Tag Archive | "washington"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts on approaching trade deadline

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the non-waiver trade deadline just three weeks away, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Manny Machado wasn’t pleased being asked by New York media about the Yankees’ reported trade interest after Monday’s doubleheader, but I don’t blame him after he’d answered multiple questions about his future earlier in the day. He’s handled the endless trade questions very well all season.

2. Machado has repeatedly stated his desire to stay at shortstop, but that’s a bigger issue for free agency than a contender needing a third baseman for 2 1/2 months. He was a pro deferring to J.J. Hardy for years, so this shouldn’t be any different, especially having a chance to win.

3. Any serious objection to trading Machado to the Yankees is based only on emotion. If theirs is the best offer, the Orioles would be foolish not to accept. Refusing to trade him to the Yankees won’t prevent him from signing in the Bronx if that’s where he wants to be.

4. The idea that the Orioles will deliberately keep Machado until after the All-Star Game in Washington was only a theory presented by another baseball executive to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, but that even being a possibility speaks to the negative perception of the organization. That must change.

5. Zach Britton has averaged a season-best 95.8 miles per hour on his sinker in each of his last two outings. That’s an encouraging sign and should ease some concerns about his poor performance and underwhelming velocity over his first eight outings of the season.

6. Meanwhile, Brad Brach’s trade value has been torpedoed by a 4.63 season ERA and a 7.50 mark since June 7. At this point, I’m not sure he’ll fetch much more than what the Orioles got for Tommy Hunter in 2015, a deal that brought only “Quad-A” outfielder Junior Lake.

7. In this era in which minor-league prospects are valued more than ever, packaging Machado and Britton together seems like a sound approach to land the two or three talents you really covet from another organization. Contenders can never have enough bullpen help, making that a formidable rental duo.

8. It’s hardly shocking there hasn’t been more out there about Adam Jones as marquee talents like Machado dominate headlines, but he remains a solid trade piece. His defense in center is a big topic of discussion, but don’t forget the remainder of his $17.33 million salary owed for 2018.

9. With that in mind, you’d like to see the Orioles be willing to eat some money in an effort to sweeten the pot of prospects coming their way. Including some cash could really improve a deal with a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

10. Time will tell what talent the Orioles secure in trades, but it’s encouraging seeing them target a number of prospects at the Single- and Double-A levels. The worst thing they could do is insist on major-league ready talent — with a lower ceiling — in an effort to be competitive in 2019.

11. His defensive struggles and a $13.5 million salary for 2019 are major obstacles, but Mark Trumbo is doing what he can to present himself as a long-shot trade piece. He entered Tuesday second on the Orioles with 12 homers and owns an .803 on-base plus slugging percentage. It’s still doubtful.

12. When you’re 40-plus games under .500 in July, all trade possibilities should be on the table, including players with years of club control remaining. Are the Orioles really going to be back in contention by the time Kevin Gausman (post-2020), Dylan Bundy (post-2021), and Mychal Givens (post-2021) hit free agency?

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 13): Mi$ter Angelo$ & $on$ Network change$ everything for two citie$

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

This is Chapter 13 of the upcoming book, “The Peter Principles.” This lengthy excerpt is a prelude to a WNST report on ten years of MASN money and how Washington baseball has affected Baltimore baseball over the past decade. The first three chapters of the book are available here:

The Peter Principles (Ch. 1): So, just how did Angelos become ‘King’ of Baltimore baseball?

The Peter Principles (Ch. 2): The error of tyranny at Camden Yards

The Peter Principles (Ch. 3): How close did Angelos come to owning Baltimore’s NFL team?

The Peter Principles (Ch. 12): Selig vs. Angelos – trust, antitrust and billions of dollars

 

 

“The most important part of the deal is the equity in MASN over the long term. In a few years that equity stake in the network will be worth far more than any rights fee that a Comcast or a Fox SportsNet could pay (the Washington Nationals). So they will in time have a 33 percent stake in MASN without one penny of investment. We pay all production costs, overhead, the staffing and program fees. The new Nationals get all the benefits without the risk. My goal, and I am sure it is the same for the Washington owners, is to have two very successful franchises that work together on a number of projects while being friendly rivals on the field.”

Peter G. Angelos

The Examiner

April 7, 2006

 

 

AS PETER G. ANGELOS WATCHED THE Boston Red Sox win the 2004 World Series, he was still a state of shock that his Major League Baseball partners and commissioner Bud Selig had actually done the unthinkable – placing a rival National League team into Washington, D.C. to compete with the Orioles, forever dividing the marketplace.

