25 years ago today that I drove to The Vet to see Game 4 of the World Series, Phillies vs. Orioles. I also told a guy today, whose birthday is today, that it’s Jim Palmer’s birthday today as well. By the way, Happy 63rd birthday to Cakes!

I went to that 1983 World Series Game 5 with my best pal, Kevin Eck (better know for “Ring Posts” at The Sun), a schoolmate named Kenny Andrews and my 10th grade English teacher, Miss Monday. Her adult name was Susan Monday and the last I heard she was doing morning AM news radio at The Big Talker WPHT 1210 in Filthy. She was a Phillies fan, even then. She was also one of my first interns in 1993 when I was doing sports radio on WWLG-AM 1360.

So, tonight I’ve been thinking about the old days of my love for the Phillies. And once Curt Schilling wound up there in 1992 (and there’s a long history there…just go read the book!), it was even more fun being a Phillies fan when Schilling left tickets for me and my son whenever we wanted to go to games.

Hell, I hope the Phillies win the World Series just for Miss Monday and anyone who stuck it out through Bill Giles bad days as an owner 10 years ago. It’s been a long time since Tug McGraw and the 1980 Phils “believed” and beat George Brett and hemorrhoids. The fans there and that ballpark deserve a chance at a championship. They’ve done a very, very nice job in Philadelphia lately with that baseball team. Utley, Howard, Hamels, Rollins – how do you root against these guys?

The Phillies were my favorite team as a kid – even moreso than the Orioles for a little while there when I had a twisted fascination with Veterans Stadium and artificial turf. They must be going crazy in Philadelphia tonight. I really wish I still loved baseball the way a few of my old baseball friends do.

Sadly, I kinda feel like the Orioles treatment of me, my business, my co-workers and the city in general (not to mention countless former employees I know) has made me not even care so much even about the Phillies any more.

I’ve moved on. I’m watching college football, hockey, the NFL, U.S. Soccer – all sorts of things. But, man, do I miss baseball. It’s just tragic, this loss of connection between the Orioles and Baltimore and here tonight is one more giant “F-U” from a guy who got back to the World Series with no help from Peter Angelos.

Pat Gillick, who not coincidentally was the general manager of the Orioles in 1996 and 1997 (if you can remember that far back) and the Blue Jays the entire time they were kicking our asses in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But no one here even writes about that stuff anymore.

Gillick is back in the World Series.

Even Davey Lopes, who I knew very well back during the summer when O.J. Simpson was on trial, is back in the World Series with the Phillies. He watched the trial in the clubhouse every day and was a fun guy to talk to and I rooted for him when he was the Milwaukee Brewers coach because he was a good, smart, decent guy.

I’m watching Joe Torre give his concession speech. He’s such a class act.

I’m not going to Philadelphia this week. Or at least I don’t think I am. I wish had “the fever” but I don’t. Who knows? Maybe I’ll wind up on the field there next week?

But the postseason has been a little boring this week. The Red Sox are getting killed (which isn’t hurting my feelings) but there’s been very little drama outside of the shot heard ‘round the Ravine – that blast by Matt Stairs (who was also always a phenomenal guy back in the days when the Orioles let me have a press pass – I had Stairs on the show many times. Good dude! Easy to root for…)

I’ll probably root for the Rays if they beat the Phillies, simply because my friend Rick Vaughn is the P.R. direction.

But I grew up such a looney, zany, wacky Phillies fan that it’s just sort of weird. And made weirder by the fact that we barely feel like we have a team here anymore. Like the Baltimore Orioles don’t even count. It’s just surreal and I hope one day movements like Free The Birds will change that.

But the last I checked, Angelos just got a check for $124 million from Comcast for MASN this year. And the team (or teams if you count the Washington Nationals) sucks.

This is just my two cents at midnight while I remember the celebration at The Vet in 1993 with Mitch Williams, Danny Jackson ripping his shirt off and a young Curt Schilling and an old Dutch Daulton. I went to every game of the 1993 World Series. It was magical. John Kruk, Rickey Henderson, long drives, that Joe Carter home run landed almost at my feet in the Skydome – I remember EVERYTHING, even the girl I went to Toronto with that weekend for Game 6 and my buddies who rolled overnight and almost hit deer on the road in upstate New York for Games 1 and 2. I remember the 35 run game. I remember the Madonna concert across the street. I remember doing my little radio show from the field.

