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I hope contract helps Jones keep Birds accountable

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I hope contract helps Jones keep Birds accountable

Posted on 27 May 2012 by Glenn Clark

I’ve already used both space on Twitter (@WNST, @GlennClarkWNST) and on AM1570 WNST.net to opine about the significance of the Baltimore Orioles giving CF Adam Jones the richest contract in franchise history.

We now finally know all of the details and Jones is set to discuss those details Sunday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

I won’t be attending Sunday’s press conference. I would, but our WNST.net Ballpark reporter Luke Jones has been denied the right to ask questions at previous press conferences and I don’t want to run the risk of causing a scene at what should almost certainly be a day of celebration.

Adam Jones’ contract extension is as much an event to celebrate as almost anything we’ve seen in the last 15 years of baseball in Charm City. The Birds have perhaps addressed both their present and their future and made a major statement about their willingness to do things differently than they have for more than decade while losing many more games than they won.

I’m aware Jones perhaps took a hometown discount in signing the contract a season and a half shy of free agency. I’m aware the team still appears to need more pitching than they currently have to be an annual contender. I’m aware that the team now needs to shift attention to catcher Matt Wieters when it comes to contracts.

There was something bigger than jumped out at me though.

As I was given more time to dissect what Jones’ deal really means, I thought back to December 1997. For O’s fans around my age, Brady Anderson was about the coolest thing to ever happen to the Orange & Black. He had young female fans worship him and young male fans…well…basically worship him. He had it all. Sideburns, muscles, personality, charm, speed, defense and an amazing 50 home run season.

(I didn’t mention anything about performance enhancing drugs. You do what you want there.)

After Anderson’s 50 home run campaign in 1996 and the Orioles’ run to the ALCS in ’97, young fans like myself lived in fear of waking up one morning to be informed that Anderson had signed a major deal with the New York Yankees or Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians.

Anderson was certainly not the commodity at 34 that Jones would have been had he reached free agency at 28, but he still had market interest. He ultimately passed on shorter deals with more per season to accept five years and $31 million from Peter Angelos and the Orioles. Anderson’s best seasons were clearly behind him, but it still meant quite a bit for the franchise to make the move.

I also thought back to January of 2009, when Andy MacPhail locked up OF Nick Markakis for six years and $66 million, the richest contract extension the franchise had given to a player until Jones’ deal. (SS Miguel Tejada had received the overall most lucrative contract in team history until Jones.) While certainly not reaching superstar status, Markakis has given the Birds stellar defense and a mostly consistent bat.

But beyond the significant contracts, there is a more important similarity between the two players whose time has spanned much of the team’s “Rock Bottom Era.” The issue is that neither player was able to use his major contract to help keep the team accountable.

A baseball player with a rich contract is in a unique situation with the franchise paying the deal. Because the money is guaranteed, the player has the right to get away with certain things a player in another league might not be able to. In the case of the Orioles, they’ve really needed a player who has been willing to stand up and say “we need better” as the team suffered through losing seasons after losing season.

Allow me to be fair to the two players involved. Anderson was only part of the club at the very beginning of their lean years, and the team was still making at least some attempts to improve by bringing in the likes of Albert Belle and others. (Anderson however has become a well known defender of the Angelos regime in recent years, which has helped him find his way back into the organization.) Markakis has never been much of a vocal type, but he did publicly question the direction of the organization. His participated in a dinner with Angelos that season to discuss those very issues.

Perhaps there is an argument to be made that Markakis’ 2010 outburst DID lead to accountability, as two years later the Orioles have shown themselves (at least for two months) to be one of the better teams in baseball.

But moving forward, I hope it’s a role that suits Jones well. I hope the fire, drive, passion and determination to win that have made Jones an emotional figure in recent years will translate both on field and off. I hope that if the Birds make questionable decisions, he’ll call them out for them. It doesn’t need to be something he does publicly, just a statement made privately from the player slated to receive more money during his tenure than any Oriole before.

I hope Jones embraces not only the responsibilities of an on field leader and star, but as a bit of a caretaker for an organization that has so desperately lacked the right man for the role. I hope he puts pressure on the organization to make the moves necessary to stay in contention every season. I hope he never takes the easy way out and thinks “Mr. Angelos (or insert future owner’s name here) has made me a rich man. It’s not my place to stand up to him.”

I feel as though Jones can be a significant part of the solution for the Orioles. I hope he’s up for everything that comes along with the task.

-G

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How can Baltimore simply allow the Orioles to rot like this under Angelos’ greed & profiteering?

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How can Baltimore simply allow the Orioles to rot like this under Angelos’ greed & profiteering?

Posted on 01 April 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

There’s no sense in shirking the responsibility here in Baltimore — the facts that show this community has been complicit in the damage done during this baseball free fall on the field and profiteering being done off the field by Peter Angelos via MASN. The truth is this: we get the government we deserve.

And the truth is that we get the Major League Baseball team that we tolerate as a community.

The Orioles are about to enter their 15th consecutive year of irrelevance and losing. Fans in Baltimore have turned away from the stadium by the millions instead of demanding a better product and an owner with the integrity to run the team in the best interests of the community.

The judges allowed this to happen by allowing television moguls to pass along unavoidable, mandatory charges you never know about and you vote for these judges.

Comcast (or your local cable TV provder) has passed along the “Angelos Tax” to you and you simply keep paying the bill.

The politicians allowed this to happen to the heart of Baltimore on summer nights and you elect the politicians. You elect the politicians who allow Major League Baseball an almost inarguable anti-trust exemption and public financing for stadia while they pad their pockets and Angelos shirks his “sacred responsibility” here in Baltimore to attempt to field a competitive team that stimulates interest and economic impact to the local economy.

Many local businesses and business owners – intimidated for one reason or another – all talk dirty out of the corner of their mouths to me at cocktail parties all over Baltimore yet no one except me and this radio station and web entity that I own have spoken up over the years and reported the dirty facts.

I am very proud of Free The Birds. I’m proud of being the only one to speak the truth and report the facts. I sleep well at night knowing that I’m TRYING to make a difference and get this corrected for the community.

