Tag Archive | "Roberto Alomar"

Drew’s Morning Dish — Thurs., May 2

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Drew’s Morning Dish — Thurs., May 2

Posted on 02 May 2013 by Drew Forrester

ESPN is hilarious.

I swear, they’re better at making PR for themselves than Donald Trump does for…Donald Trump.

On Monday, just hours after the Jason Collins-is-gay story broke, ESPN had a showdown of sorts between staffers Chris Broussard, a Christian, and LZ Granderson, an openly gay male.

Remember, ESPN organized this, it wasn’t something the two men decided to do and asked ESPN for permission to make it happen.

ESPN thought it was a good idea to have an openly CHRISTIAN person engage in a debate about homosexuality with an openly HOMOSEXUAL person.

So, they booked them each for an appearance on ESPN in the early afternoon on Monday.

Broussard spoke about the Jason Collins announcement from his own, Christian point of view.  We know, naturally, where that path is headed.  He condemned the lifestyle of Collins – and Granderson, too, for that matter.  Granderson followed up with his own defense of the gay lifestyle since, HELLO!, he leads that lifestyle himself.

There was nothing at all offensive or derogatory or in any way out of line said by either guy, to me.

In fact, much like professional wrestlers, these two men – Broussard and Granderson – are professional friends and have discussed the idea of homsosexuality on numerous occasions when sharing a flight or a drink or a meal.

So…what happened?

ESPN quickly apologized, saying “We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news.”

Interesting.

First off, you brought the two employees on the air, knowing full well they had opposite views on the subject.

Then, you apologized because it became “a distraction”.

OK.

And, if you don’t mind me asking, just how did it become a distraction?  Because a Christian man condemned a gay man’s lifestyle as “a sin”?

It makes sense now.  ESPN invites a Christian man on the air to get him to comment on a gay athlete.  Then, when the Christian man criticizes the gay man’s lifestyle, it’s a “distraction”.

Wait, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

It would be akin to asking the guy who started Morton’s Steakhouse to engage in a debate with the local leader of Vegans-Are-Us.

When the Morton’s guy said, “I think you non-meat-eaters are nuts…sink your teeth into a nice filet and you’ll see what I mean”, would he be deemed a distraction too?

ESPN got what they asked for when they had Broussard and Granderson on the air.  They presented opposing views – which they knew they’d get – and it was done in a decent, respectful manner.

But — because a lot of America is now more afraid of God and Christianity than they are sympathetic to the gay community, it’s deemed a “distraction” when religion meets personal choice.

LOL at ESPN.

Afraid of their own shadow…

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I said it yesterday and haven’t changed my mind today.

I wouldn’t have voted for Roberto Alomar for the Orioles Hall of Fame.

He played three years in Baltimore, and one of them was a jake-effort in 1998.  Alomar was a terrific baseball player, perhaps the best 2nd baseman I’ve seen in the last 20 years, and while he was – in my opinion – a rightful selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame, he does not belong in the Orioles Hall of Fame.

Robby Alomar had two very good seasons in Baltimore and was part of two winning teams.

That’s it.

Who’s next, Nate McLouth?

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It all starts tonight for the Caps as they host the Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Washington.

Let’s see which team shows up for Adam Oates.

If it’s the “new” Caps, they’ll win 4-2 and get the series off to a good start.

If the “old” Caps are still going to display their usual playoff stink, they’ll lose tonight, 2-1 in OT, and the tide of the series will immediately shift to the Rangers.

My guess?

The old Caps show up.

They seemingly always do.

I hope I’m wrong.

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If you haven’t heard Rick from Reisterstown call the Derby for us on the air, tomorrow morning at 7:45 am is your chance.

It’s worth the price of admission.

And since it costs you nothing at all to listen, you can probably figure out the punch line.

Trust me though, you’ll laugh.

If you make it through the whole thing, that is.

