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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

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I always had great Eck-spectations for my best pal and Dundalk wrestling hero Kevin Eck

Posted on 24 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been an emotional week for me on many levels with more big news forthcoming about WNST.net and its future, so please allow me a little space today to write a very personal blog that comes from the heart.

Kevin Eck – you probably know him as the “Ring Post” guy at The Baltimore Sun — has been in my life since 1979 and for large swaths of time we were as close as any brothers could be. We met at the Games store at Eastpoint Mall (remember that place?) at an autograph signing for Billy Smith. We also both met Al Bumbry, Scott McGregor, Mike Flanagan and Rich Dauer (his favorite) there on the north end of the mall during that “Magical” summer. I was a legitimate “mall rat” at Eastpoint Mall in the early 1980’s – PacMan, soaping the fountains, that sorta thing.

As Bruce Springsteen once wrote so eloquently in the E Street Band classic, Bobby Jean: “We liked the same music, we liked the same bands, we like the same clothes.” That could’ve been the story of Nestor and Kevin. Except we liked the same girls, baseball, football, basketball, rock bands and, of course, professional wrestling of the WWWF and the land of Bob Backlund and George “The Animal” Steele.

This isn’t just a story about my lifelong best pal from Holabird Junior High and Dundalk Senior High. It’s not just a media or journalist story.

It’s really about a kid from Dundalk who dreamed of working in professional wrestling and next week is embarking on a journey of a lifetime.

I can say with all of the conviction in my being that Kevin Eck ate, slept, talked, walked, learned, researched, watched, critiqued, worked in and worked out of nothing but the world of professional wrestling.

The genesis of our friendship wasn’t born of the Orioles or Colts or any rock music band like Rush — and they’re all closer to the heart of our friendship. The truth: Kevin was the only other WWWF wrestling aficionado and wrestling magazine nut when I was in the 7th grade. It was our special bond – a love of the squared circle and the work of Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, Greg Valentine and Andre The Giant.

So, this isn’t just about another “Dundalk boy did well” story, it’s more like a Willy Wonka kind of story with imagination .

Look, I could tell Kevin Eck stories all night. Chasing girls in the 8th grade. Attending every middle school and high school dance. Girlfriends, births, deaths, jobs, journalism, careers, wives…we’ve done it all.  Crazy weeks in Jamaica. Long weekends in Ocean City. All-night benders in Las Vegas and San Diego. You name it. World Series games, crazy cab rides that I chronicled in “Purple Reign” when Eck was the first person in Baltimore to hear the news that the Browns/Modells were moving their NFL franchise to Baltimore.

Eck and I have been around the world together and have shared our lives together. If you want to see a bunch of crazy old, embarrassing pictures I posted them all on my Facebook page here. Please feel free to fan me and I’ll try to make you laugh more often.

And there’s nothing better in life than when your friends do well. Nothing!

Especially when your oldest friends succeed and thrive and live their dreams.

Kevin Eck’s life and dream came full-circle and into the squared circle a few weeks ago when he accepted a job to work on the WWE creative team with Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Dusty Rhodes in Greenwich, Ct. He’s packing up his family and moving to take a job a lifetime at Titan Tower.

In baseball, we’d say he got the call to “go to the show.”

And this must be what it feels like when your brother or best friend or son makes his first big-league start.

You almost want to pinch yourself for them, you know?

Our lives and our career paths have followed a similar, strange path – we’ve worked directly in the same industry as competitors for the better part of two decades and somehow have managed to keep our friendship (and that’s not always easy with two fiery personalities).

I got a job at The News American in September 1984. He soon followed.

I got a job at The Evening Sun in January 1986. He soon followed at The Sun.

I left The Sun in January 1992. He left a few years later to go to work for Ted Turner and WCW as a magazine editor in the last 1990’s and was there during a turbulent corporate time when Vince McMahon’s then-WWF empire usurped the entire industry and my pal came back from Atlanta having to start his local journalism life all over again.

Because of his immense talent and deep depth of knowledge of local sports, Kevin got his job back on the editing desk at The Sun, right back in the sports department. He began writing his passion – a little blog called “Ring Posts” a few years ago and it quickly became a viral hit. (As I told him it would be…)

So many times I talk about expertise in journalism, integrity in reporting and fairness in news judgment and I’m proud to say Kevin Eck has all of that and has for the most part been a “behind the scenes” guy at The Sun, who never had a high profile beat but has been a rock star in his department on the high schools and the dirty work that so many don’t want to do in the journalism business — editing, planning, managing people.

He’s kind of like that lunch pail rock star football player – a Jarret Johnson, Kelly Gregg kinda underrated guy. But a guy you’d never want to lose. And he’ll be the first guy in the clubhouse and the last to leave.

The Sun is taking a major hit losing a guy like Kevin Eck, especially given his deep knowledge of Baltimore sports, which I sadly never put to better use. I always thought Kevin would’ve been a star doing local sports talk radio and I told him that. But he already had a gig and one that both of us dreamed of having as kids, which is what took us into the newspaper business back in 1984.

We both watched “The Odd Couple” as kids and wanted to be Oscar Madison, truth be told.

Meanwhile, the WWE is getting a rock star – someone who is so dedicated to wrestling that it honestly baffled all of our friends, especially when it became apparent through his mom taping every single episode of every single match on VHS tapes for the better part of 25 years.

Kevin Eck has watched as much wrestling as Mel Kiper Jr. has watched college football tape.

Seriously…

This summer, as a hobby, I took it upon myself to work on one project outside of direct WNST sales and development business and that’s been collecting all of my pictures, memorabilia and boxes o’memories to use on my Facebook page and in an upcoming reality TV show I’m participating in with a friend. (I can’t tell you more about it until they let me.)