WNST is the only free media company in the marketplace that is banned from covering the team while CBS Radio, The Sun, WBAL, Pressbox, etc. all have continued to exchange corporate media backrubs and “partnerships” while not demanding accountability from Peter Angelos.

 

Many others — from intimidated former Orioles players who need the autograph money to local fans, former season ticket holders and businesses who previously wrote a direct check to the Baltimore Orioles to sponsor the franchise — all now cough and “look the other way” while the city has been emptied of more than 2 million people every summer. The Ravens’ and their everlasting prosperity seems to only make it easier to turn away from the Orioles.

How can it be possible that local businesses downtown and at the Inner Harbor simply await the arrival of visiting fans from Boston, New York and Philadelphia in order to turn a profit off the fortunes of the Baltimore Orioles?

It’s unspeakable, shameful and YOU should be ashamed of our community for allowing it happen.

When all of this cowardice and the collective “turning of the heads” stops, perhaps the fate of the Baltimore Orioles will change?

Here’s what WNST.net is doing about this Thursday and Friday night as we hold a candlelight vigil and an Opening Day protest of the ownership and the way the team has been run into the ground for Baltimore and its baseball fans…

 

You can follow our Facebook page here and follow us on Twitter @FreeTheBirds12

 

Staying away from the ballpark and not contributing by buying tickets and $8 beers has simply not worked to correct the issues with Peter Angelos and improve the baseball team. We’ve been writing about it here at WNST.net and opining at AM 1570 for the better part of a decade.

Sometimes I think that everyone knows the dirty little secret about Angelos and

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Orioles today: There’s nothing wrong with giving Showalter more control

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Drew Forrester

There’s lots of chatter among the 1,534 people in Baltimore who still REALLY care about the Orioles and it mainly centers on whether or not giving Buck Showalter “additional power” is good for the long term health of the franchise.

I’ll intervene here and provide some clarity on the subject.

Answer:  YES, IT’S A GOOD THING TO HAVE SHOWALTER MORE INVOLVED.

One of the issues, evidently, is this notion that the manager shouldn’t “have a say” in player personnel matters.  There are folks who believe giving Showalter the opportunity to impart his wisdom and wishes is somehow going to block the Orioles from succeeding in the post-Andy MacPhail era.

Huh?

The team hasn’t succeeded with guys like Frank Wren, Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie, Mike Flanagan, Jim Duquette and MacPhail calling the shots.  We all know there were reasons why…but facts are facts.  None of those men steered the Orioles to greatness.

I say let Showalter play a role in the decision making.  Hell, last spring he all but begged MacPhail to part company with Felix Pie prior to the team coming north, but MacPhail insisted they gave the “5-tool talent” one more crack at making an impact with the orange and black.

Who was right on that player personnel decision?  Right.  Buck was.

Detractors will note that a manager of a major league team can’t possibly watch the minor league action and stay in touch with both camps.  Agreed.  Showalter isn’t going to do it all himself.  He’ll have help.  It might be Tony LaCava, it might be Scott Proefrock…point is, another pair of baseball eyes will be in place to work in tandem with Buck on the on-field product. Showalter isn’t chopped liver when it comes to helping put rosters together.  He was part of the team that helped build the Yankees of the mid 1990′s and the Diamondbacks (from scratch, remember) in the early part of the last decade.

He forgot more about baseball than anyone with a desk at The Warehouse knows about baseball, that’s for sure.

Is it somewhat unconventional to have the manager actively involved in the off-season daily happenings of the front office? Sure. Frankly, most managers just want to call the in-game stuff from April until September.  They’d rather NOT be in the kitchen preparing the food over the winter.

But that doesn’t mean Showalter’s increased authority with the Orioles is a bad thing.

I’m a dummy from Glen Burnie and I know what the Orioles need:  BETTER.  PLAYERS.

I didn’t say “JUST SPEND MORE MONEY” either, although it’s very safe to say that any formula for improvement in baseball MUST include spending significant money on players if you’re a bad team trying to get good.

I don’t know much, but I know this:  If you’re a bad team spending $65 million on players —  you’re not going to become a good team spending $65 million on players.

I’m not saying the Orioles have to spend $150 million to get better.  But spending $65 or $75 million (or even the $85 million they spent this year) isn’t going to get the job done in the AL East…not when you were a bad team to start with.

Now let’s be fair for a second — if Showalter has more authority on a day-to-day basis but the owner won’t allow him to spend freely on BETTER PLAYERS then Buck won’t be able to produce any off-season magic in Baltimore.  That’s a fact.  This is a case where size DOES matter — as in, size of the checkbook Buck carries around.

But getting BETTER PLAYERS is the key to the Orioles becoming more competitive.  And that means signing them, trading for them, drafting them and grooming them in the minor leagues.

Who better than Showalter to help bring in BETTER PLAYERS?

He is, after all, the guy saddled with the task of managing those 25 guys for 162 games.  Shouldn’t he have a say or two on who those 25 players are next season?

I think so.

And I don’t see it as that much of a hinderance to the man who comes in as the team’s replacement for Andy MacPhail, for the cards are on the table in front of him from the first time he interviews for the position.

Buck Showalter is going to be involved in player personnel decisions in Baltimore.  If that’s NOT something a guy like LaCava or Proefrock or anyone else considered for the GM position can deal with or handle, I would suggest they don’t apply for the GM position.

Most people who follow the Orioles will use the Showalter-as-de-facto-GM situation to beat up the club for “not doing it right”.

I’m not in that camp.

Buck Showalter knows baseball.

He knows baseball players.

Let him run around this winter and try to convince good players to come to Baltimore and help him rebuild the team.

Ask yourself this, based on what you’ve seen over the last four years:

Hindsight being what it is, would you rather have Showalter chasing players or would you rather have Andy MacPhail re-hiring Dave Trembley, signing Garrett Atkins, force-feeding Felix Pie on the manager, handing Justin Duchscherer’s bad arm a free $700,000 and giving Kevin Gregg the closer’s role over a cup of hot tea with his agent?

Right.

I agree.

Welcome aboard, Buck.  Go get ‘em.

