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Dear John Vidalin: Welcome to Birdland where baseball ain’t great and beer ain’t so cold anymore

Posted on 08 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear John:

First, welcome to Baltimore. As I can see from all three of your LinkedIn profiles, you have spent a lot of time running the revenue parts of professional sports organizations all over the continent.

As we both know, it’s the dough that pays for the doughnuts – or the crab cakes in this case. So as the incoming Chief Operating Officer for Business Operations for the Baltimore Orioles, I’m gonna treat you the same way I treat Dick Cass up in Owings Mills. (And if I find out you gave a kidney to save someone’s life, you’ll get even better treatment, too!)

I’m the last of the local sports historians and media moguls around here – and the last one who doesn’t work for Peter or have to answer to the powers that be at MASN or around The Warehouse to dispense facts and information. So, with me you’ll get what my WNST business partner Brian Billick always called the “unfiltered information”– as opposed to the C.Y.A. nonsense and smoke being blown rectally from various parts of what’s left of the Baltimore Orioles brand upon your arrival.

By the way, I’m also the only media guy in Baltimore who loves hockey. And I even loved it before last month! I’m guessing 99 is a magic number in your life and part of the reason why you do this for a living. I hear you’re a nice guy. Calgary Flames. Time in the NFL, Houston and San Francisco, then Miami and the Heat after the chill of a post-Lebron world in the NBA.

All those situations, leagues, people, egos, money, sponsors, expectations – and then the hardest part – winning. And you’ll have nothing to do with that but as you learned along the way, it’ll have everything to do with what you do and your success here in Baltimore.

You were involved in the really awesome Colin Kaepernick and Jim Harbaugh parts of the San Francisco 49ers lore before the move from Candlestick to Santa Clara that literally wrecked the franchise. The losing certainly didn’t help what was a shaky proposition all the way around in moving to Levi’s Stadium – but you knew that. You also worked within a “unique” family dynamic there so I know you must be keenly aware of what you signed up for here. Plus, you spent some time with the Washington Caps before they found Alex Ovechkin, so you saw the Orioles demise up close before the Nationals ever existed in the DMV.

You were also part of the remnants of the post-Lebron craze in Miami so you know what it looks like after the party is over. Sports is tough sell down there where the girls are pretty and the beach eternally beckons. So is hockey, as you know, but I must say I was blown away by the brand of the Tampa Bay Lightning and #GoBoltsGo across the Everglades this spring in my travels.

And the Houston Texans have always had everything – a well-funded owner, fresh start, a built-in fan base, lots of money, people and mixed nationalities to market and sell stuff to and a great defense and stadium – but without a quarterback it’s been just another starving place waiting for the Astros or Rockets to come along and win. They might even finally have one in DeShaun Watson!

You run a sports franchise. You need stars. You need wins. You need someone and something to market beyond a cartoon bird, a beautiful stadium and a pricey afternoon or evening of lousy, fifth-place baseball.

I’ve watched it here with Cal Ripken and Ray Lewis. And Johnny Unitas and Bert Jones and Joe Flacco, and Eddie Murray and Ed Reed and Frank Robinson. Stars are stars for a reason. Stars create winning. Stars helps sell stuff. And then the spigot flows from there.

And when you lose, well…

You know.

Just look out that window in your new, spiffy office with that incredible sunset view on any night this summer when the gates are open for business and you’ll see what happens when a team has abandoned its fan base for a generation, is getting its ass kicked 38 miles to the south in an unwinnable war by a far more powerful and better-run baseball brand, and is in the middle of losing 100 games and giving away all of its players.

Welcome to Camden Yards, circa 2019!

You’re in charge of the biggest shitshow in town, John – the Baltimore Orioles!

A chance for a new start?

Or a career risk with plenty of warning signs and dark clouds?

Hey bro, you came from Miami! They’ve won two World Series in a climate conducive to baseball 365 days a year and still couldn’t figure out how to sell beisbol to my kinda people from Venezuela, Cuba and Latin America and a coast full of hibernating New Yorkers and New Englanders.

And you know why, right?

Oh, sure the stadium has been in the wrong place twice but the real reason no one on earth is a Marlins fan is because the owner was the biggest asshole in South Florida and every human being, every politician, every business owner, every fan – black, white and brown – knew it.

Even the manatees and alligators knew it.

He was a ruthless shark with zero regard for the fans or any emotional intelligence beyond the lies and trail of profit in bilking the community politicians, while raiding the tax kitty and sucking on the civic titty. It was a badge of honour for any South Florida sports fan to stay away from that shitty monstrosity out in the middle of nowhere anyone would ever want to be on a summer night in Miami.

