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Moose memories and “Welcome Home” for wise deserter of Birdland

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Moose memories and “Welcome Home” for wise deserter of Birdland

Posted on 23 August 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

As Mike Mussina makes his triumphant return to Baltimore this weekend for the Orioles Hall of Fame activities it’s certainly a thought-provoking time to be a long-time observer and fan of the franchise.

Sure, the Orioles are once again relevant — playing meaningful and exciting games every night — which harkens to the days of 1996 & 1997 when “Moose” was an integral part of the magic of being an Orioles fan every fifth day during the zenith of Camden Yards’ passion and Inner Harbor energy.

Mussina has been gone from Baltimore – except for three visits a year in New York Yankees pinstripes – for 12 years now. So long ago that time has seemingly dimmed the glory of his deeds and his departure serves as a truly seminal moment in the awfulness of the Orioles franchise under the stewardship of Peter Angelos since 1993.

In the 1970’s it was routine for the Orioles to lose players to owners, markets and franchises that had more wealth, population and revenue. Many members of the franchise “Hall of Fame” and “Oriole Way” stalwarts left like Mayflowers in the middle of the night for greener pastures including Don Baylor, Bobby Grich, Reggie Jackson, Wayne Garland and Doug DeCinces and later Eddie Murray, Mike Boddicker, Mike Flanagan, B.J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick were all dealt away to save cash and get younger players.

But in the 1980’s and 1990’s, replete with a fan base from six states that pumped unprecedented money into the franchise and reached into the state’s funds to build Camden Yards and turn Baltimore into a spigot for Major League Baseball profitability, the Orioles never lost a player they wanted to keep.

Not until they lost the best player and pitcher of his generation of Baltimore baseball when Mike Mussina wore the “turncoat” label and bolted for the New York Yankees.

After the 2000 season, tired of three years of losing and Angelos’ low-balling and obvious meddling and mismanagement, Mussina simply took the advice of his agent Arn Tellem and played out his option and walked. On Dec. 7, 2001 after years of eschewing the notion of playing in big, bad New York he signed a six-year, $88.5 million deal to play for the Evil Empire.

I’ll share my many personal memories and my friendship with Mussina later in this blog but I can remember the surreal nature of watching that press conference from The Bronx from Chicago’s Sporting News Radio studios with my jaw open. It was the definitive signal that quality Major League Baseball players simply didn’t want to be in Baltimore anymore and it had little to do with crab cakes or the American League East.

Mussina was thought to be “irreplaceable” at the time and 11 years later time has borne out that diagnosis.

Mussina left the Baltimore Orioles because the owner stunk. He knew it and everyone in baseball knew it.

So, Mussina will finally return and don Orioles colors this weekend for the final time and he’ll find a few fresh statues on the veranda, a team in the midst of its first pennant run in 15 years and a seemingly soulless shell of a former love affair for baseball in Baltimore.

There’ll be plenty of empty seats and shoulder shrugs at his mostly sweet and sour induction into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame this weekend. Certainly a worthy candidate if there ever were one, Mussina’s time as a starter for the Birds is only eclipsed by the deeds of Jim Palmer, who as I’ve said many times is the greatest (and most underappreciated) Oriole of all time by any measurement.

Palmer let loose with a haughty pronouncement on a MASN broadcast earlier this week in promoting this weekend’s festivities. “The Moose is going to Cooperstown – at least I hope. He’s got 270 wins,” said Palmer, who went on to proclaim that in the steroid era to win all of those games and Gold Gloves and remain a “clean figure” in the needle witch hunt of the Mitchell Report should get him a Hall of Fame ballot punched in 2014.

For “real” Orioles fans, he’ll always be known as the Benedict Arnold of the modern generation for leaving the

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As purple Festivus season is upon us, alas the real Grinch continues to be Peter G. Angelos

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As purple Festivus season is upon us, alas the real Grinch continues to be Peter G. Angelos

Posted on 24 December 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been 51 months now since the initial “Free The Birds” campaign that we launched at WNST.net in “Year Nine of The Black Cat” and motivated more than 2,000 other brave souls who said “enough is enough” to Peter Angelos and the losing and nasty ways of the Baltimore Orioles.

The holiday results are in yet again for another sad orange offseason and I’m feeling pretty confident — as is Las Vegas — that the Baltimore Orioles will not be a playoff team in 2011.