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The Orioles will be better next year — and more new lies after The MacFailure

Posted on 28 September 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

Our cool, growing (and still free!) sports media company had another great B2B-Business To Business event last week in Towson with @CoachBillick and an old friend and reader of WNST.net approached me and asked the eternal Orioles question:

“So, Nasty, I’ve read all of the issues regarding the Orioles and Mike Flanagan and Andy MacPhail and Free The Birds, but what are we as fans going to do? You need to offer solutions…”

Well, virtually every human being I’ve spoken to over the last three years – and I still have a ton of friends in upper management at Major League Baseball and all over the league — has concurred: this just isn’t going to change on the field as long as Peter Angelos is involved in Baltimore baseball ownership.

But, of course, I came to that conclusion five years ago when I did the original Free The Birds rally and campaign because in my mind – and time has proven me correct – this was long past the point of no return with the local community and most people of integrity within the baseball community in 2006.

And what I’ve come to realize is that this REALLY bugs the hell out of my internet critics – the fact that I’ve been right and honest and accurate all along.

I don’t think it took any “orange Nostradamus” or 19 chapters and 75,000 words worth of my book to predict that this civic nightmare would continue given Angelos’ tactics, mindset, age and propensity through his 82 years on the planet to want to fight with people. He sues people for a living.

I knew a long time ago that it was getting worse and not better. I knew it was going to become an easy $50 million annual profit center given the deal that Angelos negotiated with Major League Baseball once the Washington Nationals were hatched. I wanted to believe he was telling the truth in 2006 but he clearly wasn’t honest and indeed got the “last laugh.”

But I must say my worst fears of where this sick tale was going in 2006 never really factored in the possibility that Mike Flanagan would be committing suicide five years later in the middle of a fifth consecutive last-place season.

But I’m not at all surprised that the team has finished in last place every year since Free The Birds.

And I’ve now spent four full years without a press pass for this last-place debacle and sick civic disgrace while the team’s head of baseball operations runs away from me at public functions when I ask a few questions.

I’ve been asking myself for a month how the Orioles are going to handle this offseason of obvious unparalleled despair. Despite the kid gloves Captain Profit Andy MacPhail has been treated with here by his local media co-workers who are disguised as journalists — his tenure here is now complete and was a large, profitable “MacFailure” .

He’s slithering out of town in the dead of the night after changing exactly NOTHING about the Baltimore Orioles in real terms, other than the profit line. Oh, and there’s the spring training home in Sarasota that was 15 years overdue – and now another publicly-aided profit center — I don’t see anything about the farm system, the future or the current state of the roster that’s appreciably better than before.

I know this much: four years, four last-place finishes. That’s the record. It is what it is.

The whole franchise stinks.

What happens to Buck Showalter is anyone’s guess but word is he’ll be the new poobah in charge of “baseball operations” at 10:07 p.m. after Red Sox playoff magic leaves the Charm City – and all that really means is that he’s the next victim who will make a few million and go back to where he came from (in this case Dallas) a few years later with a tainted resume and some more losses and evenings of angst.

Of course, if he really thinks Angelos is committed to winning a World Series, angst is only the beginning.

Just 13 months ago Showalter said he knew what he was getting into with Angelos

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Happy 5th Anniversary to my Free The Birds friends who want change for Baltimore baseball

Posted on 21 September 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been watching the Baltimore Orioles since 1973 and I’m not sure any of us could’ve predicted what this franchise was to become back in the late 1980’s when Camden Yards was built, our city was starved without football and the Colts had split town.

It’s amazing now because most of the people in my company and many of you reading this under the age of 35 do not remember the Colts at all. Or a time when there was no purple. Or when there was no shiny stadia downtown that we all take for granted.

I watched William Donald Schaefer fight for all of this. I watched John Steadman politic and report through all of this as a colleague and a kid at The News American. I watched the first shovel go in the ground downtown. I was at that magical game in 1988 when all of this civic planning was announced on the backend of an 0-21 start that invigorated the renaissance of not only the Orioles but this community as a whole. I wrote more than 75,000 words on this topic five years ago. You can read all of it here…

I was there for all of it. I’ve got some perspective on just how incredibly foolish this all looks – the Orioles who drew 3.6 million people now barely getting a legitimate 1 million people through the turnstiles from the interior Baltimore community. Let’s face it: if it weren’t for a few tourists and 18 games a year against the Red Sox and Yankees, the place would be empty every night. Even on nights when they give away bobbleheads and orange T-shirts, they don’t have enough productive players to even get the promotions right. How many years in a row will they hand out an item for a player who isn’t even on the team?

Sheesh. Starting with all of the craziness of Peter G. Angelos in 1993, I could write a f**king book.

Well, actually, I did…and it’s all right here.

The civic devastation and their annual derelict status in the AL East (and in all of sports, really) makes them so insignificant as to not even be criticized by most national media and the locals are never going to say a word while their companies collect advertising checks from Angelos, via MASN or the Orioles.

The black cat is out of the bag – there’s intense financial greed behind that legal façade of Peter G. Angelos and that’s just fine, I suppose, if your audience participates in the Fantasyland charade of the Orioles attempting to compete to win a championship in Major League Baseball.

The Orioles are funded by you — the cable television buyer. You give your money to them – specifically MASN — through a third party. I bet if you got a bill every month for a couple of bucks from MASN – and it were optional – you and 99% of the state of Maryland would opt to NOT have MASN.

The same way I opt to not have Sirius radio, an IPad or a newer car.

I don’t like anything about the fact that $3 a month of my money goes directly to Peter Angelos under some mystical civic umbrella and trust that he’s investing it back into making the Orioles a better baseball team for the citizens of Baltimore.

That’s clearly not happening these days.

And that’s not my lie. That’s from Angelos himself. Here’s the direct link to our friends over at Pressbox, who take a check from Angelos and get “inside access” and get to ask questions once every decade. This is from 2006 when the Greek God of Losses told Stan Charles that MASN would change the team’s fortunes via increasing the payroll.

Instead, Andy MacPhail came out from underneath a rock in New York and came to Baltimore to quell the insurrection and help Mr. Angelos better understand the way to the profitland of Major League Baseball. Just like he did for many years for the Tribune Company and the Cubs, who now are entangled in the ownership of The Baltimore Sun.