I experienced it personally when I tried to swab a few people to save lives down there in 2015 on my MLB 30-30 #GiveASpit tour. The Marlins reputation as a terrible franchise preceded them and they managed to even be worse. Derek Jeter will be spending the next decade trying to find people who can love baseball in a blimp in South Florida. (But he’s got at least one guy in Baltimore who loved the painted girls in the pool at the Clevelander!)

Sure, laugh at them. You sold against them so you know they were a punchline on South Beach! And yet you probably have no idea how close Orioles fans came to having Jeffria Loria be our douchebag owner here in Baltimore. He finished a very close second place.

You can read the history of how your new boss beat out that guy for the kingdom of Baltimore Orioles baseball on a hot summer day in 1993 in The Peter Principles. 

All of your experiences in these mixed markets and various sports will serve you well now that you’ve made it to the dying, fourth American sports brand of baseball in a market that lacrosse has infiltrated as a primary sport like a bacteria on termites in the spring and summer calendar of affluent (and not so affluent) white people in the suburbs of your primary (and now pretty-much only) market.

This would be one of the great turnaround stories in modern times, as I pointed out to Louis and John in their #DearOrioles letter, if this franchise is playing meaningful baseball games in August and September anytime soon.

I would petition the mayor of Baltimore in 2028 to change the name of the Inner Harbor to “Loujon” if they pull off a Rocky Wirtz-style turnaround with the Orioles and we start having parades around here.

I’m pulling for you – even if I never get my legitimate press credential back, which I’ll get to – because what is good for the city is good for me. I’ve been waiting all of my adult life for the Baltimore Orioles to capture the imagination of the community. I’m no longer holding my breath – or words and truths – for a lot of reasons.

I like that you are a hill charger. I’ve liked every Canadian I’ve ever met. (Well, except for Denis Potvin. He still sucks!)

I, too, am a hill charger, a tower jumper and a wall climber. I am a dreamer. I have delusions of grandeur. You can ask, Peter Angelos!

I’ve been charging The Warehouse wall with facts and legitimate questions since it was erected. At some point it’ll fall like Berlin. But it can’t keep going the direction it’s going – older, emptier, poorer, worse, less attractive, more expensive, harder to access, easier to ignore – and survive long term in Baltimore.

You can’t reach for the ceiling if you don’t know where the floor is located. I can assure you that you are closer to the basement than the attic and gravity is winning. Losing on the field is going to be the least of your problems if you’re truly going to be “in charge” of the Baltimore Orioles.

Most people in every lonely cubicle in your new digs at The Warehouse will tell you I’m the village asshole ­and have been for 27 years – “the worst former media guy in Baltimore who still owns his own radio station, broadcasts all day and reaches 100,000 a week but nobody listens to him” – because I ask legitimate and fair questions and don’t like it when I’m lied to or ignored on behalf of the fans after three decades.

Mr. Angelos says I’m fake news.

He’s taken away my access to do what feeds my family over the last dozen years. His actions regarding the press and media – as well as his stance on foreign players and in the international market – have a lot in common with the guy who runs our country.

I can’t be controlled. So, therefore, I must be destroyed.

I’m not worthy of a media credential because I won’t lie for his franchise or associate my name with his deeds without

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Dear Peter G. Angelos: Time will not dim the awfulness of your deeds

Posted on 02 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

This is the first in a long series of #DearOrioles letters to various members of the Baltimore Orioles. I will be writing them all summer in anticipation of the many changes and key decisions that are coming for the franchise’s ownership and leadership.

You can read my #DearOrioles prologue here.

On August 3, we’ll be celebrating 20 years of sports radio and media at WNST.net & AM 1570. I’m still waiting for the Orioles to win and to be kind.

So are you…

 

Dear Pete:

It’s been a while since you last ran from me. I know you didn’t like bumping into me – or most Baltimore Orioles fans, really – so much over the years but it’s not like I’ve really sought you out much lately.

The last time we exchanged a glance was back in the summer of 2014 – you were two blocks from my home. You were coming in the side door of the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor and looking for any way possible to avoid me, along with my then-bald wife and Peter Schmuck. You caught a glimpse of the three of us and quickly disappeared behind a black curtain with a lot of security guys in suits with little earpieces.

Ninety minutes later, Rob Manfred emerged as the new Commissioner of Major League Baseball. And much like the rest of your tenure, you were nowhere to be found. Poof! Right in the middle of downtown Baltimore, you evaporated – like a vapor.

That’s been the eternal story of your ownership: plenty of questions, never any answers and a trail of smoke where the fans never find the fire until the team is 40 games under .500 again in a season of historic disgrace in a long trail of disgraces.