And the real reason the team won’t win this year is the same as last year and the year before that: they won’t (or can’t) spend all of the millions of dollars they have managed to extract from this community via their incredibly wealthy and lean “regional sports network” called MASN.

Angelos

We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in direct profit that was allegedly to be spent on improving the baseball team for the community to enjoy. But instead of the $150 million payrolls that were promised to “compete with the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox,” that previously earmarked U.S. money donated by Middle Atlantic cable subscribers is in the pockets of Peter G. Angelos. Along with about $20 million more each year since Andy MacPhail took over in 2007 and slashed the payroll, bought off the local media and preached “young” to the fans while winking “cheap” at the owner that he just made a cool, clean profit for and shared in the financial windfall.

And like any other billionaire businessman without a soul for the pride of his own company and what it represents in the community, all of a sudden it’s very hard for any of them to part with “guaranteed money in the bank.” Especially when there’s no financial upside to giving the likes of Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre or Cliff Lee tens of millions of guaranteed money when winning is so far from being a reality in the AL East that even the once-prideful Angelos has clearly quit on trying to win for the fans of the Baltimore Orioles.

Adam LaRoche or Derrek Lee? This is what it’s come down to for the Orioles as Santa brings goodies and toys and playoff-caliber baseball elsewhere to even the likes of Milwaukee.

If you’re trying to be a .500 team signing the “leftovers” and “growing the arms” might be a strategy. But, really, is the bar a World Series title for Baltimore or is the bar set at being in third place and making $50 million in profit?

The Orioles are so grossly pathetic at this point that no credentialed Major League Baseball player with any other option this side of Pittsburgh will elect to come and play here. And the remaining few lost souls in the fan base are so desperate for any morsel of progress that they’ve even given Buck Showalter a hall pass for lying

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Dear Peter Angelos: When will you fix this disgrace?

Posted on 18 June 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

At the risk of “piling on,” I’ve decided to throw my two cents into the blogosphere today to briefly (insert joke here) discuss the situation regarding the Orioles as they continue their West Coast horror tour where no doubt Adam Jones will be tweeting about how great it is to be in San Diego and how pretty the girls are.

Yeah, well I was almost in San Diego, too this week.

When I saw the schedule come out last year I looked to do a baseball trip to my favorite city in the U.S. and watch the Orioles play and needless to say I made a great decision avoiding the So Cal and the Bay Areas this June of 2010, especially considering the U2 show on Wednesday night in Oakland was cancelled. I also thought for a while I was headed to the World Cup in South Africa, but alas, duty calls here in Baltimore in the way of running WNST.net.

I’m much happier to be headed to Harford County for the day to support soccer and my country, than to be watching this dreadful 18-48 baseball team in sunny San Diego over 7 a.m. eggs and bacon.

I built WNST.net so I could write and talk about Orioles baseball on a daily basis but quite frankly – and for the first time in a long time – I’m almost speechless.

There’s a part of me that wants to say “I told you so” – and I DID tell you so and I HAVE been telling you so – but the sick part is how low the franchise has sunk in so many measurable ways.

The 13 years of ineptitude has now reached a low so profound, so sad, so utterly disgusting that even words we could use on the internet wouldn’t be profane enough to properly express our inner rage as Orioles fans, baseball fans and as a sports community.

Everything about the Peter Angelos ownership regime has been appalling. And year after year it’s gotten progressively worse amidst the lies, propaganda, steroids, banning and intimidation of the media and railroading of the fans and sponsors all while profiteering at record levels via a deal with other Major League Baseball owners that has rewarded this behavior with tons of cash for the Angelos family.

Sure, the team is likely lose its 50th game before it earns its 20th victory and there are STILL people in this city who will defend the indefensible, like a troop of Baghdad Bobs.

But let’s get back to the core issue: What the hell is going on here and who is going to be the one to fix it for the fans and the community?

Let’s start with MASN, which is printing money off of the nipple of the people here and now stands to profit even more with no outlay of cash on the biggest superstar in the sport. Think about it: Stephen Strasburg is a cash machine for Angelos via the television rights and he made ZERO investment in the big right-handed phenom.