It’s amazing how most Baltimore sports fans in town have no idea how the business of baseball and MASN and free agency and the MLB draft all work. Angelos clearly preys on the naïve nature of the local sports fans who are being fed the new “company line” that MacPhail has parroted through all of his worthless years here in Baltimore: “We just don’t have enough money to compete with those evil teams in Boston and New York.”

My other McFail favorite is this one: “We’ll grow the arms and buy the bats.”

Yeah, what bats? Mark Reynolds? Garrett Atkins? Cesar Izturis?

I can’t imagine that we’ve seen the end of the Orioles demise or the bottom of the proverbial barrel in this macabre tale of “How to Wreck a Baseball Franchise for a Local Community.” Given the state of the franchise and the fact that they’ll be looking for another “leader” who’s given “full control of the baseball operations” in two weeks, it’s pretty apparent that Angelos and the Orioles will still be big spenders of Syd Thrift’s “Confederate money” this offseason.

Angelos clearly bunkered down five years after Free The Birds. He was angry. He was humiliated. He took my press pass. He issued an edict to every member of the franchise to treat me like a pariah, even though it’s pretty clear that I love the team more than any of those people because I’m willing to face the hard reality and 14 years worth of facts.

Sure, Baltimore came back on the home jerseys a few years (I told Drew Forrester then that it was an empty gesture that wouldn’t improve the team) and Andy MacPhail was brought in to stabilize the organization (at least in the minds of the fans) and put a set of spectacles on it so it could look semi-legitimate.

Everything has been fine since Sept. 21, 2006 except for the fact that the team never won, stars haven’t emerged and accountability continues to be non-existent. Oh, and the fact that the man running the team at the time killed himself a few weeks ago.

The death of Mike Flanagan would be a tragedy anytime, anywhere. It’s a story that’s among the saddest I’ve ever heard as a Baltimore journalist. But amidst his suicide, there’s a story that must be told of his relationship with Angelos, the Orioles and the Baltimore fanbase.

Someday I might be the one who tells that story. But for now, I continue to grieve his loss with his family and attempt to help them heal.

Flanagan’s death has made my phone ring off the hook with former teammates, loved ones and people in the baseball community who are reaching to me to find out what happened.

I know a lot more about what happened than what I’m telling out of respect to Flanny’s family and loved ones. But I know the truth. And the truth should and will be told at an appropriate time.

And, rest assured, the truth isn’t going to make the Orioles look very good or make you feel any better about Peter Angelos’ ownership here in Baltimore.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be Tippy Martinez or Jim Palmer or Rick Dempsey or Boog Powell — when you walk around your hometown every minute of every day getting recognized by people over 45 who don’t know whether to console you, hug you or engage you in any sort of baseball chatter because let’s be honest – the only reason we’d know who any of the former Orioles are is because of baseball. It’s the one thing that bonds us.

And, really, none one of us wants to discuss the Orioles or Angelos or the situation with Mike Flanagan when they’re in last place the entire topic of baseball, suicides and World Series take a backseat to the purple football machine in the fall.

But, therein lies the problem.

No one EVER says ANYTHING.

I hate to say it, but YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!

So, embrace that statement, stew about it, send me “F**K YOU!” letters, sharpen your pens and your wit.

And then send them to Peter Angelos and see if the 82-year old can find your thoughts on his Facebook page.

The local media here is such a civic disgrace that they should be ashamed of themselves for burying the topic of the Orioles’ ineptitude and profit line and intentions. And you should be ashamed of yourselves if you tune into any of the Orioles “media partners” (it should say “protectors”) and believe a word any of these hosts and personalities say. They’re all told what they can and can’t say and when they can say it.

CBS & WJZ = guilty

WBAL = guilty

The Sun = perhaps the most guilty because their unique selling point and marketing tool is “credibility” and “knowledge of the community” and “journalism”

Pull Scott Garceau or Peter Schmuck or Gerry Sandusky or Mark Viviano up on the side and ask them what THEY REALLY THINK. Ask any of these “local leaders” and “trusted experts” off the record how they’ve been treated. Ask them how they’ve seen people treated around the organization. Ask them what Mike Flanagan told them about the team when he was running it and beyond.

I saw 15 Baltimore reporters crowded around a young Ravens cornerback named Cary Williams in a locker in Nashville three days and yet no one can make their way to downtown Baltimore to interview a guy who has chased 2.5 million people out of downtown on summer nights and destroyed local business in such a profound way as to be the most powerful man in the state?

Disgraceful…

Ask ANY bar and restaurant owner or anyone involved in the beer industry about whether their businesses would be stronger if the Orioles actually existed in their establishments on summer nights.

I’ve asked them ALL. And there’s not one who doesn’t want to see a stronger baseball franchise in Baltimore.

I go into bars all summer long and see that many don’t even put the Orioles games on their televisions these days. And that’s just in the suburbs.

I live in downtown Baltimore. The city comes to life when events prosper and the community swells with pride. The U2 concert was amazing. The IRL brought tons of new faces into the city that hadn’t been this happy near the Convention Center since the All Star Fanfest in July 1993. The Caps-Predators game last night was an incredible event – bringing 11,000 into the First Mariner Arena and stimulating commerce throughout downtown for a night.

The Orioles success and their verve and mojo doesn’t seem so far away to me. I remember it all. I wrote 19 chapters about it and you can click here and begin that journey if you’re really interested in my thoughts and my rationale and my legitimacy.

I’m not some hack journalist from out of town coming into Baltimore to tell you what to think. I’m not an out-of-town media leader.

I’m a citizen. I’m a taxpayer. I paid to get Camden Yards built back in the 1980’s. My city tax dollars fronted that IRL mish-mash three weeks ago. I own a business in Baltimore County. I employ people and put them to work and I trade off of ONE THING: your trust!

The team routinely doesn’t spend money. They’ve made far more money losing than they’d ever make trying to win. That’s just a fact.