 

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

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Ten Orioles thoughts with April in the books

Posted on 01 May 2013 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles concluding the opening month of the 2013 season by tying a franchise record with 16 wins in April, here are 10 thoughts to ponder as May begins:

1. Jason Hammel leads the club with four wins, but we’ve yet to see the 2012 version of the de facto ace show up this season. That’s not to say the right-hander hasn’t been one of the Orioles’ better starting pitchers, but the two-seam fastball that led to his renaissance last season hasn’t shown nearly the same bite through six starts this year. Despite a 3.79 earned run average, Hammel is averaging just 5.9 innings per start and his 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings is down dramatically from the 8.6 rate he held last season. Always possessing strong breaking stuff, Hammel needs to find a better feel for his two-seamer in order to make the rest of his repertoire more explosive. There was little debate that 2012 was a career season for Hammel prior to the knee surgery in July, but the Orioles didn’t actively pursue an impact starting pitcher with the thought — wise or not — that they had a pitcher with top-of-the rotation stuff. They’ll need better from Hammel over the next five months of the season.

2. Chris Davis’ historic opening-week start gained the most attention, but the free-swinging first baseman also collected 16 walks in April. His nine home runs have garnered plenty of press as opponents are pitching the left-handed slugger very carefully since the beginning of the season, but the walk totals have led many — including me — to praise Davis for an improved level of patience at the plate after he walked only 37 times during the 2012 season. However, the 27-year-old is seeing just 3.79 pitches per plate appearance after averaging 4.00 pitches per trip to the plate a year ago. Part of this can be explained by Davis’ strikeout rate decreasing (one every 3.5 at-bats compared to one per 3.0 at-bats last year), but it also indicates his walk numbers may not be sustained as his bat inevitably cools off at different points in the season. Regardless of just how much more patient Davis has become at the plate or not, it’s difficult to dispute how much of a force he’s become since the beginning of last season, making his acquisition in the Koji Uehara deal in 2011 a brilliant one by former president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail.

3. The decisions to let go of Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders weren’t the problem, but electing not to replace them is looking more and more like a mistake. Anyone who expects the former Orioles first baseman to continue hitting .300 like he did in his first month with Cleveland will likely be disappointed, but his eight home runs would look very good in the Baltimore lineup right now. Considering Orioles designated hitters batted .144 and posted a .502 on-base plus slugging percentage in April, Reynolds occupying that role or first base — with Davis handling the other — would be a major boost to the lineup. Meanwhile, Saunders pitched a complete game against the Orioles on Monday night but has been abysmal away from Safeco Field (12.51 ERA) so far. As I said during the offseason, letting go of Reynolds and Saunders was fine if the intention was to upgrade each of their spots and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette expressed the desire to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and a veteran starting pitcher. However, neither of those goals were accomplished and that could continue to plague the Orioles throughout 2013.

4. Zach Britton turned in a poor 2013 debut, but his quick demotion sends the wrong message to the organization’s young pitchers. No one expected the 25-year-old left-hander to have a long leash given the higher expectations in Baltimore these days, but I can’t subscribe to the idea of sending down a pitcher who you hope will fit into your future after only one rough start. This creates the impression that young pitchers looking for their chance in Baltimore need to be perfect, which isn’t a mindset conducive to being successful. I also wonder what kind of message it sends to Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and pitching coach Mike Griffin, who gave their recommendation for Britton to be the next call-up after Josh Stinson’s failed start last week. A spot start for an organizational depth guy like Stinson or even a journeyman like Freddy Garcia is fine, but if the expectation all along was for Britton to only receive one chance, the club would have been better served leaving him in Norfolk and not messing with his head. Again, allowing six earned runs in six innings was far from acceptable, but it wasn’t the type of disastrous outing that warranted an immediate exit.

5. It’s safe to say Nolan Reimold has yet to adjust to his new role as the club’s primary designated hitter. Reimold has two home runs, five RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS in 29 plate appearances as the club’s left fielder, but the 29-year-old has posted an ugly .477 OPS with one homer and two RBIs in 52 plate appearances while serving in the DH spot. The problem for Reimold is the remarkable play of Nate McLouth, who has been more productive at the plate and is better defensively in the outfield. Manager Buck Showalter can’t justify taking McLouth out of left field, so Reimold needs to adjust to his new role, which can be difficult for individuals accustomed to being in the game as a defensive player. The good news for Reimold is that he’s remained healthy after undergoing spinal fusion surgery last year, but the Orioles must get better production from the designated hitter or will need to begin looking at other options for the role. It’s fair to acknowledge he’s still regaining strength and is adjusting to not having quite as much range of motion in his neck after the surgery, but Reimold would be the first to tell you he needs to be better at the plate.