The Orioles current product on the field is atrocious – on pace to be among the worst teams in the history of modern sport. You can pick on any variety of players or talk about injuries to Brian Roberts, etc. The truth: they’re all just excuses for why the team sucks.

The reason the team sucks is because the owner has made it suck and the deal he has rewards him financially even when the team wins forty-something games in a season.

I’m sick of excuses. I’m sick of the lying. I’m sick of the manipulation and the treatment of the community as a piñata with cheap tricks like “walk up” surcharges on sunny nights.

I’ve written tomes on Peter Angelos and this awfulness many times in the past. Just google it…

But the mere notion that Andy MacPhail is “in charge” is laughable to anyone who has ever stood in a room with Peter Angelos.

MacPhail came here for the money, which was a sure thing, but not the glory, which was always a long shot. Oh, sure, maybe he thought he could fix this rotten franchise from the top down and at least get the team into third place behind New York and Boston.

But, Andy – you’re a smart guy — you had to know you were not really the guy at the top, right?

Pity poor Andy who came here to get a step up into the Commissioner’s lukewarm seat at MLB soon enough and to profiteer off of the riches of the largest television gift/heist in the history of regional cable pirating.

Andy thought: “They’re loaded with money, the old man is looking for ANYONE to stand at the front door and protect him and I’ll cut the payroll, show him I can make him a fortune and tell the fans we’re going young…

“What’s the worst thing that can happen when the team is already awful? It’s gotta get better, right?”

Wrong.

Welcome to 18-48 and a chase at the worst record in the history of modern baseball Baltimore, Andy MacFail…

And when the boyish general manager isn’t making UStream videos in a somber, Barack-like posture from the oval office of The Warehouse in May, he’s running from the real media and looking for an escape hatch from this living breathing, two-month old turd in June in the hopes of getting a one-way ticket back to the MLB offices on Park Ave. in New York.

Last week it must’ve really hit home when – for the second time in three years — he couldn’t find anyone reputable to even consider taking the job and manage this team. I personally think Bobby Valentine flew in for the crab cakes and to sit across the table from Angelos and MacPhail and laugh in their faces on behalf of my father, who is no doubt flipping over in his grave over at Gardens of Faith at the mere notion of the last 13 years of losing.

On the field, where it certainly matters the most, they can’t get any players outside the organization to come here and play. (They’ll probably coin a contract phrase for Kevin Millwood after what he’s been subjected to here over the past four months. It’ll be the “Millwood Clause” that says trade me ANYWHERE but Baltimore).

And even more disheartening, thus far they’re on the road to wrecking the career of Matt Wieters and this crop of young talent.

Think about being 24 and being 18-48 and feeling like there’s no hope and there’s no one around you who is providing any hope. You come to the ballpark and it’s either empty or filled with fans from Boston and New York.

The players on this 2010 Orioles team at times simply look outclassed but at other points disinterested and/or disheartened. There are no excuses for not running out ground balls or fly balls. There are no excuses – period — when you’re in the big leagues and are expected to perform and at the very least put out a requisite big-league effort.

Angelos and MacFail fired the surly manager Dave Trembley and to my eyes it looks like it’s gotten even worse the past two weeks under Juan Samuel, whose Spanglish prose in the pre- and post-game at least injects some gallows humor into my living room each night around a solid dose of constipation from poor Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey.

Sometimes it feels like Gary Thorne is laughing at the team under his breath and Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan probably see this as standard operating procedure because they know what a freaking mess the whole place is from the top down in more ways than anyone could ever know.

The MASN house ads would be pulled if anyone there had any sense and they’d be out trying to sell a sponsorship to Maalox or Tylenol, which are requisite medication to be a nightly watcher at this point.

I think the message the fans should be sending is one of demanding accountability. Honestly, that’s what Free The Birds was all about. Someone there who is responsible should have to answer for this and apologize for this and be held accountable for this.

But instead, Angelos remains invisible, the millions of former Orioles fans mow their lawns and wait for Ravens training camp to open and the dozen bloggers and the few thousand sheep who continue to drink the 18-48 Kool Aid continue to defend the indefensible.

Like my Pop said there really is a sucker born every minute.

But I haven’t given up, especially not after seeing the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Stanley Cup last weekend. They are the twin cousins of the Orioles here in Baltimore. Bill Wirtz might’ve actually been worse than Peter Angelos and that’s a bold pronouncement coming from me.