Two weeks ago, at the bottom of a box, I found this gem of a memory.

And even though it happened on July 25, 1981, I remember it pretty well. Kevin and I were crashing at his Mom’s house and we began working on a project to quietly unseat Vince McMahon from his kingdom by publishing our own Pro Wrestling magazine. We were gonna make millions with this partnership venture.

His mom Shirley, who has struggled with her health lately and was like a second mother to me, was the only person we knew who could type so she was our typesetter and we had to go to the library to make copies and we planned to sell them for 25 cents.

Kevin and I worked all night to make the inaugural (and only) edition of Wrestling, Inc. with Dusty Rhodes on the cover.

That was 30 years ago last month. I don’t think Kevin has missed a WWE wrestling match since 1981.

Other than Dave Meltzer and perhaps Alex Marvez, my pal Kevin Eck is as expert about all things professional wrestling as anyone on the planet outside of Vince McMahon himself.

There’s not much Kevin Eck doesn’t know about pro wrestling, except now he’ll be on the inside of the WWE kingdom helping put on the show and make it better.

He’s off to the WWE to make a difference to follow his dream.

He loved The Baltimore Sun. He loves Baltimore sports and has quietly dedicated his life to it the way I did.

I was the loud boisterous pal. He was always the quiet one in the shadows.

I traveled the world, got syndicated, did my thing and he was always so supportive – like a brother – through all of my victories and challenges.

Kevin did the family thing, came back home to Baltimore to be a factor at his dream job in The Sun sports department and now he’s gotten the job of a lifetime at WWE and one that he’s richly deserving of and one where he’ll thrive and be the best in the world.

You should follow him. You should root for him.

I’m so proud of him and so happy for him that I could explode.

I just wanted to brag on my pal, spread his great news and tell him “good luck” in the most public way that I can because I’m proud of how his hard work has paid off for him.

And I have a feeling I’ll be watching a lot more WWE and SmackDown in 2012 and pining away for the days of Lord Alfred Hayes and Captain Lou Albano.

And if somehow they could only bring Bruno Sammartino back into the ring for one night at the old Civic Center!

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Orioles circa 2010: We know they’ll lie, but will they lie down again?

Posted on 06 April 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

I know, I’m like a freaking broken record. Every year I write about how I’ve wrongfully had my media pass revoked and every year the Orioles make up some more lies to justify all of their mean-spiritedness and lack of professionalism. It’s Opening Day, I’ve again been deemed “not a media member” but that’s just the “off the field” stuff.

On the field, the word “improvement” has been thrown around all offseason in regard to the Orioles. As I’ve said many times, when you lose 98 games it’s hard NOT to improve the following season. It can’t get much worse, really.

As sickening as it is that I’ve taken a myriad of phone calls, emails and correspondence wondering “if the Orioles can win 78 games” – as though this disgracefully low bar somehow passes for “improvement” – I am officially one of the optimistic orange Kool Aid drinkers circa April 5th regarding the 2010 season.

It is my belief that this is the best team the Orioles have fielded this century. In 2004, the Orioles “best” performance was indeed 78 wins. Las Vegas has the 2010 Orioles over/under at 74 ½. If I were a betting man, I’d honestly take the “over” for the 2010 Orioles.

But this might be the year they finally prove they were right all along over these past 13 years of “rebuilding” and buying the bats and growing the arms.

Apparently, 78 wins will get a number of people here in Baltimore excited. At least that’s what people think until they realize that even that lofty “goal” would still be 25 games out of first place in AL East and the season would once again be effectively over right around June 20.

People have asked me every day for a month: “What do you think of the Orioles?”

My answer: “It begins with Kevin Millwood.”

Millwood is an unwitting victim of the wrong end of a big contract and the overlooking of putting Baltimore on his “not to visit” list when he inked his last contract in Texas. But, alas, he’s here now and needs to selfishly pitch well, even in MLB’s version of Siberia. He can set the tone with a big effort tonight in Tampa Bay.

It was different when guys like Scott Erickson and Sidney Ponson were poisoning the next generation of Erik Bedard’s with their antics of bush-league, lack of professionalism. Millwood needs to be the “anti-aging” Orioles starting pitcher. He needs to be more like Rick Sutcliffe and less like the aforementioned bunch of vermin who spread their foul temperament and antics through the franchise like baseball’s version of a clubhouse cancer.

I’m not sure what kind of guy Millwood is – and again, therein lies the Orioles ability to unlawfully deny me a chance to do my job after all of these years – but I hope he acclimates, pitches well and leads by example for kids like Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman, who seem like the real thing.

Matusz might win 15 games this year if he stays healthy. And while that certainly IS progress, it’s not really much different than what Rodrigo Lopez and Eric Bedard both did twice in orange en route to meaningless, forgettable seasons for the Orioles.

But, as stated before, I’m bullish on the Orioles in 2010 in regard to “progress.” I think they might be OK and quite competitive against teams not named New York and Boston — if pieces fall into place and if good health can be found.

If the starting pitching can get them to the 6th or 7th inning five nights a week, that will allow for a more rested bullpen and a real chance for .500.

I’m sold on Miguel Tejada as a relevant third baseman in the AL East. I think he’ll hit .300 and be an RBI machine like he’s always been. He might be 50 years old for all we know, but I think he’ll be the least of the Orioles concerns at this point in his career. He’s coming as a complimentary player not the leader and “franchise” guy he was counted on to be six years ago. His lies, transgressions and B-12 shots will not even be a factor this summer in Baltimore.

Of course, this would be a good year for SOMEONE to step up and be the REAL franchise player.

Is it Nick Markakis, who is quietly putting together a nice Orioles career?