I was so in love with baseball that I drove back and forth to Toronto both weekends to go to the game.

Now, the Series is 90 miles away. I don’t have tickets. I haven’t applied for a press pass. And I might not even go.

It sucks what the Orioles have done here. It really does.

And it feels like it never ends.

I’m 40 now (thanks to all for the well wishes).

I hope that I’m not 50 and 20 years of baseball, friendship, civic fun and the bonding is still not a stranger to me and to Baltimore. It’s just a crime, having to watch all of the joy of baseball from outside the fences.

I wish everyone in Philadelphia a great ride with a World Series team full of seemingly decent, honorable guys. Ryan Howard seems like a classy dude. Cole Hamels has a funny voice but must be the hottest property with the ladies since Chase Utley. And Jimmy Rollins did my show several times back in the days of Sporting News and was a super good guy.

Good for Charlie Manuel and the Fightin’ Phils.

Let’s see where the ALCS lands tomorrow night.

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Harbaugh and Hockey

Posted on 13 September 2008 by Ed Frankovic

Harbaugh Making a Stand?

So I caught some sports news tonight on Comcast and John Harbaugh stormed off from the media to end his daily press conference this afternoon out at 1 Winning Drive. It appears that the constant questions about who is playing and who is hurt are getting to our new head coach. In Harbaugh’s defense he has been consistent in not answering these questions at all and has stated so to members of the media, from what I’ve seen and heard. Personally, I think it is a GREAT decision by Harbaugh to keep mum on injuries and anything pertaining to who is playing where and how much. Giving out that information can hurt your competitive advantage. So I say kudos to Harbaugh for standing his ground and not discussing injuries or playing time or anything strategic ahead of time because it can help the Ravens against their upcoming opponents. I rarely see Bill Belichick discussing injuries and that has worked for New England as well (of course some guy named Brady doesn’t hurt to have on your side either). So as fans of the team are you okay with Harbaugh not discussing these things? Can you live with the lack of information and uncertainty on various players in a football crazed town? I certainly am and have no problem with him drawing a line in the sand with the local press. After all, he is getting paid to win games, not be nice with the media, right Mr. Bisciotti?

Hockey Talk and Season Coming Soon

To all of you hockey starved fans out there, hang in there, training camp starts up next week with the first part of each teams’ camps focused on the rookies and young prospects. The veterans start skating officially later next week (although many Caps are in town skating at Kettler Iceplex daily already, and in case you hadn’t heard Nicklas Backstrom sprained his ankle Thursday and will likely miss at least some of camp). If you have access to the NHL network they are showing many of the NHL rookie games this week each night so tune in to get your first look at some future NHLers. Also, the Caps rookies will be playing the Flyers rookies at 3pm at Kettler Iceplex on Thursday, September 18th. I plan on attending and providing some information on how the young guys are developing as well as any info I can pick up about the big club. The Caps open their regular season Friday, October 10 in Atlanta and are home the next night against the Chicago Blackhawks at 7pm. I expect the Caps to have lots of sellouts this year so get your tickets while you can.

Other hockey tidbits: The Blackhawks have traded former Caps forward Robert Lang to the Montreal Canadiens for a second round draft pick in the 2010 draft…Tampa Bay forward Vincent Lecavalier, who hurt his shoulder in the last Lightning game against the Caps last season, says he will miss the first four Tampa preseason games but will return for the final two games…Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes signed a seven year, $58M deal with the club on Thursday, September 11.

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Joe Flacco joins WNST as a blogger and weekly Tuesday guest

Posted on 02 September 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Even though we didn’t know he’d be the starting quarterback this Sunday, we’ve known for quite some time that Ravens rookie quarterback Joe Flacco would be in our starting lineup at WNST.

Beginning this morning at 8:30 a.m., Flacco will appear each Tuesday morning on the Comcast Morning Show with Drew Forrester. His segment will appear live on WNST-AM 1570 and be heard again in our audio vault on demand. He will also write a blog each Friday, one we’re dubbing “Joe Fridays.” We might even be texting out his three keys to the game on Fridays as well.