But yes, I’m still prone to watching them play most nights as my Facebook statuses will attest although I’m guilty of missing Jake Arrieta’s masterpiece on Tuesday night due to a severe case of the sandman.

But, alas, perhaps a true gem appears in the body of Arrieta who has looked the part of Jake Cool in his first duo of outings against top-notch competition.

We’re trying to somehow, someway digest what’s left of 2010 as a local baseball fan and Arrieta has given us a glimmer of a reason to “look up” every five days as the Orioles lose their way into baseball history yet again.

Look, it’s not shocking that the team sucks and they’ll finish in last place. What IS a shock is that the team is 18-48 and we have almost 100 more games left in this steamer of a season.

Are you watching?

Will you be watching in two weeks, four weeks – FOURTEEN weeks from now?

Are you rooting for them or against them at this point?

Well, for the next 3 ½ months Ty Wiggington will be playing and probably not as well as he did in April. And Jake Arrieta will be pitching until they shut him down for throwing too many innings in September. And Nick Markakis can keep demanding accountability within an organization that lacks accountability from its head down. And they can keep feigning this ridiculous notion that Brian Roberts is miraculously going to appear after the All-Star break.

All of this masks the ugly truth: the worst might be yet to come once MacFail starts dealing off Millwood, Tejada, Scott and any other remnant item any other franchise might want to take off his hands and unburden his budget of another $5 to $10 million before year’s end.

But there’s a lot of bad baseball ahead, I’m afraid.

But I have plenty of Free The Birds shirts left over from last month if you want to state your case.

And we are doing a bus trip up to Yankee Stadium to see them play on Labor Day Monday.

I’d try to get a group to go down to Camden Yards to have some fun but every time I try that it fails.

Our sponsors want no part of baseball. Our listeners and readers don’t want to go to the games with us.

I brought up an idea in our staff meeting this week to throw a big All-Star Game Charity party but I was almost laughed out of the room.

It’s gonna be a long July.

But what I’m really wondering is when it’s ever going to change?

And who will be the one to change it?

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Where have you gone Brother Lo?

Posted on 22 February 2010 by dansoderberg

The Baltimore Sun reported today that Mike Flanagan is returning to the television booth this season as a Color Analyst for MASN.  The announcement made me long for the old days of John Lowenstein and Mel Proctor on HTS.  Proctor and Lowenstein had a great on air rapport and Lowenstein’s commentary always had the element of surprise, if not hilarity.

I’ve never been a big fan of Flanagan’s TV work.  Mike always strikes me as thinking he’s way funnier that he really is.  Of course, when you consider that he’ll be replacing the crackling voiced pre-pubescent Buck Martinez maybe Flanagan isn’t so bad after all.  I’ll say this, the Flanagan hiring does at least spare us from a season of Dave Johnson in the booth.  Jim Palmer’s place as MASN’s top dog is secure.

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Hey John: You can’t be 4-4 and seriously talk playoffs

Posted on 09 November 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Just judging from the sheer volume of social media I consumed all day yesterday, the fan base here is in “quit on the 2009 season” mode. The lofty expectations following a rookie campaign for John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco that ended in the AFC Championship Game led all of us in the Charm City to feel as though this year would somehow be better.

Well, we’re halfway through the race and things haven’t gone according to the best laid plan.

The Ravens have lost four of their last five, including yesterday’s turd in Cincinnati. The team, overall, just hasn’t been as good as advertised in many ways. The Bengals have now embarrassed the Ravens twice in four weeks en route to sole possession of the AFC North lead and have earned the right to crow.

While yesterday’s loss certainly felt like more of a beatdown than the final score — and we’ll get to Steve Hauschka’s missed kick in a minute — the NFL only counts one thing en route to a playoff berth in the tournament: wins. And right now, at 4-4, this isn’t going to get it done.

I could make excuses for all of the other three losses — and losing in the waning seconds on the road to New England and Minnesota doesn’t make you a bad team. But the pair of losses to the Bengals has been illuminating, especially when you consider Marvin Lewis’ recipe for building a team with a 6-2 start.