Or could it be Adam Jones, whose Tweets are fun to follow when he’s not up all night in San Diego?

Or will it be Matt Wieters, whose hype seemed justified over the final two months of 2009 when it appeared he was ready to become a star?

At least there are several All Star Game candidates in orange this summer. It’s not another summer of David Segui, B.J. Surhoff and Gregg Zaun playing out their late 30′s at Camden Yards.

I’m not a Dave Trembley fan – the team tanked and quit down the stretch last year and each of those 98 losses were well-earned late last summer. Again, when the owner is the cheapest in the game and when Trembley will manage for 1/10th of what the best managers in MLB yield for a salary, I get what the team is doing.

They’re making money. They’re hoping these kids pan out and selling it to what’s left of a tortured fan base and using their media moles to “plant the seed” of hope. At least they can say they “were patient” while Andy MacPhail built what this cake turns out to be circa 2013, when it allegedly will mature. (They’re always two years away from competing with the Yankees and Red Sox, aren’t they?)

So, are the baby Birds ready to fly? Can the team be relevant enough to compete through the All Star break without falling 15 games behind Boston and/or New York?

We’ll see. But for the first time in a long time, they can legitimately threaten to be a .500 team if they stay healthy and have some key young prospects step up the way the insider pundits around the sport believe they will.

If Matusz is real?

If Wieters is real?

If Adam Jones can improve?

If Nick Markakis can remain consistent?

If Brian Roberts’ back can stay healthy?

If all of the young starters can get to the 7th inning with consistency?

If Tejada still has it?

And this is before we start projecting the likes of Jeremy Guthrie, Garrett Atkins, Luke Scott, Felix Pie and Nolan Reimond, who are all a literal box of chocolates. Does anyone really know what any of these guys will wind up doing come mid-summer? And what does anyone know about the bullpen, led by Mike Gonzalez?

Again – it’s the worst run franchise in professional sports. It’s not even close. That much has been borne out in living color over the past 13 summers. That will never change, even if Brooks Robinson is throwing out the first pitch on Friday. They are the worst group of people I’ve met in my 42 years on the planet — pure evil in their deeds, intents and actions.

But, perhaps this is the summer that all of their bloody deeds since 1997 are justified and they get people in Baltimore truly excited and energized about baseball.

If Tampa Bay could do it two years ago there’s no reason to believe the likes of Matusz, Wieters, Reimold, Bergesen, Tillman and company can’t step up to become very productive, young major leaguers and all hit their stride this summer.

It’s certainly a lot more possible than during the era of Omar Daal, Marty Cordova and Kevin Millar or any of the past sins of Peter Angelos’ ugly stewardship as the suddenly disappearing owner.

My real prediction: 78 wins.

I don’t think they can be above .500 with 54 games coming in the division against New York, Boston and Tampa Bay. But I think they will certainly be far better and more interesting on the field than we’ve seen here in Baltimore over the last 13 years.

But given the history, let’s all sip the orange Kool Aid one ounce at a time…

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Question of the day: Wizards vs. Capitals in Baltimore

Posted on 12 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Obviously, we have created a nice partnership with the Washington Capitals here at WNST.

They’re nice people. They really want to market Baltimore and bring their players and do events here. There’s even serious talk about a pre-season NHL game at the First Mariner Arena. And we have their coaches and players on and attempt to let people know that they have a good thing going on in D.C. with their hockey team and Baltimore is “invited.”

Recently, Dave Hughes, who has a nice local media site called DCRTV, asked me two questions.

1. What is the popularity of the Caps and Wizards in Baltimore?

2. Will Balto ever get a hockey/basketball team?

This is what I wrote to him:

Baltimore will never get an NHL or NBA team. There are territorial rights issues that would be more complex than the Orioles/Nationals/Expos/MASN/MLB.

Plus, it doesn’t have the industry or fan base to support those prices for 40 dates.

Plus the Arena won’t be built of that fashion (18-22K seats)…

The Caps are quickly gaining popularity in Baltimore. We do soldout bus trips to Caps games. We’ve done full bars for playoff games at Silver Spring Mining Company in Hunt Valley and White Marsh. It also helps that several people in my company love hockey.

I covered hockey for The News American and The Evening Sun. It was my primary beat, covering the Skipjacks and the Capitals. So I have a long history with the sport and the organization dating back to Bryan and Terry Murray and David Poile. I’m still friends with Barry Trotz and Gene Ubriaco, who was my first coach on a beat. (I’m writing an homage to him for Thanksgiving and having dinner with him! He’s coming back to Baltimore for holiday!)

The Caps are a winner, have a great product, the best player in the sport and a marketing team that is reaching out to Baltimore after 37 years. That’s pretty cool.

The Wizards are a bad team.

I don’t hear much about them. The do zero to market in Baltimore. They took the Bullets name away. The took the handful of games they had in Baltimore away 12 years ago.

Not “killing” them, but really…what the last thing they ever did for anyone in Baltimore to say: “Please be a Wizards fan. We want you!”

Nothing I’ve ever heard of…

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And the Orioles continue South with more “neighborly” love for Sarasota…

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And the Orioles continue South with more “neighborly” love for Sarasota…

Posted on 31 October 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I just got pinged by a friend who tells me that WBAL slipped out a quiet report a few days ago that the Orioles have again made one of their more outlandish moves of 2009. (And that’s saying something, when you consider the kind of season they slept-walked through this summer.)

Remember a few years ago, when Angelos and the boys set up camp in Farragut Square near their “Orioles Store” in downtown Washington, D.C., to feign interest in the market after holding it hostage for five years in exchange for the MASN TV rights that were supposed to buy the Orioles some semblance of respectful balance on the playing field in the AL East. That day — with a 7:05 game looming in another summer of distress — they shipped the entire roster on a bus down to a big city square and served free ice cream and hot dogs and soda to everyone in the park.