And, right now and for the past decade, that’s been exploited and profiteered from by Peter G. Angelos and his ownership group. We’ve got a dead Cy Young Award winner who worked for the company for most of 38 years and his life became so entangled that he put a gun to his head and ended his life less than a month ago.

Who’s going to ask the tough questions?

And when is Angelos or anyone at Major League Baseball going to answer them?

Winning is not as profitable as losing. And when the citizens of the state are paying the freight and there’s only tens of millions of guaranteed profit every year, apparently popularity or civic pride or winning ownership and respect for tradition doesn’t factor into the equation for Peter Angelos.

If the richest guy in the state isn’t interested in winning a World Series then the Baltimore Orioles might as well just leave town and return when they’re ready to win.

It’s such a fragile trust to begin with in Baltimore, where Angelos was a resident and apparently unmoved by the Mayflower vans or any of the chicanery of Bob Irsay back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when he did a beauty tour that was a disgrace to everyone but him.

The story of Angelos and his wrecking machine for the baseball traditions of our community is a legendary, well-told tale that as Ronnie Milsap once sang: “It’s too sad to write.”

Free The Birds is five years old today.

What will the Orioles look like five years from today?

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Five years ago we did Free The Birds rally and I’m still proud of it

Posted on 20 September 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

There’s been plenty written about the Orioles demise and the AL East standings and the empty stands at Camden Yards speak for themselves as to what the Baltimore community feels the value of the baseball team is circa 2011.

The stadium is empty most nights. Fans stuck with tickets can’t find anyone to take them for free. The city has tumbleweed blowing down Pratt Street most nights when the Orioles play. The fan base is so angry, so disenfranchised, so beaten down and/or disillusioned that they’re literally all but gone.

It’s the Fall of 2011 — the most recent version of The Apocalypse for any lifelong Orioles baseball fan and baseball lover like me. With the tragic suicide of Mike Flanagan last month – and the subsequent tales of the trail of a broken baseball man who loved this city and the Baltimore Orioles more than words can express – the Orioles have clearly hit rock bottom.

Or have they?

Oh, I’ve now been hearing for well over a decade that “the Orioles have bottomed out.” Heck, Ken Rosenthal was writing that stuff 12 years ago when he was covering the Orioles for The Sun. I’m not sure any of us knew how far into the abyss this situation would go but “bottoming out?”

I’m not really sure any of us know where the bottom is anymore when it comes to the Orioles.

This cesspool of lies and shameless civic profiteering clearly has no signs of receding and why should it when losing is far more profitable than trying to win and the owner has no desire to really win a World Series.

And, apparently, the only “outspoken” and “honest” member of the community is, well – me.

And because I’m the only one who’s not a coward and willing to point out the gigantic orange elephant in the middle of downtown Baltimore, people will continue to write on the internet that “Aparicio hates the Orioles.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the Orioles. That’s why I fight for justice. That’s why I tell the truth. I’m the only one who writes this stuff. I’m the only one who cares enough to speak my mind. I’m the only one who challenges the king of Baltimore baseball, Peter G. Angelos.

So while Andy MacPhail came in here the summer after Free The Birds as “Vice President of Baseball Operations” and got four years worth of big paychecks every other Friday while the team never had a moment of relevance and has finished in last place each fall, he’s about to bow out and quit on this morbid experiment that was allegedly going return the Orioles to relevance by cutting payroll, increasing profit and lying to the media and the fans about the goals of the franchise.

After all, the team is serving hamburger and making $50 million per year in profit. So, then, why would Andy MacPhail and Peter Angelos ever conspire to serve you filet mignon?

Maybe the players on the field can’t pull up in the stretch like a lame horse but the fans of the Baltimore Orioles – even some of the most diehard and patient and former orange Kool Aid drinkers and baseball worshippers – pulled up a long time ago and moved on to other pursuits during the hot summers in Baltimore.

So, was I really wrong for shedding honest light on this issue five years ago when we did the “Free The Birds” rally on Sept. 21, 2006?

In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men,” you’re goddamned right I was right.

I’m proud of Free The Birds. I’m proud of what it stood for and as much as Peter Angelos thought it was some “personal attack,” it’s also pretty clear he never read any of the 19 chapters I wrote preceding the walkout where in 75,000 words I expressed why the Orioles were the love of my life and why everything I’ve ever done in my professional life can all be traced back to the first time I picked up a Wiffle ball and bat in Dundalk.

Here’s a link to 19 chapters worth of “Why Nestor Loves Baseball and The Orioles”…

To be honest, I spent that summer of 2006 in the midst of my own midlife questions and answers and I was struck then by how easy it was for many people to simply walk away from baseball and the Orioles and never come back. Oriole Park at Camden Yards was already getting pretty empty even back then but five years later it has been even harder for me to watch the fun and joy of doing sports media for a living be completely sucked out of me because of the way Angelos has treated virtually everyone in my life who loves the Orioles as well.

And then there’s the losing that chases Baltimore sports fans away from the only sport that matters in the spring and summer.

People in Baltimore simply don’t care about the Orioles anymore. In the heat of the summer, the Orioles are annually mired in last place amidst some more failed policies and cheap payrolls while Angelos sucks tens of millions of dollars from your wallet and every wallet in the state via your cable television bill.

A high-ranking person in the baseball community asked me last week if I really believed that if a change in ownership (he called it a “messiah”) were to appear in Baltimore that the “old Orioles” could be restored.

Honestly, given the price tag of skyboxes and box seats and the lack of sponsorship money in the marketplace, I’m not really sure. I do know that people could easily care about and follow a winner. I’m not sure if the Orioles will ever draw 3 million people again given the Washington Nationals proximity and the atrophy of the sport in Baltimore.

But my Free The Birds campaign was designed to bring awareness to the plight of the baseball franchise and the helplessness of the fan base of the Baltimore Orioles. It was designed to give a voice to the fans in the bleachers who were fed up with losing and lies from Angelos.

I feel there’s great value in what I did. And I feel like my words, en masse, have been the most relevant words written about the baseball team over the last decade.

Where is the journalism being done on behalf of Mike Flanagan and his family? Why is it that one of the team’s favorite sons – a former Cy Young winner who dedicated 38 years of his life to a franchise – would take a gun to his head on a Wednesday night in August 2011?