The Bengals have just about everything you’d want — a world-class quarterback with a world-class wide receiver and a running back who runs like Jamal Lewis with a line that’s got a nasty streak. On defense, they’ve built through a young linebacking corps (sound familiar?) and a pair of first-round cornerbacks who allow the safeties and linebackers to play hardball with the pass rush. Oh, yeah — they also arguably have the best kicker in the sport.

The Ravens, as was in full display yesterday, are sorely lacking in various departments but especially the ability to get off the field consistently on 3rd down on defense. It’s been a defensive franchise for the better part of 11 seasons. All good things must end and the 2009 defense is not up to “Play Like a Raven” standards.

Is that Greg Mattsion’s fault? Is that because of the clear falloff at the cornerback position? Is it not having Rex Ryan? Is Bart Scott missed that much? Is Ed Reed OK? Will Haloti Ngata be injured all year?

The entire secondary was beaten in coverage during the first half and the penalties were dreadful. All over the field. Ray Lewis is still the Ravens best player when Ngata is not dressed and that speaks volumes.

The first three losses were “excused” in my opinion. Yesterday, however, did a lot to expose the Ravens as a team that’s pretty good but not a serious playoff contender, especially not with that secondary and lack of pass rush.

Sure, Haloti Ngata’s absence needs to be factored into the equation in the Bengals debacle, but the Ravens have sufficient depth at that position and I’m not sure Ngata would’ve been a difference maker in the outcome yesterday in Cincinnati.

As for the offense, Joe Flacco just was not good enough yesterday, nor was the offensive line, which played its worst game of the season. Penalties? All over the place and ill-timed. Productivity? How about making their first third-down conversion in the fourth quarter? That’s just putrid, unacceptable and not worthy of the NFL playoffs.

They didn’t run well. They didn’t pass well. They were out of sync all day and Flacco looked bewildered during his short stints in the first half. Flacco has now dropped five straight to teams led by Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.

Derrick Mason and Ray Lewis declined to comment after the game yesterday but I’m sure they’ll have something to say on Wednesday at The Castle.

Harbaugh did his usual tap dance around any tough questions from the media — (memo to John: denying that the team doesn’t tackle well is laughable at this point) — but it’s easy to do what you want when you’re in the AFC Championship Game and things are going better than advertised.

But when the team is a disappointing 4-4 at the turn and the one decision that’s truly pinned to Harbaugh’s special teams badge of expertise — the banishment of kicker Matt Stover in the offseason — costing the team team parts of two of the losses, the questions are only going to get tougher around the head coach and around Steve Hauschka.

This team was supposed to go to the playoffs. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. The “upgrades” of the offseason were well-calculated and the draft went well. The Ravens and the fanbase were not prepared to be swept by the Bengals and be 4-4 at the turn.

All eyes will now turn to Cleveland, where the Ravens most certainly will awaken eight days from now at 5-4. Right? We can only hope…

The Ravens have amassed four losses and haven’t yet seen the Steelers, the Colts or a frigid December night at Lambeau Field and a West Coast trip to the zoo in Oakland in early 2010. There’s a lot of football left to be played.

The Ravens will sort this out on the field. They need to go 6-2 to have a chance. They need to go 7-1 to be assured of a spot.

If they do it, they’ll be good enough. If they lose two more times to the Steelers, they’ll be playing golf on Jan. 4th and deservedly so.

And if that happens, John Harbaugh’s gonna have a lotta ‘esplainin’ to do at that postseason press conference while he sits next to Steve Bisciotti and the Steelers and Bengals are still playing football…

Things like:

What really happened in the decision to replace Matt Stover with Steve Hauschka?

What really happened with Chris McAlister and how did we get sold that Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr are upgrades?

Why all the penalties?

Where is the pass rush?

Where is Willis McGahee?

Where is the urgency on offense when the team is down two scores with three minutes left?

Of course, Harbaugh doesn’t really like the tough questions but they’re coming. It’s a tough job. It’s been a lot of fun, this honeymoon of riches and a great start to his era in Baltimore. Getting to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie head coach indeed buys you a hall pass for a while.

I have a feeling a lot of that ended yesterday, with a sweep to the Bengals and a 4-4 record at the turn.

But, as Brian Billick would no doubt tell him, these Monday mornings aren’t a whole lot of fun when the town gets disappointed and the team plays poorly.