We, of course, opined that the Orioles have NEVER given away free hot dogs and ice cream in Baltimore. And Angelos’ true interest in D.C. extended about as far as how much he could extort out of Bud Selig and MLB, then Comcast, then pass it along to each and every one of you who pay a cable TV bill in the state of Maryland. Angelos is in your pocket for a few bucks a month and 90% of people in the Free State don’t even KNOW it.

The result: the Orioles lost 98 games this season, will spend nearly NOTHING on free agents this winter, Andy MacPhail will pocket a big “bonus” check for his role in the profiteering and Angelos and Co. will make upward of $40 million in profit this calendar year while continuing to eschew common decency toward its own community and heroes and continuing as the worst franchise in North American sports.

Now, after holding Fort Lauderdale up for well over a decade and playing a political shell game with half of the real estate from Orlando to the Florida Keys — at long last Sarasota, Florida is getting the Orioles for spring training. I’m not sure if that’s considered “good fortune” or stupid politicians who will live to regret working with this ownership group, like everyone else in their wake.

Here’s a dream photo of what the project is supposed to look like at its finish:

So WBAL via an Orioles press release announced that an offseason “Fan Fest” will be held in two weeks in Florida with a bunch of Orioles players and dignitaries.

“In celebration of their new spring training home, the Baltimore Orioles will join with The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau to host Orioles Family FanFest-a free event for the entire community-at Ed Smith Stadium on Saturday, November 14 from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. The afternoon will feature autograph sessions with current and former Orioles players, Orioles giveaways, fan forums, a variety of kid-friendly family activities, including Kids Run the Bases, and a free hot dog and soda for every person in attendance.”

So, for all of about 250 people who might be interested in seeing the worst team in MLB over the past decade with the WORST reputation for hijacking Floridian communities in modern sports, come to their town to bring “civic spirit and cheer.”

Fact: there are a LOT of pissed off Sarasota residents that this deal was ever done and a lot of speculation about its merits in the community. The Orioles already have a problem before they dig dirt at Ed Smith Stadium. (Not to mention their reputation in their own community, which is apparent to everyone but the local “journalists” — or propagandists — who look the other way past the stench to draw a paycheck).

Maybe, the Orioles could ask that everyone brings a covered dish?

The report says that “Orioles Manager DAVE TREMBLEY, centerfielder and 2009 All-Star ADAM JONES, outfielder NOLAN REIMOLD, pitchers BRAD BERGESEN and JIM JOHNSON, and Hall of Fame pitcher and current MASN broadcaster JIM PALMER, are expected to attend the event. The Oriole Bird will also be on hand to greet families throughout the afternoon. Free parking will be available for all fans.”

Well, a little civic spirit might’ve been nice last Monday night here in their “branded hometown” of BALTIMORE when the most celebrated Oriole of all time was being honored for the final time of his life at the Meyerhoff and the franchise couldn’t find a way to get one single heartbeat to the event to speak on behalf of the current players and their respect for the brand and franchise that Brooks Robinson and his ilk built for our parents that’s now been left for dead by the Angelos family and this last 15 years of civic-hostage baseball.

Meanwhile, they’ve taken what formerly was a weekend-long, sold-out, line-down-Pratt-Street event in Baltimore known as “Fan Fest” (and before that, “Moonlight Madness”) and destroyed every ounce of goodwill guys like Brooks Robinson spent their entire adult lives dedicated to building and preserving and turned it into a half-assed, thrown-together “day before the season begins” chilly disaster that isn’t cheap, but somehow FEELS cheap. Like an “obligation” before the season begins…and the same refrains of “improvement.”

The team follows it up with disgraces from Aubrey Huff to the manager calling out the organization’s professionalism during a post-game press conference. And MASN shows goofy house ad after goody house ad. I’m glad the season ended just so I could regroup after seeing those two chicks trying to hit on the Oriole Bird six times a night for six months. And that’s BEFORE they lost 98 more games…

And the owner never shows his face, never spends money, never answers questions and the team never wins. And Red Sox and Yankees fans take over the city (and, once again, THIS is the biggest disgrace in the whole dreadful fiasco of the last 15 years — just disgraceful!). And the downtown business district — sorely in need of assistance — is left for dead except when half of the Northeast quadrant of the United States descends upon the Harbor for the routine of pinstripes and chowder.

Oh, and while Daniel Snyder is down the B/W Parkway banning signs and threatening the media and suing the fans, Angelos is here doing the same thing here and no one dares talks about or ask questions of any substance.

I wonder when Snyder will tell The Washington Post they no longer have media access. (But, apparently that wouldn’t happen because the NFL wouldn’t allow it.)

Shame, shame, shame…

I watched Bud Selig squirm in David Letterman’s chair the other night and it’s no wonder MLB is a damaged brand despite the innate greatness of the game of baseball, which has been decimated over the last 15 years since the strike in many ways (steroids, Hall of Fame, bad pitching, greedy owners, sleezy agents, difficult “heroes” like Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle and their ilk, All Star fiascos, Pete Rose, World Series games in November, etc.) but is printing money. Just like Angelos is here.

They’re all ringing the cash register so that justifies it all.

Just like MacPhail — a leading candidate in baseball’s collusion in the late 1980s and whose sole function as President of the Chicago Cubs was to field cheap baseball teams to make the Tribune money (yeah, that company once wasn’t in bankruptcy like they are on Calvert Street these days) for fans who were too drunk to care and who were addicted to Wrigley Field and lore of the loveble, fuzzy, loser Cubbies. The Cubs fans ACCEPTED losing a birthright and a way of life as MacPhail padded the pockets of the shareholders.