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Alomar to be inducted into Orioles Hall of Fame

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Alomar to be inducted into Orioles Hall of Fame

Posted on 01 May 2013 by WNST Staff

Former Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar has been elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame, the team announced today. Former Orioles scout and baseball operations executive Don Pries will be inducted as this year’s Herb Armstrong Award winner. Alomar and Pries will be honored at a luncheon at Oriole Park sponsored by the Oriole Advocates, founders of the Orioles Hall of Fame, on Friday, August 2. The induction ceremony will take place prior to the Orioles’ game against the Seattle Mariners that night.

Alomar spent three seasons with the Orioles from 1996-98, compiling a .312 batting average, 50 home runs and 210 RBI in 412 regular season games. His .312 career average with the Orioles is the highest among all players in franchise history with at least 1,200 at-bats for the team and he ranks 9th all-time in slugging percentage (.480).

In 1996, Alomar set a franchise record with 132 runs scored, 4th-most in the American League, and also led the team in batting average (.328), hits (193), doubles (43) and on-base percentage (.411) to help the Orioles to their first playoff appearance in 13 seasons as the American League Wild Card. He set team records for home runs (20, 22 total) and RBI (84, 94 total) as a second baseman in a single season. In the playoffs, his 9th inning, two-out single tied the American League Division Series Game 4 against Cleveland and his 12th inning home run won that game and the series for Baltimore.

Alomar won Gold Glove Awards in 1996 and 1998, a Silver Slugger Award in 1996 and was elected to the All-Star Game in each of his three seasons in Baltimore, including Most Valuable Player honors in the 1998 All-Star Game in Colorado.

A 12-time All-Star and 10 time Gold Glove winner who also played for the San Diego Padres (1988-90), Toronto Blue Jays (1991-95), Cleveland Indians (1999-2001), New York Mets (2002-03), Chicago White Sox (2003, 04) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2004), Alomar was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. He was the first player to be enshrined as a Toronto Blue Jay and is one of 12 Hall of Fame members who played for the Orioles and were inducted for their on-field accomplishments.

Pries worked for the Orioles for seven years from 1968 through 1974 as an area scout (1968-69), Director of Player Personnel (1970-72) and Assistant to the General Manager (1973-74). He oversaw the Orioles’ farm system and worked with General Manager harry Dalton during the most successful time in club history, when the team went to the playoffs five times, winning three American League pennants and a World Series in 1970.

Pries left the Orioles after the 1974 season to help Major League Baseball design a computer system for the MLB Scouting Bureau, benefiting all teams. In 1987, he became Director of the Major League Scouting Bureau and a year later created the Scout Development Program, a curriculum designed to teach all facets of scouting. Since its inception, more than 1,000 people have completed the program and more than 75% of those are currently employed or have worked in Major League Baseball. Pries played 13 seasons in the minor leagues and managed for five years before beginning his off-field career as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1960. He also scouted for the Cleveland Indians and Oakland A’s prior to joining the Orioles.

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Kill the Umpire

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Kill the Umpire

Posted on 05 June 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

They call him Blue because of the color that he wears (or wore) on the field, but the name Blue speaks to more than just that. You refer to him as Blue instead of by name because you don’t know his name, and shouldn’t care to. “Blue” speaks to his anonymity, as the best umpires are the ones that you never notice. “Blue” works on another level too, as (pun intended) when we do get to know their names it’s because blue, or more often blew, has entered the picture.

Fans don’t pay to see (or know) the umpires and generally when we learn Blue’s name it’s because he screwed something up. We remember Richie Garcia because of the call he blew in the “Jeffrey Maier Game” in the 1996 ALCS. We know the name of Jim Joyce for the call that he blew at first base as Armando Galaraga and the Tigers secured what should have been the final out of a perfect game. We know the name of John Hirschbeck because of the spittle (and whatever else) that Roberto Alomar blew at him on an ominous night in Toronto in 1996. And we know the name of “Cowboy” Joe West for the vocals he blew on his album “Blue Cowboy”. All things considered, fans would likely prefer that all 5 were simply anonymous “Blues” again.