And someone has to answer the questions…

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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 beauty of Earl Weaver in midsummer

Posted on 12 July 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I had a long conversation with an old friend about Earl Weaver earlier today. We talked about the you tube classics — the argument with Tom Haller and the “off the record” Coaches Corner with Tom Marr, which I’ve linked below for a Sunday morning coffee laugh.

My old pal and I laughed about the memories of watching Earl rip up rulebooks and kick dirt onto umpires. And how he invented the modern game. And how different baseball was when we were kids.

Later this evening, I received a link from a friend to read Tom Verducci’s latest missive regarding The Earl Of Baltimore and how he was the “Copernicus” of the modern game of baseball and sabremetrics and MoneyBall.

The story is here…and it’s fabulous!

Meanwhile, enjoy some Sunday viewing and laughs and memories below…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl-4FSRYagc[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YKxf3OkpJc&feature=related[/youtube]

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Bergesen goes distance, emerging as a true ‘Ace’ for Orioles

Posted on 15 June 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s still a bit too early to put Brad Bergesen on the Mike Mussina track as the franchise’s first potential “ace” in a decade but yesterday’s effort at Camden Yards has started some buzz about the lanky righthander’s recent work.

The complete game, five-hit, 11-2 victory over the Braves yesterday should come as no surprise. The word on Bergesen’s command began in Florida at spring training and has become evident with his work since his call-up from Norfolk. He pitches quickly. He throws strikes. He mixes speeds. And, with much more consistency than most young pitchers of this generation, he finishes games. He’s what the throwbacks would call a “bulldog” or a “gamer.”

In an era of starting pitchers who generally feel “victorious” about six decent innings of work and turning the keys over to the bullpen, Bergesen is indeed a Jim Palmer-esque throwback with his psyche and longevity. He won’t be throwing double-digit complete games every year in the bigs like ‘Cakes, but yesterday was an impressive afternoon of pitching.

Bergesen, who threw 112 pitches and appeared to be laboring a bit in the 9th inning, has taken a few of his own lumps during his first six weeks in The Show, but he is now 4-2 with a 3.79 ERA and emerging as the closest thing this franchise has to a “sure thing.”

After the years of empty promise of the likes of organizational minor-league rock stars like Rocky Coppinger and Adam Loewen and Matt Riley, along comes Bergesen who now looks like he belongs and is proving it every five days.

Bergesen feels more real than any of them for a reason: he throws strikes and he wants to go the distance.

For one day (or is it two now?) even the offense awakened from its slumber with the unlikely likes of Ty Wigginton (3-for-4, 2 HRs, 3RBIs) and Robert Andino (2-for-4, 3RBIs) bringing the lumber to Derek Lowe and the Braves. Lowe was chased earlier yesterday than in any of his 269 starts in the big leagues.

The Orioles ended yesterday’s game with 15 hits and managed 19 runs in the final pair against Atlanta, breaking out of a hideous offensive slump that begin on June 1.

The Birds have the day off and will begin a three-game set with the incoming New York Mets tomorrow night at Camden Yards.

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A weekend of MASN and Baltimore and Washington and “Battle of Basement”

Posted on 24 May 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Well, if they weren’t going to get the sweep at least they lost in dramatic fashion. Jamie Walker gave up a prodigious grand slam to Adam Dunn in the 7th inning and the Nats beat the O’s 8-5 to avert a sweep in D.C.

Brad Bergesen pitched well enough. The Orioles battled and the game was pretty nip and tuck through the middle innings with lead changes, big hits and competitiveness. But it all unraveled in the 7th for the O’s bullpen after Bergesen hit the shower.

I’ve spent all three days pretty much glued to the TV watching this series. I was just as amazed by all of the empty seats as I was the full ones. It looks like they sold a lot of tickets and many didn’t come. It was just weird looking at it for 30 innings over the last 45 hours.

I’ve been wanting to write a blog all weekend but I thought I’d just do a “summary” here today about what I’m thinking as I watch all of this pretty-much lousy baseball.

I’m also a little overwhelmed with MASN’s hodgepodge display of Nats and O’s as “friendly rivals” and how chummy the “Battle of the Beltway” feels as they both meet again and are both again headed for the basement of their respective East divisions. I call it the “Battle of the Basement” and it feels like it’ll probably be that way again next year.