It’s all pretty well documented but here’s the worst-kept secret in Major League Baseball:

MacPhail is reading Selig’s cue cards for the direction of the game so as to be able to take the throne when Selig decides to walk away from his $18 million-a-year job. (We’ve written many times: Selig doesn’t own a computer, doesn’t have email and doesn’t have a Black Berry. Just take a second and THINK about that in 2009 if you’re the C.E.O. of of of the biggest brands in America?)

Think Andy MacPhail would be interested in an $18 million-a-year position in 2012? (Me too…)

But as we’ve pointed out many times, they have no shame. Or common sense or decency. But they DO know how to make money. And they do have anti-trust exemptions by our federal government that are so laughable it completely masks the corruption.

Just look at the product on the field here in Baltimore. And look at the empty stands. And the amount of “house ads” on MASN.

To STUPID people, they look “broke.” But they’re not. FAAAAAR from it!

And watch all of the “Confederate money” that MacPhail won’t be waving in free agency in a few weeks. All of sudden, they’re “building through the farm system” which is the code word for “pocketing the goodwill of the Maryland people.”

The REAL money is going in their pockets and no one sees it or talks about it or writes about. And more $$$ is about to come out of the pockets of the good people in Sarasota. Just wait. This will end badly. It always does.

Not a low blow, just a fact.

UPDATE: 1:01 — Searching the web, I found a wonderfully delusional blog here from a Sarasota newspaper columnist named Doug Fernandes:

We’re getting two renovated public assets that desperately need rehabbing, we’re getting the Orioles to pay for their operation and maintenance, we’re getting it funded primarily through tourism tax revenue, and we’re getting it far south of Baltimore’s original demand.

I don’t know about you, but I call that savvy negotiating. And to those who label the $31.2 million expenditure as too exorbitant amid this crummy economy, I respond thusly:

The economy will turn, it always has, and a far greater burden would have been the cost of losing spring training.

So it appears safe for stadium czar Pat Calhoon to begin purchasing gallon upon gallon of black and orange paint.”

We’ll see how “tourism dollars” equates in Sarasota. The Orioles can’t get people to come to BALTIMORE to see them for $1 on summer nights. How the hell are they gonna get fans to Sarasota in March? Mark my words: the crowds will be DOWN from Fort Lauderdale, and that’s really saying something…

Just take a look at the comments under this blog. People in Sarasota are apparently VERY up in arms about the $32 million sweetheart deal that Peter Angelos got from the good people of Florida.

One more city about to be held hostage…just wait and see!

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The indignity of 100 losses for the Orioles

Posted on 29 September 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Naturally, the Orioles theme of the offseason — after the firing of Dave Trembley at some point this Monday — will be “progress.” Isn’t that what Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey talk about after all of these losses, night after night?

Andy MacPhail (and after 2 1/2 seasons of this perpetually sinking ship that knows no depths, we might revert to Chicago’s theme of referring to him as “MacFail,” but that would be giving him too much credit) will preach youth and patience and the injuries to Brad Bergesen and Adam Jones derailing an otherwise promising campaign in 2009.

Brian Matusz is Mike Mussina. Matt Wieters is Joe Mauer. Adam Jones is the next Eddie Murray.

Blah, blah, blah.

Look at the standings. Look at the scoreboard. Look at the 11-game losing streak that they’re adding to every night with complete disasters coming out of the bullpen on a 24-hour cycle. (Oh, that’s right, you forgot they were even playing back around the time Route 140 opened toward Westminster on July 30th!)

I sat the at the bar at Piv’s Pub in Cockeysville last night in a sea of NFL watchers as the Orioles played on one little TV with no one watching them find a way to blow another game.

The Orioles are entering some very dangerous territory here this week: losing 100 games would almost surely convince even the most “bleeding orange” fan that this is not a franchise in the midst of a dramatic “Tampa Bay-like” turnaround.

Wouldn’t it?

Oh, that’s right: the people who STILL believe that the Orioles are “changing their ways” can NEVER be convinced that this civic disaster of a franchise is anything but:

A. Doing the right thing.
B. Changing for the better.
C. Going to the playoffs next year.

It’s too easy to pile on at times like these. With the Orioles, it’s always like shooting fish in a barrel to drop a steamer on them — usually on the field, but ALWAYS off the field.

When they lose 30-3. When one of their pitchers start headhunting. When they’re in the middle of an 11-game losing streak. When the bullpen is a band of arsonists. When steroids allegations come. When they ban free speech from the media. When they treat anyone with an IQ over 90 like a moron. When they tell 1,500 real Baltimore sports fans to “stay home.” When they say they want to promote goodwill and community loyalty while pissing on the biggest media entity on the internet in the city.

It just never ends, does it?

For those of you who hate me remember this: I can’t WAIT for the day when they stop giving “haters” like me this most obvious of material.

The ONLY thing that matters is winning. Because no matter how poorly they continue to treat people who want to help them, they really believe the floodgates will open with fans the nanosecond they go two games over .500.

But here’s the cold reality circa September 2009:

They’re 60-96. They have six games left.

They need to SPLIT the final six games to avoid triple digits losses for the season — and this would be the first time since 1988 that this has occurred and the lowest depth of the Peter Angelos era. (The Birds also went 54-100 in 1954.)

Can they avoid the supreme embarrassment of 100 losses?

I don’t know, but you’d think pride would take over at some point this week, wouldn’t you?

Guess we won’t be seeing those Dave Trembley MASN ads with him treating his wife poorly come next spring training, huh?