 

The other funny thing about Blue is that, at the end of the day, he may simply be a remnant of a bygone era, a token who remains relevant and necessary simply because that’s the way that things have always been, and for possibly little other good reason. As the world calls Major League Baseball to task for its failure to take better advantage of the technology at hand and implement a more encompassing replay system, perhaps we can look at the whole matter as another symptom of baseball’s inability to get out of their own way or to simply embrace the present and take legitimate steps to make the game itself better…and more fair.

 

In an era of technology in which replay has pervaded the landscapes of nearly every major professional sport and sporting league, in an era where the NFL implemented, refined, scrapped, debated, revived and continues to refine their own replay policies, baseball finally and begrudgingly implemented an archaic replay policy of their own, specific only to home run calls, without uniform camera angles from ballpark to ballpark and one involving a parade of umpires vacating the field to convene in a secret room in the bowels of the stadium for the last month of the 2008 season and beyond. (Furthermore, in typical baseball fashion, the move was seemingly done in response to Alex Rodriguez being denied a homerun before his own steroid revelations, as baseball clamored for the day he’d write Barry Bonds out of the record books.)

 

So here we are, in the year 2011, with high definition technology in every ballpark, and a better view of the games from your living rooms (even without the benefit of replay) than you could possibly have from any spot amidst the action. Historically, MLB has seemingly always been a step or two behind the times, and in this case there’s no difference. As baseball looks squarely back into the barrel of the instant replay debate, it’s evident that they should already be way past that point. Baseball should, by now, be looking to get rid of the umpires altogether. The next time the huddle of umps retreats to the video room to look over a homerun call, someone should lock the door behind them and tell them to stay there. Let them stay there until they get it right, or so that they can get it more right more often.

 

The biggest, and most effective argument against replay seems to be that it will slow the pace of an already lethargic game to the point that even more fans will be put off by its lack of tempo. While that, especially under current practices, is probably true, it’s conceivable that eliminating the umpires altogether, or at least their presence on the field could and should actually speed up the game dramatically.

 

Start with the home plate umpire. Every umpire’s strike zone it seems is a little different, and old baseball logic says that as long as the umpire is consistent throughout the night the size of his strike zone shouldn’t matter, and hitters will adjust. How often though are umpires consistent throughout the night? QuesTec proved (to some degree) that cameras and computers could measure strike zones. Argue its accuracy all you like, but there’s little denying its consistency or its potential to improve. Every broadcast it seems has an instantaneous pitch tracker to show fans the arc and location of a pitch as it crossed home plate. While likely not perfect, they are consistent, which is all we ask of good umpires anyway.

 

Furthermore, pitch trackers, set up to a uniform standard in every ballpark will never expand or squeeze the strike zone based on human nature and game situations. The computer won’t be affected when pitchers or batters roll their eyes when close calls don’t go their way, and who in the hell is going to waste time arguing with the computer? (Which by the way makes about as much sense as arguing with an actual ump as they rarely if ever change those calls anyway.) It’s also unlikely that the computer would issue any 3-ball walks like we’ve seen on a couple of occasions in MLB this year, as the umpire in the control room wouldn’t require a coordination with the scoreboard operator, his counter could be the stadium scoreboard.

 

MLB could mandate video boards in uniform locations in every stadium that would relay calls made from the video booth and could easily add accompanying audio to play over the stadiums’ PA systems, as umpires really aren’t required to say very much anyway. Likewise uniform camera angles could be mandated to insure good replays of homerun and fair/foul reviews. Calls on the bases could be made in a similar way, on video boards with accompanying audio calls, “safe at first”, “out at second”, relaying calls made quickly, easily and much more accurately from the video room.

 

Once play is stopped and the ball is ruled dead, umpires could review any video of controversial plays, and in cases where calls are fixable without compromising the action or game situation (like the Joyce and Meals calls) they could fix them; all done quickly and without a parade of umpires retreating off of the field to deliberate.