The best part about this arrangement?

We won’t have to guess what he’s thinking about all of this rookie stuff, being the starting quarterback (or even the backup) or how he’s handling Baltimore’s expectations. Now, we can just ask him and give it to you in his words.

I’ve had the good fortune to get to know Joe and his family over the past few months and I really hope he has the kind of success that we want him to have in Baltimore. He’s a nice, polite, quiet kid who seems like being an athlete and an NFL quarterback comes naturally to him. He reminds me of former Orioles ace, Mike Mussina: just let me do my job and I’ll get it done.

I don’t think he’ll be dating celebrity actresses or be caught out on the town very often. He seems, in a good way, to be kinda wrapped up in this football thing.

With Joe Flacco, I think we’ll get nothing too fancy. Nothing boastful or ostentatious. Just the facts, like the real Joe Friday himself from Dragnet.

So, make sure you check out WNST on Tuesdays and Fridays – or anytime, really. The podcasts and the blogs are available around the clock.

Joe Flacco will tell you what’s on his mind at WNST.

And then you can tell us what you’re thinking in the comments below.

More major announcements regarding WNST’s future are coming soon.

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Random Sunday evening thoughts

Posted on 14 April 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some thoughts from the weekend:
  • The Orioles bullpen let them down a couple of times this road trip. It is hard to stay competitive when you go 2-4 on a road trip. This is the same bullpen that one of the veterans was verbally attacking a member of the media last week.
 
  • This week will be a tall task for the Orioles at home with the Blue Jays, White Sox, and Yankees coming to town, enjoy first place while it last.
 
 
  • If you do not have the baseball package on Comcast you need to call them and get it. I enjoy watching baseball and have followed the Diamondbacks this year as I think they have a very good chance of making the World Series. One of the other reasons I enjoy the D-Back game is because Mark Grace calls the games for them and he is absolutely a joy to listen to. He is a guy that you can tell is just having fun and enjoys the game; he does not have to tell a personal story about every single pitch during the game.
 
  • Speaking of Mark Grace, he is eligible for the baseball Hall of Fame this year. I am partial because he was my baseball idol growing up, but look at these numbers and tell me he is not a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame. He has the most hits of the 90’s and doubles of the 90’s. I think because of all the problems and questions that have become of the “Steroid Era” that will greatly help the chances of a guy like Grace getting in.
 
 
  • While spending my usual hour a day on myspace, I came across a video of Art Donovan on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I have always enjoyed the couple of times that I have gotten to speak with Art Donovan, he is a guy that always makes you laugh and have a smile on your face.
 
  • I will not link to it, but there is a video making its rounds on the internet of a comment David Cone made during the Yankees vs Royals game. Just search youtube for David Cone, and I am pretty sure you will find it.
 
 
  • There have been some amazing dunks in basketball, but I saw a video of this dunk and can honestly say I have never seen it before.
 
  • This week draft talk will pick up as the Ravens have their pre draft luncheon this week. You can usually get some tidbits of information, but don’t hold your breathe if you are expecting Ozzie Newsome to come out and say who they are drafting.
 
 
  • What number do you think Matt Ryan will take?
 
  • Ravens also will have a camp the end of this week as they start to prepare for the upcoming season.
 
 
  • Back with more tomorrow and this week as the Orioles are at home all week, the Ravens draft luncheon, Ravens practice, and most important, my son’s first t-ball practice.
 
  • Real quick, congratulation to my friend Brian and all of the guys and girl, who competed this week in the Renzo Gracie Invitational up in New York. I know Brian took home 1st place in his division, I guess it is all those days of roughing me up paying off for him. I think this speaks volumes for the type of competitors that John Rallo and his instructors turn out over at Ground Control.

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From the ballpark

Posted on 02 April 2008 by caseywillett

Daniel Cabrera will take the mound tonight for the O’s looking to improve on his bad ‘07 season where he finished 9-18. Daniel has never lost to the artist formerly known as the Devil Rays (6-0 in his career).Manager Dave Trembely had some interesting comments about Daniel that you can listen to in the Toyotaliveweb audio vault to your right. One interesting thing that the manager kept going back to was that Daniel has to slow the game down in his mind.
 