And where are the journalists to ask questions about how this could possibly happen and the circumstances that led to such desperation for a wonderful community man like Flanny?

And where is Angelos to answer questions about what the Orioles are doing for Flanagan’s family, who understandably are trying to digest and mourn and make sense of why a 38-year employee of the franchise and one of the most prominent athletes of our generation would take his life on a summer night in Baltimore County.

But this city is full of cowards. Cowards in the business community who won’t speak the truth. Cowards in the media – all with out-of-town, corporate management councils who seek to profit off of the Orioles at any cost and “journalists” who are as soft as the Pillsbury dough boy. And cowards in the political system, who are too eager to take a campaign contribution and look the other way as more than 2.5 million people have been chased out of downtown every summer over the last decade.

Shameful isn’t a strong enough word for what’s happened in Baltimore. It’s more like a civic tragedy.

I called them all cowards five years ago when I did Free The Birds. And I’ll call them cowards now because their ability to “take a check and cough” has led the Orioles and the downtown business community and any ancillary business (like mine at WNST.net) into the abyss with a baseball team that is guaranteed tens of millions of dollars in profit every year and contributes nothing to the quality of life of Baltimoreans who foot the bill for a greedy franchise that leeches off of the banner “sports” in a way that doesn’t bring any sense of pride to our community.

If you really think about it, the Orioles are a source of civic despair. Who in Baltimore wants to brag about a team that finishes in last place every year and seems to have a black could of tragedy and darkness follow it everywhere — from Steve Bechler to steroid scandals to the suicide of their Cy Young Award winner who went on to hold every role in the organization except manager.

And here’s the dirty little secret – there’s absolutely no incentive for Angelos to improve the team and have it compete. And, like Willy Wonka, he never seems to appear, answer questions or give clarity to the direction of the franchise.

The dirty little secret for this segment of MLB owners is very clear.

Here’s the new formula:

LOSING = PROFIT

And that’s a very, very difficult concept for most people to grasp because I can’t think of another line of work or a business in any sector where you can guarantee profit lines by serving the worst product in your industry.

Of course, I don’t know many companies that use their television network as a public utility to print money from every home from the state that subscribes to a cable television package.

Just like the folks at WBAL-AM, who call themselves the “news leader” who had people chanting “Free The Birds” repeatedly on their airwaves for an hour on Sept. 21, 2006 and never mentioned what the chants represented. And even then, Angelos stripped them of the radio rights and made them grovel before ditching CBS Radio last year to continue their cozy “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” style of journalism.

As I wrote in my 19 chapters in 2006, until more people in the Baltimore business community and political scene and what’s left of the “media” challenge these issues and ask hard questions, the Orioles will continue to profiteer, hide, dodge questions and accountability and inevitably finish in last place in the American League East Division.

I’m not passing the buck. It’s the fans of the Orioles and the citizens of the community who have given this franchise a hall pass and allowed and made excuses for how this team could be irrelevant for 14 years running.

If you want the truth, I believe that we get the baseball team that we deserve.

Tomorrow, on the 5th anniversary of our walkout, I will present a current state of the franchise and on Thursday we’ll look to the future to examine how the Orioles will ever become a relevant and/or beloved franchise again in Baltimore.

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USA Today says MacPhail to resign at end of season

Posted on 30 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

Although this shouldn’t come as a shocker to anyone who has examined the Orioles’ management situation following another last place finish, the USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported tonight that Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail is expected to resign at season’s end.

His quote to Nightengale was typical slippery MacPhail: “Let’s just get to the end of the year and see what unfolds,” he said. “We’ll see. We’ll see.”

Nightengale’s full piece is available HERE.

This is what the USA Today reported tonight:

MacPhail, according to two high-ranking Orioles officials, is expected to resign from his general manager’s position. The officials are not authorized to discuss the decision publicly because it is not official.

Of course from my perspective, it’ll be interesting to see if Buck Showalter senses that there’s any reason to hang around but as Andy says: “We’ll see. We’ll see.”

Comments are welcomed below…

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I hope Ripken isn’t next Orioles hero signing up to polish Angelos’ smelly turd?

Posted on 10 August 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

On Tuesday night, as Camden Yards sat mostly empty on another beautiful summer night, it happened again. No, not just another “tough-luck, one-run Orioles loss” en route to what could possibly be the worst season of this era replete with 100 losses, but instead the whining, moaning and embarrassingly homerish “media” scam pulled on a nightly basis in my living room by the likes of Jim Hunter, Mike Flanagan, Rick Dempsey and company at MASN.

Along with all of the apologists at The Baltimore Sun, WBAL, PressBox and WJZ (the entire CBS “family” is in bed with the Orioles and has spent 14 years making lame, transparent excuses while taking a paycheck) – it’s amazing these employees of Peter Angelos can put their heads on a pillow at night and believe they have any integrity left in their words this community.

The crazy part is that there are still hopeless fans in the orange Kool Aid bunch who refuse to even acknowledge that all of these former “heroes of Birdland” are employed by Peter Angelos and will lie to you every night like state run media in Egypt, Syria and Libya.

It’s been said many times in many ways but it’s absolutely true to any thinking person in America circa 2011 — false praise in the absence of legitimate criticism is hollow. Perhaps these are the same morons who watch Fox News and believe they’re getting “balanced” reporting.

The media in Baltimore are not really “media” at all. They’re paid employees of the Orioles. It’s the only way you’re allowed to “report” on the team. It’s a “no criticism” rule when you sign up for the credentials and access.

Jim Hunter is as much of a journalist as Vince McMahon was when he interviewed Ivan Putski and George “The Animal” Steele on Saturday afternoons on Channel 45. And Rick Dempsey – well, sorry pal, I loved you as a ballplayer but as someone who allegedly has “insights and observations” that I’m being told to respect you’ve become a sick, nightly joke on my couch.

This is the part where I’ll let Jim Palmer off the hook for being Jim Palmer. But at this point, I’m astonished he hasn’t been fired. I really am…and most nights he goes overboard in trying to be kind to another young pitcher who has surrendered six runs in three innings in another loss. And Gary Thorne, who makes no bones about being an outsider and hired gun, is just cashing a paycheck and trying to not laugh at the nightly ineptitude, almost playing a straight man in what would be a comedy if it weren’t destroying the city on summer nights.