Bon Voyage, Dave. I’m sorry I never spoke to you but there was nothing I could’ve done to help your image or keep your job.

You were doomed from the start…

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Orioles continue to sink even lower than we thought possible

Posted on 20 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

As the biggest critic of Orioles ownership over the last decade, I’ve purposely refrained from being particularly hard on the team in 2009. Unfortunately for you, the WNST fans and true Baltimore sports lovers, they have me right where they want me. I’m back on the radio without a press pass to their games and no one is going to tune into my show if all I do is tell the truth, and bury them for their ineptitude, mean-spiritedness and general incompetence over the past dozen years for four hours every day.

And at this point, what do I have to lose? Short of them killing me, what do they have left to take away from me?

The team is awful (again), there is not an iota of pride remaining in being an Orioles fan and I’ve watched about 90% of the action this season and I’m here to tell you that it has NOT been a fun or memorable summer for baseball here in the land of pleasant living.

And really, telling the truth — see the paragraph above — is NOT what Baltimore wants to hear from me about the Orioles. It’s like a broken, freaking record — me bitching about the Orioles.

And, here in the summer of 2009, the truth hurts and this blog hurts!

At their current pace, the Orioles “defining moment” of 2009 might be their 100th loss sometime around October 1st and that would certainly speak volumes for where the organization stands in the MLB cosmos.

As every sports fan in Baltimore has uttered at some point since the turn of the century: “Thank God for the Ravens!” And anytime we even think about talking Orioles baseball at WNST, someone will send a nasty note over stating this: “Just forget about the Orioles and talk about the Ravens.”

Well, as I said three years ago during the Free The Birds campaign, I will not be letting Peter Angelos or any of his servants off the hook for this decade-and-a-half civic tragedy — the worst stretch of bizarre local ownership and strategy since Bob Irsay pilfered the Colts off in the middle of the night back in March 1984.

No, we’re not done with the Orioles. As Drew Forrester has said many times: “We’ll either kill them or fix them. It’s their choice.”

But this current dismal summer of dreadful baseball — in a season when “miracle-man” Andy MacPhail has talked about promise for young players — still has six weeks left on the schedule and there are no creampuffs left on the docket and there is no end to the bleeding in sight.

You can piss on me in the comments below all you want, but this current team they’re fielding might be the worst of them all on some nights because we all want to buy into some hope and promise for a better team in the future.

Here is your stat of the day: the Orioles were 40-48 at the All Star break, which is hardly acceptable or decent, although MASN’s lame coverage and “state run” media would tell you this was a team “on the rise.”

Now, the Orioles are 48-72, which means they’ve managed to go 8-24 since Adam Jones doffed the cap in St. Louis.

Folks, that’s .250 baseball and 32 games is about 20% of the season by my math. Of course, when you’ve already put up a legendary 4-32 a few years ago — and for now, we’ll just let the 1988 team off the hook because that had nothing to do with Peter Angelos or 2009 — somehow 8-24 doesn’t sound like it sucks so bad.

But it sucks. And this team sucks. And this ownership still sucks. And the broadcasts still suck. And MASN still sucks. And — once again — it’s another set of broken promises, lies and “come ons” about progress, youth, getting better and competing in the AL East.

And this was supposed to be the time of the season when the team starts to exhibit some signs of hope for the future and some momentum going into 2010?

What stat do you want me to throw at you? They’re 4-14 this month. They haven’t won in a week. They can’t score runs with the bases loaded and nobody out.

They’ve dealt away three veterans and gave Aubrey Huff away for nothing. Every night the team is behind it seems.

And I’m not really sure that any of these young players know how to win or are surrounded by any positive role models who’ve won. Gregg Zaun was the only guy with a ring and they gave him away, too.

Here’s where the orange Kool-Aid drinkers will say: What about Adam Jones? And Nolan Reimold? And the promise of Matt Wieters? Blah, blah, blah…I hope they all step up in 2010 or beyond and make me eat my words. But for now, we report the truth.

And here’s the truth:

The ownership group of this franchise has lied to the city for years about just about everything.

“We’re close” or “we’ll win next year” or “we have some exciting young players” all sounds like incoherent babble at this point. MacPhail has bragged about all of the pitching in the system with the likes of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta coming to “The Show” and making the Orioles competitive in the elite AL East division.

I’ve now seen them all. They all have some nice strengths but some glaring weaknesses. None of them have the hype of a Ben McDonald and if they’re all as good as he was the Orioles might sniff .500 at their zenith of this era. Pitching is never a sure thing in the majors. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that.

Ok, so now what happens? This offseason won’t be much different from any in the past. How can this team possibly get better or find talent outside the organization during the winter to compete in the AL East?

When does this team finally turn the corner and even feign some competitiveness that will lead them somewhere near a .500 record in the future?

When will the team be able to attract any top free agents to come to Baltimore and help the team compete with the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox?

Where’s that “veteran, straw who will stir the drink” that the Orioles will bring in to show some leadership?

Once they fire Dave Trembley, who will be the “next victim up” to try to get the Orioles out of the cellar?

When will the team stop banning free speech and allow the legitimate media back into the stadium to ask questions?

When will they stop running these stupid, mind-numbingly phony commercials on MASN that make the games all but unwatchable on top of a team that has been wretched over the past month?

When will residents of Boston and New York stop filling our city and our ballpark with out-of-town fans who boo and jeer young Orioles players from the moment they arrive?

It’s just a dreadful, dreadful product right now — the entire package of Orioles baseball. Going into September, I can’t remember a season worse than this because the promise of these young players from lips of MacPhail and the baseball “establishment” back in the spring was palpable.

We were supposed to feel better about the team at the end of the summer, not worse…

From going to the games to watching the games on TV to following the progress of the team even through the box scores and the standings every day — this really isn’t any fun.