Opposing Daniel is Matt Garza who the Rays acquired from the Twins for Delmon Young and others this offseason. Garza is thought to be a solid young pitcher the Rays can build around. Garza won his first major league game here in Aug 23 2006 when he was a member of the Twins. He is 3- 0 life time against the Orioles.
 
Here are some other pre game thoughts from the ballpark:
          Trembley said that Matt Albers would be available to pitch tonight if he needed to, and added that he would like to get George Sherill and Jamie Walker in a game before to long.
          Trembley was asked about the interference call on Mora on Monday’s game. Trembley said the biggest issue was that the pitch was a ball, but did admit that Melvin should have waited for the ump to call before leaving the batters box
          Brandon Fahey, Luis Hernandezm Adam Jones, and Guillermo Quiroz, all took early fielding practice today.
          Manger Dave Trembley said that his off day was spent shopping, moving, and watching baseball all night. He added that he ordered the MLB package so he can watch all the games. (You to can order the MLB package by calling 1-800- Comcast. You will be able to watch the first week of the season for free.)
          Several of the players spoke about the fact of being able to get into a routine today with the Opening Day festivities behind them.

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Orioles, Free baseball on Comcast, and World Series Prediction

Posted on 29 March 2008 by caseywillett

So after watching Fanfest today, then watching the Cubs and Mariners play, and getting ready to watch the Orioles and Nationals play down in DC, it has been a good baseball day. I am excited for opening day. I will be spending some time with the Orioles tomorrow talking to players and coaches, and then get ready for the opener against the Rays.
 
It will be interesting to see who is on the team tomorrow. There is some debate as to whether Jay Gibbons or Scott Moore will be with the team. I am going to go out on a limb and say Moore, I think he is more versatile and more of a fit for this team going forward. The O’s honestly just need to say that the contract with Jay was a mistake and that he does not fit into the plan of this organization moving forward.
 
Speaking of baseball, Comcast is offering the MLB package free for the first week of the season so you can watch as many games as you like. I get the MLB package every year, one because I love baseball and two because I enjoy watching other teams. Whether it is the Cubs when they are not on WGN, or watching a former Orioles with a new team, like Erik Bedard this year or maybe Miguel, whatever the case may be. I will also enjoy watching the Diamondbacks play as I think they have a real shot to make it to the World Series. The MLB package is an absolute most have for any baseball fan. There are many nights when I get home from the ballpark at 11pm or later and catch some west coast baseball. So make sure to check it out all next week and I am telling you that you can not go wrong investing in it.
 
So here is who I think will be playing in the World Series: Boston vs Chicago. Red Sox are loaded offensively and although they will miss Schilling for a little while, they have enough offense to get over it. Tigers- I think the bullpen will cost them crucial games. They have one of if not the best hitting lineups in all of baseball, but the backend of pitching staff will be an issue.
 
In the NL I like the Cubs, mainly because I have been a Cubs fan all my life. Mark Grace was my favorite baseball player growing up. I bat left handed and play first base so he was a guy I wanted to be like, I even always had to have #17 because of him. The first three baseball player autographs I ever got were Mark Grace, Jerome Walton, and Lee Smith. Actually I think Lee Smith is a big part of the reason I was a Cubs fan, because he was a friend of my Uncle’s so I got to meet him and started liking the Cubs. So I always want them to make the World Series. My alternate pick would be the Arizona Diamondbacks who are a young team with a lot of talent.
 
Of course knowing my luck it will be the Pirates and Royals playing in the World Series…

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Orioles continue ban on free speech in Baltimore

Posted on 10 April 2007 by Nestor Aparicio

So who is it gonna be next week? Or next year?

Scott Garceau? Peter Schmuck? Steve Davis?

Who’s next?

So it seems, these days only Fred Manfra, Jim Hunter and Tom
Davis — those bastions of journalistic integrity and fellow MASN employees —
are safe.

Maybe that’s the question the rest of the local and national
media should be asking.

Who’s next?