They should all be ashamed of themselves and allowing this civic tragedy and disgrace to continue while taking a paycheck and lying to the very fans who made them heroes.

Trust and integrity are a funny thing. You only get one chance to lie to me and I’m gone forever. And after watching a 20-minute post-game show that grilled third base umpire Phil Cuzzi for “costing the team the game” on a blown call on Nick Markakis, it’s apparent that serving up the Kool Aid is the only way to keep your job with the Angelos clan if you’re name isn’t Palmer.

The Orioles are in the midst of their fifth straight last-place season. Of course, if you watch MASN, they’re not in “last” place – the co-workers of Andy MacPhail and Buck Showalter are only allowed to refer to it as “fifth place” or else they’ll be fired.

And either way, they’ll have to grovel for their jobs, careers and lives once again next February when Angelos goes through this his usual bullying tactics and stall techniques to gain leverage over these poor over-50 former ballplayers/heroes and tarnished “media” members as they try to earn a salary for another year in the MASN empire while serving up pretzel logic and lame baseball excuses for why the team hasn’t played a meaningful game since 1997. It’s the same methodology that Steve Bisciotti experienced in trying to “partner” with Angelos and MASN last July.

The Orioles PR and marketing staff – despite the awfulness of the team and the emptiness of the stands and the downtown area in general – still employ Gestapo tactics against my staff and anyone else who doesn’t praise the team’s .393 baseball this summer as “the road to improvement.”

Intimidation and threats are a daily way of life at The Warehouse. And, if anyone doubts whether Greg Bader and the Angelos family will take away your ability to feed your family, my picture is on the wall there as the “poster child for bad behavior” by the local media.

The truth: I’m in the only one in the local media who seems to care enough to be loud about their awfulness but that’s nothing new because the WNST staff are the only ones who aren’t on their payroll. We might also be the only media members who actually purchased season tickets (not my idea, by the way) this year via Drew Forrester’s “parent and child” program.

On Tuesday night in between the innings I managed to catch the entire episode of “The Band That Wouldn’t Die” on my DVR. To see the passion and energy of John Ziemann and his cohorts with the Colts Marching Band and their still open wounds from their undying love of the local team and the Irsay move is still inspiring and amazing. I can’t help but wonder if I’m going to live long enough to have a real baseball team with a community spirit in Baltimore or whether this will go on into perpetuity and Angelos will buy another 20 years of life from the devil and continue to torture my baseball soul while making $50 million per year in profit.

To think that ANYONE still cares about the Orioles enough to watch every night is amazing enough.

But to insult our intelligence again and again, night after night with this mindless banter? Really, the joke’s on me for giving my time and energy to these clowns.

At this point, it’s become a macabre comedic act in our house to watch the post-game just to see how many excuses Hunter and Dempsey can come up with after each nightly loss. It’s particularly entertaining when the Orioles lose 17-3 and these guys can come up with ways the “home team” got screwed or were a play away from being “right back in the game.”

The Orioles didn’t lose on Tuesday night because of one call – and, sure, it was an awful call. The Orioles lose because they don’t have enough good players. The Orioles lose because good players don’t want to play for Peter Angelos. We get crappy programming because real reporters with integrity don’t want to work for Peter Angelos.

But, sadly, for some legends, they don’t have the option of staying away like Cal Ripken.

Which brings us to the next rumor – the “Ripken to join the front office of the Orioles” phonebooth whispers have begun against in earnest as they seemingly do every summer.

If Ripken is smart, he’ll stay away.

But my gut tells me he won’t be able to help himself at some point. Eventually, if the old man lives long enough, Ripken will sign up for the party and become the butt of the jokes as well.

Cal Ripken’s involvement can’t fix the Orioles. It might create a few headlines and sell Angelos some more tickets but putting gold paint on a pig still doesn’t make it more than ham and bacon.

And that would be really, really hard to watch, Ripken falling into the Jim Hunter trap.

Lord knows, watching Dempsey and Flanagan is hard enough these days…

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Sure, Angelos is at heart of Orioles misery but 25 others are accountable, too

Posted on 23 July 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

This inglorious 14 years of misery, lies and ineptitude for fans of the Baltimore Orioles all over the world has been hard to watch at every level. I’m exasperated with the media corruption, lack of integrity and pure filth of heart of Peter Angelos and his profiteering and lack of civic pride for something that this community held near and dear to its heart — bringing tens of thousands to literal tears in 1991 when the memories of 33rd Street moved downtown.

But circa 2011, on a night-to-night basis, the only ones who can change the course of the franchise “in the moment” are the players Peter Angelos is paying millions of dollars, Andy MacPhail has hired and the ones Buck Showalter has morbidly signed up to manage this summer.

Sure, Angelos is to blame for this entire mess — that much is self-evident at this point — but that does not exonerate alleged Major League Baseball players from being able to produce in the glare of the bright lights in the eighth inning of a one-run game.

Take Friday night’s multiple fiasco-fest with the game on the line vs. the Angels. Nick Markakis came to bat with two outs and two on and the Orioles a single away from a tie game and a gapper away from potentially winning the game. Markakis — the team’s “franchise” player — clipped the ball about 45 feet down the first base line to end a rally.

I’m a Nick Markakis fan. He’s quiet, he’s professional, he’s Greek, he lives in Baltimore, he’s not a Twitter jackass and last-place loudmouth like his outfield mate. But, he’s also making $12 million per year to win baseball games and put up a better fight in that baseball circumstance. It’s fair to say, his career has been a disappointment vs. the salary and the expectations that he would be the “face” of the Orioles. Like when they put him six stories high on the Warehouse wall a few years ago.

Of course, seeing the Orioles kick the ball around and bring in the likes of overpaid Kevin Gregg in the 9th inning to give up a grand slam to Vernon Wells in an eventual 6-1 loss makes it all seem trivial.