It’s not fun to watch. It’s not fun to talk about. It’s not fun to listen to me on the radio talking about it.

Honestly, to any thinking person this is about the worst summer yet in a dozen horror shows since 1997.

But you don’t really want to hear that from me, do you?

They promised hope. They promised progress. They promised excitement.

They’re dangerously en route to playing the last two weeks of the season and not trying to hit triple digits in the loss column.

They made promises not only to you and me but also to Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, who were the latest to sign multi-year contracts here under the guise that the team would show progress and get competitive.

Of course, Jim Hunter will tell you every night that 8-24 is progress.

Obviously, from where we sit today, it just looks like the latest batch of lies from Angelos and his henchmen.

Orioles Baseball 2009 — Feel The Tragic!

Ooops. That’s right. I’m not supposed to criticize the home team, am I?

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As Trembley rolls under the losing orange bus, I’ll defend him…

Posted on 02 August 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Watching the post-game press conference with Dave Trembley today has been illuminating. The Orioles are really reeling. The pitchers gave up 23 hits today. They used six pitchers who gave up a collective 18 runs. Their No. 1 starter in the on the disabled list. Next up, they’re apparently bringing in their No. 1 prospect in the organization, Brian Matusz, for Tuesday night and the manager is taking massive heat.

Today they were beaten 18-10 and swept while nearly 100,000 Red Sox fans rolled into Camden Yards this weekend and booed his young players while they floundered.

Before the game, his all-but-washed up veteran and emotional third basemen rolled him under the bus in a pre-game tirade that will go down as legendary.

Melvin Mora went on and on about “respect.” It was about as bad of a thing as you could possibly do to a manager in the middle of a bad stretch.

But I can’t blame this mess on Dave Trembley at this point.

As a matter of fact, since I’ve called for some clarity on his situation a few weeks ago I’ve honestly been tremendously impressed with how he’s conducted himself publicly amidst the losing.

I almost feel sorry for him. But for some reason, he’s not as testy in his post-game press conferences and I’m actually learning a lot as a fan. He’s been honest, decent and even-keeled during this stretch showing patience and concern and sharing real information and real management skills publicly.

You learn a lot more about teams and players and people when teams lose. Everyone’s a helluva winner.

Right now, Trembley’s team is losing and he’s taking the heat with dignity and respect for the media and the fans.

He’s explaining things and doing it honestly. That’s all I can ask for.

Melvin Mora says he deserves more respect. In my opinion, Dave Trembley and the Orioles fans deserve more production.

Here are some of Dave Trembley’s post-game quotes from today:

“I’m just glad our guys didn’t quit. I’m real pleased about that. We didn’t pitch well. To say we didn’t pitch well is an understatement. It wasn’t our day. Had some great at bats. Ran the bases well. They hit the cover off it.

“We’ll get it figured out. I had to extend some guys today. Hendrickson threw 30 pitches last night, gets extended today.”

On Jason Berken: “It’s been hard on him. I’m sure it’s been real difficult situation for him. He’s stuck and we’ve gotta do something to get him out. He’s in neutral and we’ve got to help him.”

On today’s strike zone and the umpires: “I’ve been suspended and paid an awful lot of money. I’m not going to comment on that.”

Zaun: “Who wants to lose your catcher in the 3rd inning of a game? It was a quick trigger.”

On the losing and the poor play: “It’s a lot tougher for them than it is for me. They’re doing the best they can. They didn’t get it done. I’m sure they feel absolutely terrible.”

On Mora and whether they’ve reached an understanding: “I don’t know. I don’t talk through the press. Here’s where I’m coming from: You show up to the ballpark and expect to play. And you do the very best you can all the time. And if you don’t play, you stay prepared to play. It’s about the team and it’s never about one guy.

And all of you people are very sharp and know how we do things. I’m not going to talk through the newspaper or the TV.”

“You pull for your guys. You want them to do well.

“We’ve got a bunch of young guys here. Don’t let the performance and the bad numbers make you think that you don’t belong here or that you shouldn’t be here or you should take a step back. Learn from it and prepare to pitch in four or five days.

“They know what their stats are. They know their performance. They know it better than you and me. And they’re reminded of it constantly. We’ve got to do something to help Berken and try to do something in the best interest of the team.

“You do what’s in the best interest of that person and the team.”

ON THE ENTIRE MORA SITUATION, PRIOR TO THE GAME

“I’m disappointed that he feels that way,” Trembley said.

“Melvin’s been a very good player for a long time. We don’t show disrespect toward anybody.

“I don’t look at things from that side. I don’t look at things from the negative or bad side. I try to do what’s best for the team. I try to do what’s best for each individual, but for the team, as well.

“It’s too bad that people’s feelings are hurt or feel disrespected and all that. That has never been my intent. I’m going to do the best I can for the team. I’ve never taken that stance to be personal toward anybody, and I think everybody understands that.

“I’m trying to help people. I’m not trying to hurt anybody. If I give a guy a day off, guys who are up there in age, they’ve played a long time, guys who are struggling, I’m trying to help them. I’m not looking to hurt them.”

TODAY’S BOX SCORE

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Trembley suspended for comedy show in Seattle

Posted on 10 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

While I thought it was funny — Dave Trembley doing his best Piniella-Weaver tantrum in the first inning on Tuesday night in Seattle — apparently Bud Selig and the boys at the MLB office weren’t laughing. Today, Trembley was given a two-game suspension by the poobahs and will miss tonight and tomorrow night’s games at Camden Yards against Toronto.

Bench coach Dave Jauss will serve as acting manager for a few days and those who are “done” with Trembley will get their wish for at least a few days.