Who will be the next person to show up at a sporting event
— after spending nearly a quarter of a century in press boxes all around the
continent in virtually every sport imaginable, it’s all I’ve ever done to feed
my family since 1984 — only to be turned away by management for being too
critical of the team?

Having been an accredited media member for the totality of
my career, I have never heard of such a thing, nor has anyone in my industry,
until yesterday when I was denied entrance to Camden Yards.

To have some young PR flunky in a tie meet me at the front
door and say: “No thanks, the owner is not only not taking questions from
the fans or the media, but he is now no longer making his team available to
you, so you can’t won’t be able to ask THEM or the coaches any more questions
either!”

But that’s not gonna be a big problem for most members of my
chosen profession, who when they really put their heads on the pillow at night,
have to really, deep down in their souls, question the nonsense they say and
the truths that they protect to keep their jobs.

That’s what it’s come down to for so many people you see on
TV and hear on the radio. They are being systematically told what side of the
fence they will be on by the business deal their bosses strike. If you work at
WJZ, WJFK, WHFS or anywhere in the CBS family, you must preach that the Orioles
walk on water and your work on the air must reflect that in every reference.

If you work anywhere else, you get to mumble under your
breath about how bad the Orioles are at just about everything they do, but as
long as their ads appear on your station sales log or in your newspaper, your
criticism will be faint and your praise will be convincing.

I know nearly all of these people — the Baltimore media —
some better than others. And, some care for me, some don’t. I get that I’m not
going to be the “belle of the ball” in that circle of people,
partially because I compete with them for news, information and a piece of a
financial pie, but mostly because I have been critical of them at some point.

So, I’m honestly not expecting much of anybody to run to my
defense over having my press credentials stripped after 23 years.

Well, today is the day I boil over, because every single one
of them KNOWS I’m right on this issue. Even the ones who hate me know I’m right
because freedom of speech is ALWAYS right.

Being from Dundalk, my “b.s.” barometer has a keen
sense of smell. And it’s almost comical to me that anyone would ever consider
listening to some of our “competitors” and portend their integrity,
especially in light of their dalliances with Angelos and the Orioles.

Let’s take them one at a time…

CBS and Infinity…and whatever they’re calling whatever FM
signal they have this week…Jack…Jill…Anita? Who knows?

Last year they brought in a woman from Miami who is famous
for playing football and posing naked in magazines. She seems like a nice lady.
They call her a sports talk show host, but she almost never takes a call, knows
very little about sports if you’re measuring her against anyone who really
does, and always has a trusty “sidekick” lined up to help her limp
through the hours.

Watching her with Kirk McEwen last week had virtually every
employee at my radio station glued to MASN. We saw the train was about to wreck
and we were taking bets via text to see where on the track it would make
impact!

Ms. Marks’ boss, Bob Phillips, thinks people want to listen
to this. Peter Angelos, or maybe it’s John Angelos, (since apparently he’s
running MASN as well as the Orioles media relations department) think people
want to watch it — followed by Hawaiian League Baseball and painful highlights
of Orioles games that mattered from long before they systematically destroyed
the franchise over the last decade.

Speaking of CBS Radio, how about my man Damon Yaffe — a guy
who hates me for some reason, but I barely even know him — who happens to be a
real Baltimorean. So, like me, he RAILED and I mean RAILED against Peter
Angelos until two things happened.

  1. I led
    the walkout in September. He couldn’t stand that — probably because it
    was my idea — although much of what he’s said about Peter Angelos has
    been far more severe than anything I’ve said lately. But for the record,
    he was right, too!
  2. His
    boss, again, a guy named Bob Philips, went to lunch and decided to do
    business with Mr. Angelos.

And we all know what doing business with Peter means: he
runs the show!

Alas, the Bulldog was muzzled. And that’s as wrong as
telling me I’m not allowed to ask questions to baseball players after spending
my entire professional life building a reputation and relationships and a radio
station to do so.

Funny, too, how cozy everyone up on TV Hill at Ch. 13 have
gotten with the Orioles now that they’re all hoping to print money together.
Don and Marty have started bleeding orange and black in the morning. All day
long, every newscast — it’s happy, happy, joy, joy about the baseball team and
MASN.