With Jim Palmer back in the booth today, it was a refreshing change from the Nats-dominated coverage from Friday and Saturday. And when Cakes talks, I listen. He’s one of the few (Dave Johnson would be another) who actually teaches me stuff as I watch the game. I like that.

So, before I criticize MASN, let me say that Palmer eradicates many of their deficiencies with his brilliance, information, stories and general arrogance and candor. At this point, he’s Howard Cosell compared to what I hear anywhere else on MASN, CBS Radio, 105.7, Pressbox or anyone else who is “on the payroll” with the Orioles, Angelos or the axis of the “powers that be.”

But I’m just overwhelmed with how “templated” the Orioles and Nationals “fan experience” is when they tune their favorite club in on television. Both of their TV ratings are in the dumper and heading south with my last place summer nights. So, I suppose, other than telling us when Matt Wieters comes and pitching more events and MASN house ads and promotions, what else can they do with these teams that will be well into September before they win a combined 100 games?

But I love baseball. And I’m watching. And I’ve been taking some notes this weekend on Baltimore vs. Washington and how “flat” this thing feels.

Some random observations:

* A lot of orange in the seats all weekend in D.C. The O’s fans represented in almost Boston-like color in the seats. I’m not sure if that’s the D.C. side of the fanbase that thought that having a team they knew would suck as opposed to Montreal’s problems and MLB’s ownership would be a better play five years ago?

I’m not really sure how I would feel if I lived in Rockville and loved baseball. Why would I become a Nats fans? (Granted, it’s pretty easy to jump off the orange ship with the way Angelos has behaved with D.C. in general over the past 15 years. He’s more disliked in D.C. than he is here for trying to block the team’s entrance and now summarily screwing up the TV rights and presentation of the games.)

I suppose it’s the same situation for someone in Baltimore who truly fell in love with the Redskins in 1984 and just became a fan of the “nearest” team. I’ve rooted for the Capitals most of my life and considered the Bullets my “home” team until they moved into D.C. and changed their name to the Wizards.

It sucks bad enough being an Orioles fan. Imagine adopting the Nationals and watching them BOTH and trying to hang in there watching two doses of MASN every night to get your baseball fix…

* Debbi Taylor, former NESN girl who got her start as Peter Gammons’ girl wonder about 15 years ago at ESPN, makes Amber Theoharis look like Bonnie Bernstein or Suzy Kolber. The Nats broadcast team in general sounds like vanilla, blah, so what, etc. But again, they do have a 13-30 team that they have to make sense of every day. It ain’t easy talking day after day about losing. Trust me, we at WNST.net feel the same way. How many ways can you “sell” something that’s lousy?

* Palmer is hysterically funny. I’m not sure the guys at Famous Dave’s are happy with his assessment of their food, but it is funny.

* Hall of Famer Bob Feller stopped by in the middle of the game today and was just fabulous with one liners and old stories. Jim Palmer and Bob Feller talking old-school baseball might bore the hell out of some of the 21-year olds in the audience, but I love that stuff. I wish Feller, who is now 90 years young, would’ve stayed for two more innings. My Pop told me all about Bob Feller and the old stories are what sustain my interest in baseball these days.

•    I really wish this rivalry were good. The Redskins-Ravens thing is hot. Even when both teams suck, the game will always be a four-year war and the fans draw up the battle lines. I’m good with that. I hate the Redskins. I want to hate the Nationals. But neither one of these teams gives me any reason to feel any emotion. We had a bus trip planned for today and couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go. That’s pretty sad, I think. The Nationals are – alas — just “another team.” I wonder if sometime in the next 10 years whether it will ever develop into a “Hatfield-McCoy” thing. Right now, that feels a long, long way away…

* The one thing that I have found thoroughly offensive since Friday night has been MASN’s “mixed marriage” coverage. Look, I CLEARLY KNOW AND APPRECIATE that they’re “saving a buck” by combining the coverage. But if I hear Dibble call the Nationals “us” or “we” again or watch one more dorky Nats fan talk about “defining moments” in the same exact canned ads as they play on the Orioles broadcasts as they start the day 12-30, I’m gonna puke.

Angelos really HAS screwed up both cities for baseball. At least it’s comforting to know MASN’s just as lousy as a “templated” D.C. product.

And while I’m on it, the marketing phrase “Birdland” sucks. It’s just awful.