 

If baseball really wanted to speed the pace of games, then they could require umps to enforce the 12-second rule in which the pitcher has to release his pitch from the time he receives the throw back from the catcher. Twelve seconds may be a bit quick, and therefore the rule is never enforced, and umpires have enough to look out for without putting the stopwatch on pitchers too. The computers though…

 

Since we’re already blowing the lid off baseball, albeit for the betterment of the game, and digitizing, mechanizing and computerizing the whole thing anyway, why not go for broke? Get ready for the blasphemous part for purists…a clock in baseball?!?!?!?!?

 

Put up a shot clock; make it 15 seconds, with a buzzer at the end if the pitcher is still holding the ball. If he steps off, reset it. If he steps off too much, warn him. If the buzzer goes off, call a ball. If the batter wants time out, he can raise his hand and wait for the audio/visual acknowledgment that timeout is granted. Once it is, put a 10 second clock on him too. When 10 seconds is up the pitcher is free to pitch. Pace quickened…problem solved.

 

At the end of the day it sounds pretty simple, and to some degree overdue. Will there be issues to consider? Certainly. That’s what spring training and Triple-A are for. Stage some of those games at big league ballparks, using the installed technology and test it out and refine it. The human element argument is past its time, and fixing these things would enhance the game, and it’s meaningful components without prolonging it. It could draw fans (if for no other reason, than simply for its inherent spectacle) and by insuring the attention isn’t focused on those who are supposed to remain anonymous anyway, might showcase the game in a way that would keep them.

 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, as there are people’s livelihoods and an Umpire’s Union to consider here too, killing the ump doesn’t actually eliminate him, it simply removes him from view, and notice and scrutiny. It restores his anonymity and provides him a better means to be right more often. Manning the video controls is by no means a one-man job, and umpires would have specific call designations and areas of responsibility on which to focus. It’s also certainly not a practice that could be emulated at lower levels of baseball, and is only conceivable at the Major League level. They don’t get a fresh ball for every pitch at baseball’s lower levels either.

 

In the wake of the latest rounds of ump bashing, it makes sense for baseball to again begin to investigate ways to restore Blue to anonymity, as he’s supposed to be…and oh by the way, to try and make sure that calls are made more accurately in the first place.

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Some Free Advice For Sean Payton, Ravens, Orioles HOF, More

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Some Free Advice For Sean Payton, Ravens, Orioles HOF, More

Posted on 30 March 2012 by Glenn Clark

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The Reality Check Starting Nine Players We’d Take As Our Tag Team Partners

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The Reality Check Starting Nine Players We’d Take As Our Tag Team Partners

Posted on 28 March 2012 by Glenn Clark

Starting next week, “The Starting Nine (Ten)” will go from becoming about fantasy baseball topics to being about fantasy baseball. How about that?

Our final fantasy topic Wednesday on “The Reality Check” was “Players We’d Take As Our Tag Team Partners.” We did that because-as you know-WrestleMania 28 is this Sunday. Wait. You didn’t know that? I don’t think we’re really going to be friends.

These are “modern era” guys. But you knew that since you were listening to the show.

Glenn Clark’s Nine (Ten)…

Pitcher-Nolan Ryan

Catcher-Jason Varitek

First Baseman-Walter Young

Second Baseman-Luis Sojo

Third Baseman-BJ Surhoff

Shortstop-David Eckstein

Outfielder-Lenny Dykstra

Outfielder-Deion Sanders

Outfielder-Adam Dunn

Designated Hitter-Jose Canseco 


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The Reality Check Starting Nine Players We’ve Most Enjoyed Watching in Our Lifetime

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The Reality Check Starting Nine Players We’ve Most Enjoyed Watching in Our Lifetime

Posted on 22 February 2012 by Glenn Clark

Our third edition of “The Starting Nine (Ten)” Wednesday centered around the subject “Who are the players you’ve most enjoyed watching play baseball in your lifetime?”

Was I supposed to follow up with something else here? Umm…let’s dance! (Oh, and bear in mind that I’m 28 years old and Ryan is 24.)