They’re the Orioles. They can’t win, anyway. So what difference does a few outs with RISP mean or a few more blown saves and missed chances by a bunch of arsonists who no one else wanted but the Orioles were forced to over pay.

I opine often about the sins of Angelos and they are more than warranted. But in the few rare instances when he’s done the “right” thing by the franchise, it then becomes incumbent upon the players to produce or face tough questions.

There’s no doubt that fans always want a “fall guy” — a horse to beat when the team loses. Every Monday morning in every fall the players and coaches in the Ravens organization take the weight or the world onto their backs like a civic grand piano.

In some ways, playing for the worst franchise in the history of modern sports in the toughest division in sports and given the lack of financial balance in MLB it somehow seems to exonerate the actual Orioles players.

I’m not willing to make that concession.

Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and the rest of the well-paid professional baseball players need a mirror for their last-place woes as well.

But I have a feeling, in the end, this will get blamed on MacPhail and Showalter.

But then again, the fans seem to put the blame everywhere but where it belongs.

If you want to find the Orioles’ REAL magic — the meaningful games, the community activism, the late-summer wins, the memories and a potential World Series parade — you really need look no further than Angelos’ pockets.

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Here’s the truth: Baltimore doesn’t want to be told the truth about Angelos and Orioles

Posted on 15 July 2011 by Nestor Aparicio

I bite my tongue a lot when it comes to the Orioles. Go back and read the last two or three years’ worth of material I’ve produced when it comes to Peter Angelos and you’ll see that while the losing hasn’t subsided one iota in the standings, my bile, venom and anger have dissipated publicly for lots of reasons. Here are a few:

1.    I’m older and a tad more mellow and I openly realize that while Angelos is one day closer to not owning the team any longer, I’m also one day closer to death. I sincerely hope I outlive him and the losing but as the tragic death of WNST’s No. 1 fan Fergy Commodari taught me last week, life is short so I focus on things I can control.
2.    I’m so insanely busy building WNST.net and all of our web platforms and initiatives that writing blogs every night about why the Orioles suck just isn’t a quality use of my time, energy or ambition.
3.    It’s hard to justify writing these “anti-Angelos” blogs when I have no energy to write about it and you really have no energy to read it.

But, that said, it’s during times like these when the football team has essentially suspended all operations and I see our web traffic get the annual June and July “Bird Flu” due to your complete lack of interest in the Baltimore Orioles that I get truly sickened enough to write a missive.

So, while I’d love to hold a 5-year reunion for Free The Birds and do something righteously fun and charitable to continue our protest of the ownership reign of terror that Peter Angelos has profited from to the tune of a half a BILLION dollars, I realize it would be me, Drew and 14 drunks because no one in Baltimore gives a rat’s ass about the Orioles.

And no one seems to care that the Orioles are ripping off the community with this sham of a product and the likes of CBS and WBAL and WJZ and PressBox and 98 Rock and The Baltimore Sun are all on the take for advertising money and won’t be telling you “the truth” about the Orioles.

And, yes, I know it’s hard to believe it’s been FIVE FREAKING YEARS since Free The Birds but it has been. And nothing – other than the more than 500 nights you’ve probably given them in your living rooms over the past 58 months and perhaps the grey in your hairline – has changed with the real structure and reasons about why the team sucks and why Baltimore will never have a winner with Angelos running the franchise.

Tonight’s blog won’t be a traditional lengthy missive regarding every transgression since 1994 – or 1997, when they played the last real meaningful inning of baseball in Baltimore – but instead just a few key “reminders” about why the Orioles continually suck.

But, my experience has taught me that you can’t handle “the truth” about the Baltimore Orioles, circa 2011.

The first point is pretty elementary and begins and ends the entire debate – the Orioles are not really interested in winning and deep down you know it.

Sure, they’d like to win with a half-assed payroll full of young prospects and washed up, last-to-sign one-year contract guys who no one else in Major League Baseball is offering a two-year deal to during Super Bowl week. Winning would be nice but it’s very unnecessary when you’re making $50 million in profit and risking none of your guaranteed future revenue to make that kind of loot.

The Orioles would like to win but they don’t need to win.

And, really, from an accounting standpoint – and with guys like Angelos and MacPhail, the descendents of The Lords of The Realm running the Orioles – it’s not at ALL an incentive to even try to win when MASN spins off more than $100 million in annual revenue for yelling “Play Ball” no matter what collection of miscreants, castoffs and bums they field between the lines.

The Orioles don’t spend money. They don’t buy the best players. They accept no accountability at all for last place every year. They ban and restrict and punish media members and intimidate everyone else who doesn’t fall in line like the Third Reich. I’m in my fifth year of banishment from having a press pass so I’m in the unique position of being able to tell the truth.

Here’s the truth: the Orioles make more money losing than they’d EVER make trying to win. That’s the deal Selig and the other owners cut with him, same as when they gave franchises like the Pirates and Royals welfare checks (they call it “revenue sharing”) that somehow never got invested back into talent on the field.

Angelos has just found a more creative way to get it done – he’s passing the bill directly to you through your cable bill every month and you suckers are getting fleeced for it and no one says ANYTHING about it.

And these are the same people who wonder why the team blows every year?

Duh…is it really all that hard to do the math on this and figure out that these are business owners, not people who are interested in bringing a parade to their hometowns?

Angelos couldn’t care less about a World Series trophy. He’s making $50 million a year in profit on the team and has grown his investment by 500% in 16 years. And he’s done giving Palmeiro and Sosa and Belle and Segui and their ilk money. And no legitimate A-list player will take his “Confederate money” (thank you, Syd Thrift for that priceless gem from up above!) so the notion that the Orioles could’ve acquired Adrian Gonzalez last year or might acquire Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols this year is just “Rex Barney call-in fodder.”

I insult your intelligence to even bring it up as a possibility. I pander to the lowest common denominator and the dumbest fan if I bring this up with a straight face.

The team has been in last place for a decade, hasn’t played a meaningful game since 1997 and they’ve chased TWO MILLION PEOPLE from downtown Baltimore every summer night.

At this point, Angelos has no pride at all in this franchise and what it’s become. I’m not sure at what point you “caught on” and stopped going to games

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