In D.C., they’re clearly “cultivating” Natstown”

As my wife pointed out, what would be wrong with “O-Town”?

Or “O’s Town”?

Anything but “Birdland,” which sounds like a place a last-place team would play to me.

•    I’ve gotta go now. Ray Knight and Johnny Holliday are on talking about the Nats in HD. I have to tune into MASN2 now to see Rick Dempsey and Tom Davis try to make sense of a loss to the Nats.

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Red Sox complete 4-game sweep, batter Orioles 12-1

Posted on 20 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

1:50 p.m. — The Red Sox are getting well this inning off of the O’s bullpen. Mike Lowell just added another single. Update on Radhames Liz: 1/3 IP, 3H, 6ER, 1BB, 2HBP. His ERA is now: 67.50.

1:45 p.m. — The Bad News Bears weren’t this bad. Youkilis just sent a “seeing eye” pop that bounced an inch from the RF line to score another run. This one looked like it had a message of some kind. Just a crazy swing of the bat. Add another ER to Liz’s line…

1:39 p.m. — Liz just bounced one in front of David Ortiz that hit his leg. Here comes Matt Albers. He inherits the bases loaded and one out in the 7th inning.

Liz: 1/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 W, 2HBP … His ERA is now 47.25.

Oh, and there’s three more ducks on the pond and Kevin Youkilis is awaiting like Alberts is raw meat. Jim Hunter just said: “Not a good outing for Radhames Liz.”

Yeah, ya think? That’s a helluva observation, Jimmy!

1:36 p.m. — Another single, 9-1. Radhames Liz is NOT a Major League pitcher. Now Matt Albers is warming in the bullpen. At this point, I have no idea why they’re not just saving the bullpen for tomorrow. Brad Bergesen is making his major-league debut. It would be a good idea to save the bullpen.

1:34 p.m. — It hasn’t taken long for Radhames Liz to go into “arsonist” mode. He’s given up a double, he’s hit one batter and walked one. Oh, and he did get one out. It’s 7-1. UPDATE: Another single, 8-1.

1:10 p.m. — This just in: Felix Pie SUCKS! He can’t hit. He can’t run the bases. And he certainly looks lost in the outfield shagging flyballs. The defense has been “spotty” at best over the first two weeks of the season. But, Pie just played a relatively easy play for a major league centerfielder into a two-run triple for David Ortiz. YES…a TRIPLE by Ortiz at Fenway Park! They’re down 6-1. Sarfate’s ERA is going to suffer, but that was just brutal defense. Embarrassing…they’re nine outs away from being swept by the Red Sox in Boston.

I have great admiration for Jim Palmer for not simply jumping out of his seat and saying: “I wouldn’t have pitched for a franchise this bad!”

12:58 p.m. — Looks like five innings is the max, except for Koji Uehara these days. Hendrickson is out. Dennis Sarfate is next. The Birds are still down 3-1.

12:22 p.m. — Well, hopes are that Mark Hendrickson is settling down. He just struck out the bottom of the Red Sox order in 4th inning. He might even make it to the 6th or 7th inning if he keeps throwing at this pace. Jim Palmer is talking incessantly about his 1970 appearance on Patriots Day in Boston. (I love old ‘Cakes’ stories…)

12:06: Finally, we get our first real “call up” treat here in 2009. Brad Bergesen (1-1, 2.45 ERA at Norfolk) will take the ball tomorrow night at Camden Yards vs. the White Sox. Not sure if that sells them any more tickets (some will be going for the free Koji T-shirt) but I’m excited to watch this kid pitch.

12:04 p.m. — The Orioles are on the board, getting a rare RBI single from Cesar Izturis in the 3rd inning. Nick Markakis just played a flyball out into a triple. Jim Palmer: “That should be an error but that’s not the way they do things anymore.”

‘Cakes’ cracks me up!

11:49 p.m. — Mark Hendrickson has been lucky to escape the first two innings with only three runs allowed, as he loaded the bases in the first with no outs and escaped with only two runs plated. In the second, he gave up a monumental home run to Jason Varitek in the 2nd inning.

Now, Ryan Freel made it to first on an infield single and was hit in the head with a throw trying to steal second base and left the game groggy with Robert Andino taking his spot at third base.

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