Glenn Clark’s Nine (Ten)…

Pitcher-Randy Johnson

Catcher-Ivan Rodriguez

First Base-Frank Thomas

Second Base-Roberto Alomar

Third Base-Chipper Jones

Shortstop-Derek Jeter

Outfield-Kenny Lofton

Outfield-Ken Griffey Jr.

Outfield-Ichiro

Designated Hitter-Harold Baines

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Wieters, Markakis grab first Gold Glove awards

Posted on 02 November 2011 by Luke Jones

For the first time since 1998, the Orioles have claimed multiple Gold Glove awards as catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis each became first-time recipients when Rawlings named their 2011 recipients late Tuesday night.

The 25-year-old Wieters is the first Orioles catcher to claim the award after throwing out 37 percent of runners attempting to steal and being named to his first All-Star team this season. The catcher committed five errors and had one passed ball in 132 games this year. His .995 fielding percentage tied for the American League lead among catchers.

Markakis earned his first Gold Glove after committing the first error-free season by an Orioles outfielder playing at least 150 games. His 14 outfield assists was fifth in the American League. Since 2006, Markakis ranks second in the majors with 72 outfield assists, with only Jeff Francoeur (84) having more.

The 27-year-old outfielder is the third Orioles outfielder to receive the honor, joining Paul Blair (1967, 1969-1975) and Adam Jones (2009).

Wieters and Markakis became the 14th and 15th players in franchise history to win a Gold Glove. This season marks the 17th time the Orioles have received multiple winners but the first since 1998 when Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mike Mussina were named Gold Glove winners.

Since the award was created in 1957, the Orioles have earned 61 Gold Gloves, second-most in the American League behind the New York Yankees (63).

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Since I Already Know You, I Guess I Don’t Need to “Get To Know You”

Posted on 18 August 2011 by Glenn Clark

I’ve taken a number of jobs in my short radio career.

Having gone from station to station, format to format, time slot to time slot and market to market, I’ve had more than one occasion in my life where I’ve had to say something along the lines of “hi, I’m the new guy.”

In this case, I’m grateful because I don’t feel as though that will be necessary this time.

As you may have heard Thursday morning on “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester and Luke Jones or read in Nestor Aparicio’s column today at WNST.net, there’s a change in my life.

After more than three years of getting up early and hanging out with Drew, I’ve been rewarded with an opportunity to sleep in a bit.

I have taken over as the afternoon show host (2-6pm) on Sports Talk 1570 WNST.

I’m incredibly excited.

As I’ve shared multiple times, I was a WNST listener when I was younger. Before I realized “Nasty” Nestor Aparicio was the father of one of my classmates (and friends) at Perry Hall High School, I had been handed a “Get Nasty” sign and was familiar with Charm City’s most well known sports talk host.

My familiarity as a WNST listener made my decision to leave KDUS in Phoenix much easier a few years back.

This is the next step for me, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with Drew every morning for the last few years, and for everyone else in the WNST family (and the numerous others I’ve worked with during my time) for everything they’ve taught me.

As my headline would indicate, the fact that I’ve been able to get to know you guys means I don’t think you need to know much more about me.

I listen to a lot of O.A.R. & Robert Randolph. I’m much too defensive about Roberto Alomar & Gary Williams. I’ve never met a fruit-flavored craft beer I didn’t at least try if not immediately add to the collection. I’m probably going to get banned from Chick-Fil-A Nottingham Square at some point soon because I spend more time there than I do my own home.

You probably knew all of that.

I have plenty of other thoughts that I’ll be looking forward to share moving forward.

I have a few simple thoughts about local sports radio.

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Angelos / Alomar and the Business of Baseball

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Angelos / Alomar and the Business of Baseball

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Friday was a great day on the Mobtown Sports Beat, if I am allowed to say so myself. And before I go any further, big thanks to Glenn Clark, Ryan Chell, Ryan Baumohl and the rest of the WNST production team for putting together one heck of a trip down memory lane. It’s been an eventful first year on the Mobtown Sports Beat, and while I marvel at the efforts of the production staff each and every day, they should be especially proud of their quick reactions to Gary Williams’ retirement and to John Mackey’s passing, and of their tribute to Roberto Alomar, Pat Gillick and the 1996-1997 Orioles on Friday. (Highlights are in the audio vault, and I’d encourage all to check them out.)