By the way, it’s kinda crazy they could suspend Trembley when he was RIGHT on the call.

But who says MLB is fair?

Apparently, the reason he was suspended wasn’t necessarily the outburst as much as admitting to the media afterward that he continued to manage the game from the bench.

Aren’t we in a silly era when they still “throw out” managers who we all know are managing by proxy somewhere?

Trembley apparently declined an invitation to sit in the press box tonight. I suppose he’ll manage by “text” from somewhere in the owner’s box with a shrimp cocktail, a crab cake on crackers and a tie on next to Andy McPhail. Getting suspended is a respite from the fray and as evidenced by the display below, that might not be a bad thing…

Anyway, here’s a funny video from Seattle shot by fans behind Trembley over the dugout…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTWFvLp4QVA[/youtube]

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Trembley tossed, Luke Scott muscles up as the “forgotten man”

Posted on 08 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

On a day when ESPN.com ran a gigantic story about the great future of the Orioles’ outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold, it was Luke Scott who looked the present tense in Seattle as he devoured Mariners’ pitching for three hits and seven RBIs last night at Safeco Field in a 12-4 win.

Dave Trembley got tossed in the first inning after a Scott double and apparently told Scott “hit one out for me” and Cool Hand Luke answered with the biggest game of his career and the biggest individual effort since Ramon Hernandez’s 7-RBI night in Seattle back in 2006.

The video of Trembley’s ejection is here. It almost looks like he was trying to “stir it up” and get thrown out early in this one, even though he was clearly right on the call. After Scott’s double, the throw from the outfield toward the plate nicked the pitcher’s mound and took a wild bounce into the stands at Safeco. The lead runner should’ve been awarded home but wasn’t. Trembley went nuts!

Meanwhile, starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was lifted in the 3rd inning with a bout of dizziness.

Here’s the full game story and box score at WNST.

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Ohhhhh what a comeback: Oriole Magic percolates at The Yard after the rain…

Posted on 30 June 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It isn’t hype to say that a miracle happened at Camden Yards tonight. It isn’t hyperbole to say that this was truly the greatest comeback in Orioles history. It really was.

I’m sure this morning many of you will awake to read this and say what most of the city (or the few who were watching to begin with will say): “They were losing 9-1 when the rain came. How the hell did they win that game?”

Well, the box score will tell you all about the comeback — an amazing display of perserverance that saw them get five runs in the 7th inning and five more in the 8th to overcome the Red Sox in an 11-10 win before a stunned contingent of mostly Red Sox fans, who stayed to celebrate what looked to be a rout at 10:45 p.m. after a lengthy and wet rain delay that came in the fifth inning.

In the 7th, Aubrey Huff, Nolan Reimold and Luke Scott heroics were all upstaged by Oscar Salazar’s big home run off of Hideki Okajima.

In the 8th, it was Nick Markakis’ big two-out shot off the left field wall that highlighted a firestorm offensive display against Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. Everyone got in on the act. They managed 13 hits and 10 runs in two innings against the best bullpen in the game and on a night when all but a handful of their fans walked out of the ballpark during a rain delay.

Afterward Dave Trembley said (without joy): “That’s about the best ballgame I’ve ever been involved in. You play all 27 outs. It was calm. But every time we scored it got a little bit more wild. I guess the word would be: believable. Very impressive.”

Well, for all of Trembley’s relative lack of enthusiasm, at least the MASN boys were in great spirits. Jim Hunter looked like he was going to pee himself. Rick Dempsey couldn’t stop smiling. The remaining Red Sox fans were looking for more cold beer. Jim Palmer looked stunned. Gary Thorne was screaming like it was Game 7 Avalanche-Red Wings on ESPN circa 1998. (I love Gary Thorne!)

Former Baltimore Sun writer David Steele commented on my Facebook thread with this amazing observation: With the biggest win in Orioles history “they quieted their own ballpark.”

That’s a scary thought — but it’s true. The more the comeback came, the fewer the people who were cheering in the stands in red shirts. There was one rowdy group of orange over the O’s dugout, the heartiest of hearty souls after 11 p.m. I’m sure they have some great stories to tell. MASN had one cutaway of a Red Sox fan jawwing with an O’s supporter in the box seats and it looked like a fight was about to throw down.

What a night! These crazy kids are so up and down it’s impossible to know what you’re getting. Lost in this amazing win will be the dreadful start of Rich Hill, who managed to give up 9 runs in less than four innings before the magical rain that changed the O’s fortunes tonight.

You gotta admit that what happened tonight takes a certain amount of chutzpah and stones. It was a comeback for the ages. Like Bills-Oilers. Or Maryland-Miami. Or Len Bias at the Dean Dome. (Or sadly, Duke-Maryland 2001!) That Flacco effort in Cleveland last year didn’t suck either.

It was memorable and hopeful. Like Jimmy V, these guys never gave up. You have to respect that. It makes them likable and heroic in many ways. The Markakis at bat could be a “defining moment.”

The Orioles and Sox have a quick turnaround. They play the cap of the three-game series at 1:35 p.m. with Josh Beckett facing Brad Bergesen.

11:26 p.m. — If you are watching the Orioles game right now, you’re one of the few lost souls who have returned. After trailing the Red Sox 9-1 when a brutal rainstorm entered the city early in the evening, the Orioles have come back in the “second half” and brutalized Boston pitching in various ways to take an amazing 11-10 lead in the 8th inning.

There appear to be about 10,000 Red Sox fans still in the ballpark and a handful of rowdy Orioles fans who are truly the last rats on the ship.

A longer blog will follow, but we’re up and we’re paying attention and we’re stunned in amazement at the greatest comeback in Orioles history.

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