I know you’ve had some time down lately and there was a time when some in the family believed you were permanently moving away from the team and law firm but there’s been some rumblings from some mutual friends that you’ve been feeling better lately and might even be more involved than most think during this most tender of times in your long legacy of losing on the field and printing money behind the scenes.

Someone said recently that you were like “a Phoenix rising from the ashes!”

I hope someone in your department is up for this next challenge of building a baseball franchise all over again.

Most Orioles fans believe July 2018 is the most important of times because it will determine the future.

Oh, don’t worry: I’m not like Mark McGuire.

I AM DEFINITELY here to talk about the past – but only in how it relates to the future.

I know you’ve been trying to get rid of me for two decades – ever since that night in March 1997 when Frank Sliwka set up that lengthy chat over a few drinks at The Barn and you lied a lot about a little bit of everything – including being “a very available individual” – but I’m still here.

I’m still talking, researching, writing, opining, listening, learning and growing entering my 50th year on earth and 27th with the ears and eyes of Baltimore sports fans. And despite your pleas and the ignorance and insolence of your employees, who have been quite joyous in fulfilling your will and wish to punish me and treat me like another “very unimportant Baltimore baseball fan” – I still love baseball.

I still want to believe that one day – when you’re long gone and I’m still here – that I’ll feel welcomed at Camden Yards by the Baltimore Orioles franchise cheering for the team I loved as a kid and devoted my entire professional life to covering with accuracy, honesty and intelligent insights even when the truth didn’t serve your needs.

Maybe? Maybe not…

Time will tell.

I really have no idea how The Peter Principles are going to end. That’s why I’m writing to you today. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here watching Orioles baseball.

Despite all of the ridiculous awfulness you’ve presided over with your baseball team – and my life, my company and my credentials and fair access to do the job I’ve done since I was a 15-year old kid – I still care.

There are days when I’m ashamed to admit that, because it is shameful – the amount of time, money and thought I’ve put into the Baltimore Orioles during my first half century on the planet.

I would’ve loved to have been penning the 25th anniversary story in the summer of 2018 about your magnanimous tenure as a steward of the Baltimore Orioles. I would love to write tomes about you retaining Larry Lucchino back in 1993, hiring Pat Gillick and Davey Johnson for a generation that saw five World Series titles and parades down Pratt Street and two generations of great stars like Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina, Nick Markakis, Mark Teixeira, Adam Jones and Manny Machado we’ve had here in Baltimore. And about the way you welcomed legends like Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken into leadership positions with the organization and community. And how you cultivated and earned the Washington, D.C. market with a solid, burgeoning regional franchise like the ones in Boston and St. Louis that used their regional sports networks and media to dominate the baseball landscape in six states with a national footprint of a powerful and respected brand that competes annually with wise long-term organizational decisions, strong ownership and a clear and transparent communication with its fan base.

But that’s not going to be your legacy for anyone who has been paying attention.

I’ve written most of your story in The Peter Principles – at least through the time when you won your war with your MLB partners and got all of the free MASN money in 2006 that changed every part of accountability and profitability for your family. Every crazy story and word I wrote is true – even your many lies, deceptions and bizarre tales of power, money, ego, ineptitude, pettiness and a life lived with very little emotional intelligence in regard to the Orioles and what it represented in the hearts and spirit of the city and the region.

I really wish you had been the “very available individual” you said you were on that night at The Barn. I really don’t have much to judge you on personally beyond that night, your public words and all of the deeds of your organization toward the community and toward me. It all speaks for itself. There are many things said to me and done to me personally and

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Letting The Warehouse know via #DearOrioles letters that those empty seats are still out here

Posted on 25 June 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

I’VE THOUGHT LONG AND HARD about how I can best shine a light on the significance of the Baltimore Orioles to our city and community in this summer of baseball darkness.

In my hopes of one day becoming a “man of letters” – and in my old-fashioned newspaper columnist way and sans a legitimate press credential that was taken from me 12 years ago after 21 years of covering the baseball team – I’ve decided that the best thing I can do short of delivering a personal message to any of them face to face is write personal notes to all of them. So between now and whenever this mess is dismantled or disintegrates, they’ll all be getting very public and personal letters from me on the way out the door. And for those who are remaining – and most of those are named “Angelos” – I’ll continue to challenge them to answer to the fans, the stakeholders and the community in this tender time in Orioles history.

I’ll ask them all: “What does your future hold? What will your legacy be?”

It’s what John Steadman would do.

You can read them at the hashtag #DearOrioles. I’m hoping folks in the community will write their own #DearOrioles questions, concerns and memos.

This is the 25th summer Peter G. Angelos has owned the Orioles. It is my 27th year of doing sports radio and media in Baltimore. On August 3rd, WNST will celebrate its 20th year serving local sports fans the truth about the teams and the people who create, host and benefit from the games our community has supported with massive tax breaks, stadium erections and credit card insertions.