While celebrating the Orioles most recent stint as a legitimate contender, it was difficult not to contrast the feelings that surrounded that team with those of the present state of Oriole fandom. That however was the intention on Friday, and for the most part I think we did okay with it.

 

Although I was always appreciative of Alomar’s skills, I was amazed on Friday to hear the number of players, coaches and front office personnel that gave deference to Alomar not only as the best 2nd baseman they had ever seen, but as the best baseball player they had ever seen…period.

 

Strolling down memory lane however brings with it the inevitable realization that those days are long past, and that the likelihood of their return seems further away than ever. And as we’ve attempted at length to quantify how fast and how far the state of Orioles baseball has devolved, and surmise the reasons why, there’s an Alomar angle at least worth investigating.

 

There’s no denying that for at least one glimmer in time, in the reign of Peter Angelos, the Orioles were a team that was built and rebuilt to win, and appeared on the fast track to recapturing the “Oriole Way”. There’s also no denying that somewhere along the way all of that changed completely.

 

What’s debatable are when, why and how exactly things fell apart. There are truly a myriad of contributing factors to the downward spiral that has been the last 13 years of Orioles baseball, and an equal number of theories as to which are the real reasons. My conspiracy-minded viewpoints are fairly well documented by now, but in a nutshell here’s what I think.

 

In the early years of Angelos, he was a fan and ran the team as such. He spent money, showed face and chirped with pride at restoring the proud Baltimore tradition. Angelos and the Orioles may have ushered in an era of ballpark economics using the windfall that was Camden Yards to spend the team into contention. While OPACY was a nice gift to the O’s from the city, Angelos’ purchase price already had the new park factored in. The O’s has a sweetheart deal, and operated as such, until the Ravens came to town and showed the O’s what a sweetheart deal really was.

 

Baltimore essentially had to bend over backward to accommodate the cash strapped Browns and lure them to Baltimore. While most saw this as a necessary evil, and worth the price to return football to Baltimore, surely Angelos and the O’s saw it as inequity.

 

Here’s where the theory gets a little hairy, as the next part of the devolution of Orioles baseball (in my conspiracy laden opinion) was the eminent relocation of the Expos. As the saga of the Expos unwound in Montreal, it became clear that relocation was in order. What also became clear was that unlike the NFL, for which cities have routinely clamored and cut one another’s throats, MLB didn’t seem to have a lot of markets interested and economically stable enough to support a baseball team. Although MLB drug their feet for 3 long years before deciding on DC, it seemed apparent pretty early on that DC was going to be the only good choice.

 

A good choice that is, for everyone except Angelos and the Orioles. Already over their heads financially in the toughest division in sports, surely the O’s couldn’t sustain the halving of their market. Surely the fans wouldn’t stand for it.

 

While the fans didn’t exactly stand for it, they didn’t much stand against it either. The state of Maryland started thinking about ways to build the DC stadium in MD and bring in some additional revenue for themselves. The network partners at CSN saw dollar signs too and the chance at having another team to add to their lineup.

 

Angelos, left to fight the battle himself seemed to quickly surmise that logic dictated a team in DC would be disastrous for the O’s, but also seemed to concede that making that case to MLB would be tough while drawing 48,000 fans per night. This, in my opinion, brought about the summary destruction of the O’s.

 

While the conspiracy seems a bit over the top, and while there are surely loose ends to be tied up therein, the effort at anti-marketing by the team from 1999 on seems impossible to ignore. Season ticket holders, used to getting near weekly correspondence from the club saw it dissipate and eventually all but go away. The ballpark experience, across the board seemed less than in previous years with overbearing ushers and a catering to out of town fans. I may have the what’s and why’s wrong entirely, but here’s no denying the O’s tried to chase the fans away… and they succeeded at it too.