Look everybody’s gotta turn a buck, but geez, can’t we find
a shred of honesty and/or journalistic integrity anywhere about what’s happened
to the franchise on the field and off, and the resulting effect on the downtown
marketplace and the reality of whose fault it is?

Yeah, it was all wine and roses at 3 p.m. yesterday, but
honestly, do you have any idea how empty that ballpark is going to be this
week!

When WJZ had an “exclusive” interview with Angelos
last year, some of the questions Denise Koch asked were almost laughable. But
it was just another example of what we’ve come to expect from the new-millenium
Orioles.

But that’s the only way you get to ask the owner (or
similarly now, the entire organization) any questions: if Angelos can make
money on the deal while he writes the script with the questions. He is
literally trying to own all coverage of the Orioles and make his spin the
“only” spin.

Just yesterday, he ostensibly told me to watch the game on
MASN and whatever they said is what I should believe about what’s going on with
the Orioles.

What’s really comical and transparent is watching WBAL Radio
squirm and whine over receiving the same shoddy treatment I’ve been receiving
for years. Steve Davis is livid all of a sudden about the Orioles. They are the
same team and organization that he was paid and encouraged to defend the past
few summers.

I find it rich with irony that the nanosecond that WBAL
stopped making any money off of the Orioles, they quickly became insolent about
the franchise’s behavior, but when it served their purpose, every horrible
thing they’ve done since firing Jon Miller was always given a solid and
convincing defense. How about last September’s “Free The Birds” rally
that blared on their airwaves for a solid hour without ever garnering a mention
on their airwaves? Where’s the truth in journalism there?

The real lamb in this fight, believe it or not, is the
biggest company — Comcast and their Sports Net. Their employees were given a
folding chair in the back of the press box yesterday, and were initially denied
clubhouse access.

Comcast Sports Net marched in line as a pretty decent
“partner” with Angelos until they didn’t serve his purpose anymore
and he smelled more money via the Washington Nationals. He threw Comcast and the
Nats and their fans under the bus, stirred up a ridiculous lawsuit, parted ways
in a nasty spat and STILL got $650 million thrown in on the way out of the
deal.

Comcast has passed that bill on to me.

So, we, the customers are stuck with lo-def baseball (the
Orioles are the only team on the planet whose games aren’t in HD) and people
over at MASN with a vendetta for everything Comcast, weakening their coverage.

The Orioles are forever preaching a “new season.”
Yesterday they got one. I wanted to come back into the ballpark, attempt to
“reconnect” with the Orioles, hang out on Opening Day and maybe ask
Sam Perlozzo a few questions in the post-game interview room — like I’ve done
a dozen times before.

This column should have been about a big win at home and my
memories of how great Opening Day always was the first 30 years of my life — a
rite passage for my Pop and me.

Not only was I denied access, but the Orioles media
relations department STILL hasn’t sent me ANY official word about our season
credentials — nothing! As I write this, I still have NO IDEA which of my guys
are in and which ones are getting in which ones aren’t.

They contacted Casey Willett via cellphone at
8:45 a.m. yesterday to tell him he had credentials…he believed ALL MORNING that
he WASN’T going to the game!

We had no confirmation of anything from anybody and still
don’t.

Well, the season is a day old and I’m locked out of the
ballpark and my attorneys will be left to piece that puzzle together this
morning. I can honestly see that nothing much besides the “bring your food
and drink to the park policy” has changed in the three years since I’ve
been gone — even though I think that’s a cool policy!

The Orioles, alas, are still as bush league as they’ve ever
been.

So who will be the next reporter banned from the ballpark?

If I’m gone for good — and I don’t fight — it’s not a matter of “if,”
it’s just a matter of “when.”

Because if after 23 years of being a media member they could
do it to me — and they did yesterday — then it can happen to anyone.

I sure hope all of my colleagues stay in line, roll me under
the bus and make Peter happy.

Making Peter happy saves jobs and credential privileges. I
wouldn’t want them to lose their jobs by telling the truth.

Luckily for me, I own the joint. I’m not going anywhere.

And I’ll just keep telling the truth.

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