I was here doing this Baltimore sports media thing long before anyone outside of Bethlehem Steel ever knew the name of Peter G. Angelos – back in the spring and summer of 1993 when he created chaos and somehow usurped control of the franchise away from Bill DeWitt and Larry Lucchino. I wrote about that last summer in The Peter Principles. You can also find the audio read in the Buy A Toyota Audio Vault.

By my count, there have been five summers of relevance under his quarter of a century of involvement. In baseball parlance, that’s batting .200 ­–­ or 50 points higher than the guy they owe $130 million ill-fated dollars to over the next 20 years. By my count, he’s pocketed in excess of $1 billion in profit over the past 15 years, primarily due to a “get out of debt free” deal with Major League Baseball to bring a team to Washington, D.C. and allowing Angelos a spigot to print cable television money via MASN.

Peter G. Angelos and his heirs have been big winners in the Baltimore baseball game. Big with a capital “B” as in billions.

Meanwhile, fans of the Baltimore Orioles and vested community members have consistently been the losers in the baseball game. And the promises that William Donald Schaefer made with Edward Bennett Williams before his death about Camden Yards and a downtown stadium and the emotional and/or economic benefits it would provide for our city and community have all but evaporated.

I’m the guy who did Free The Birds back in September 2006 in an attempt to hold Angelos accountable and publicly discuss the issues surrounding a deserted downtown on game nights. It appears as though I’ve now lived long enough to arrive at holding the next “person of influence” with the Orioles accountable as well.

I pray that the next “caretaker” actually takes care of it because it’s in desperate need of some TLC. There are whispers that the franchise is in jeopardy of leaving Baltimore.

Can you imagine Peter G. Angelos being around to negotiate a long-term lease for Camden Yards and the threats that would come?

I’ve built my life and company and business and personal brand around local sports and the baseball franchise – for better or worse. My childhood love of the Baltimore Orioles is deep and well told. I’ve always loved the team. I live here. I moved downtown in 2003 to attend Orioles games. I wrote about it over 19 chapters of history in 2006 when I did the #FreeTheBirds walkout to shine a light on the horrific ownership and the lack of accountability. I’m no #Nestordamus, but I can say that I very clearly predicted the demise of the brand given the

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Hey Orioles: Those empty seats mean that Baltimore is just not that into you…

Posted on 13 September 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

As the first – and only – local sports journalist to poke the bear and pull down the pants of the emperor, it’s now my turn to chime in on the biggest local sports story this month that’s returning to Camden Yards for the next 11 days.

Ok, the most important question in the land of pleasant living at this time of the year is always about the Baltimore Ravens. Facts are facts. They’re 1-0 and headed to Cleveland to (presumably) be 2-0 by Sunday night.

But the very obvious other “water cooler buzz” around our kingdom is about why Camden Yards is so empty in September with the Orioles facing arch-rivals in the middle of a very winnable pennant race in Baltimore?

TOMORROW I’LL GIVE MY “TOP 10 REASONS BALTIMORE SPORTS FANS DON’T GO TO ORIOLES GAMES ANYMORE”

Two weeks ago, during the “homestand of empty” vs. the Blue Jays and Yankees, I was in Europe reading some laugh-out-loud reports from local “journalists” either on the payroll of Peter G. Angelos, the Baltimore Orioles or any of the MASN-based or CBS-owned arms of business partnerships that permeate the local media. Those organizations are strongly discouraged from critical thinking and free $peech so it’s up to places like WNST to get to the truth. Unlike their employees who are intimidated or “compensated” in the Angelos food chain, we get to say what we think here.

The employees of any of the above entities are not allowed to tell the truth. Angelos confirmed this to me years ago.

So, when you write pieces like the one longtime Washington journalist Thom Loverro inked two weeks ago in The Washington Times – in local sports writer vernacular, “a take down” – you get your press credentials revoked. And amongst those who do follow the Orioles and bow at the shrine of the orange cartoon bird, you get called a hack, a traitor or a guy with an axe to grind.

But, of course, no one at MASN or 105.7 The Fan or The Baltimore Sun or PressBox is ever called a shill – even though the dignity of the whole Orioles operation under Angelos is veiled by the fact that no one ever answers a question about anything. Other than playing baseball games when they’ve locked the doors and told the fans to NOT come, we don’t hear from the Angelos clan.

Loverro and his track record as a reporter speaks for itself. So does mine.

On December 13th, I’ll celebrate 25 years of doing sports radio in Baltimore. In 20 of those years, the Orioles haven’t just been an “also ran” – they’ve been a “never ran at all.” The reasons have all been well- …

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