 

As this theory took shape in my head, it became therapeutic to some degree, as there was always the underlying memory that Angelos was a fan of the team and used to operate them as such. I expected that after the Expos’ business was settled, for better or for worse, the O’s would get back to trying to compete. Yet here we are, now years removed from the Expos’ relocation and the settlement with CSN, and as it relates to the deal the O’s negotiated with MLB, surely things worked out for the O’s about as well as could have been expected (outside of not having a team in DC at all) financially, and yet the O’s have made little or no effort at winning back the fans, or winning at all for that matter.

 

Somewhere along the way it would seem that whatever his original intentions may have been, Peter Angelos learned that baseball is simply a business and one that has become quite profitable for a team that has found its niche being routinely sacrificed to teams with real designs on winning ballgames. The O’s are cleaning up while playing the role of the Washington Generals of the AL East.

 

So back to the Alomar tie in: Fans will be fans, their whimsies change as the team’s fortunes change, and that’s to be expected. Likewise businessmen are businessmen, and that politicians and network executives saw ways to make money if not at the Orioles’ expense, at least despite them again should not be surprising. Ballplayers though are another matter altogether, and while Angelos was clearly a fan of the Orioles and ran the team in that way, he was also it seemed a fan of ballplayers. Maybe it was the ballplayers reminding Angelos that baseball was a business more than anything else that drove the point home for him once and for all.

 

While Angelos was a fan of his ballplayers and seemed to take care of them accordingly, it’s arguable that he never felt that fandom reciprocated or that respect appreciated. There were those who surmised that after Angelos’ infamous decision not to field a strike team to begin the 1995 season would make him a hero of sorts with players across baseball and that they’d think fondly of the O’s when contemplating free agent decisions. That never seemed to materialize, or to last.

 

When David Wells left the O’s to become a member of the rival Yankees it had to sting a bit, but Wells, a baseball historian and notable Babe Ruth fan came by his decision easily and honestly. With Alomar however, things seemed different.

 

There was no doubt that Angelos was fond of Alomar, even protective of him, possibly to the detriment of the team. While many felt the lingering aftermath of spit-gate cost the Orioles calls and games for years to come, it could be argued that Angelos proclamation in backing up Alomar and offering to pay him through his MLB mandated suspension may have made the bigger and more lasting ripples for the team moving forward. Angelos went to bat again for Alomar at the end of the 1997 season firing manager Davey Johnson over a disagreement over an Alomar fine. Yet long before Alomar reached free agency at the end of 1998, in fact long before the Johnson firing in 1997, it seemed all but a foregone conclusion that Alomar would be off to join his brother in Cleveland at his first chance to do so. For all of the goodwill that Angelos had shown Alomar during his 3-year tenure in Baltimore, Alomar it seemed always had one eye on the door, and defected to the rival Indians on top of it.

 

Raphael Palmeiro may have proven an example of this too. The O’s sort of fell into Palmeiro’s services for the 1994 season when the Rangers elected to sign Will Clark without negotiating with Palmeiro, the incumbent at first base. Upon signing with the O’s Palmeiro had a few choice words for his former employers in Texas, citing no love lost. Still, after one of the most successful free agent campaigns in history, Palmeiro returned to Texas and the Rangers who spurned him 5 seasons earlier without reservation.

 

Palmeiro it seems, never quite understood how Baltimore could pack in 48,000 fans per night yet never come up with enough votes to get him starts in the All-Star games, and quite simply went for the cash grab and return to familiar surroundings.

 

So by the end of 1998, for his efforts at being a player’s owner and a fan’s owner, Angelos had an overpaid and overmatched team in a top heavy division to which the fans couldn’t relate, a new neighbor at the Camden Yards complex with a much better financial deal than his own, an eminent baseball neighbor poised to split his market in half, and all of the salvageable talent still on the team defecting for greener pastures, bigger paydays and changes of scenery. And we wonder where the fan that used to own the team has gone?

 

As baseball opens its hallowed halls and celebrates Roberto Alomar while eschewing an otherwise deserving Palmeiro based on steroid allegations, so closes the last chapter of competitive baseball in Baltimore to date. And while both left their indelible marks on that last glorious chapter in innumerable positive ways, each may also have contributed in their own ways to its demise as well. And baseball in Baltimore is business…as usual.

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