Insiders said they’d never seen Angelos so angry, so agitated, so betrayed and hell bent on making them pay for this decision to double cross a partner. Selig had been contrite in their conversations and vowed to somehow find a way to keep Angelos whole on the deal and the burgeoning business of television networks had become the next generation way of getting money from the masses to fund baseball growth. In the 1980s, MLB discovered sponsorships and a higher-end clientele. In the 1990s, MLB discovered leveraging municipalities for new stadia, skyboxes, club seats and premium sponsorships. Now, in the new century, it was going to be television rights and revenues derived from cable purchasers who are bundled into larger all-but-invisible packages where the “regional sports network” would garner a few dollars per month, per subscriber.

This was a way to collect automatic, “unseen” money from virtually every home in their region. They would be getting tens of millions of dollars from folks who wouldn’t even know they were funding Major League Baseball. The Lords would be getting money from people who didn’t even know what baseball was ­– or where to find it on the multi-channel cable dial.

Angelos had already become wise to the reality of the changing media marketplace. He didn’t really understand but it ­– but knew it had tangible and growth value in the future.

It was no accident that the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox had more far revenue to spend on better baseball players, which exponentially aided their ability to win and keep the money machine well oiled with local interest and new-age marketing. The Yes Network was a product of a 1999 merger between the Yankees and New Jersey Nets for the express purpose of marketing a cable television channel in the New York region that would cut out the middleman – the sports cable television networks. The war in New York with Cablevision was legendary and it was big money. In 2001, the New England Sports Network (NESN), which enjoyed a near monopoly status in the region for television sports, went to the basic tier of cable, meaning far greater distribution and more money that would be used to fund the new and improved Boston Red Sox.

The same Red Sox that Angelos just watched win the World Series, who were led in part by Larry Lucchino – the former Orioles president and investor, who was the visionary for the modern franchise and building of Camden Yards, and the first employee whom Angelos unceremoniously partnered with and then ousted a month later in 1993 after his Orioles acquisition from Eli Jacobs in a New York auction.

Angelos knew all of his options, demands and “asks” in regard to what he’d be trying to retain and obtain if Selig and his MLB partners ever crossed the line and did the unthinkable – putting the Expos just 38 miles away in his backyard.

But, make no mistake about it, Angelos would’ve far preferred to have never seen the Washington Nationals born at any cost or any profit.

He abhorred the concept of D.C. baseball.

Washington baseball was truly his worst nightmare as the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. He was absolutely convinced there was no financial way to make him “whole” – and worse, he truly believed that it would drastically affect not only his team, but that the Washington team would fare no better in a market that Angelos and most everyone else remembered as a two-time baseball loser in the 1960s and early 1970s. But a lot had changed since the Senators left for Arlington, Texas in 1971 to become the Rangers.

The Northern Virginia suburbs had grown exponentially over the nearly four decades and the biggest enclave of per capita earnings in the United States fell throughout what Angelos felt was hard-earned Orioles country. Angelos valued the Washington, D.C. community for the same reasons Selig and the other MLB owners did – they smelled the size, money and disposable income. Angelos claimed that 30% of his audience came from those homes and wallets. The Orioles and Major League Baseball were a television brand that his baseball brand had cultivated over 30 years and he and his partners paid top dollar for in 1993.

Angelos felt absolutely deceived, absolutely blindsided by their lack of concern …

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 12): Selig vs. Angelos – trust, antitrust and billions of dollars

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

This is Chapter 12 of the upcoming book, “The Peter Principles.” This lengthy excerpt is a prelude to a WNST report on ten years of MASN money and how Washington baseball has affected Baltimore baseball over the past decade. The first three chapters of the book are available here:

The Peter Principles (Ch. 1): So, just how did Angelos become ‘King’ of Baltimore baseball?

The Peter Principles (Ch. 2): The error of tyranny at Camden Yards

The Peter Principles (Ch. 3): How close did Angelos come to owning Baltimore’s NFL team?

 

 

The Peter Principles

Chapter 12

The Washington Nationals were the greatest thing to ever happen to Peter G. Angelos

 

“We’re going to be watching very carefully to see what’s going to happen with some of the efforts to put a baseball franchise in Washington or in Northern Virginia. And I’m gonna tell ya straight up: we don’t think there should be a baseball franchise in Northern Virginia or in Washington. Because you would have a repetition of what you have in Oakland and San Francisco. In Oakland and San Francisco you have the same kind of population mix that you have between Baltimore and Washington. And those two teams kill each other off. Both of those teams drew, last year, less than two million fans. Together, they drew 3 million fans. But because they’re so close to each other and they’re both part of one metropolitan area – mega metropolitan area – they are literally killing themselves at the gate. We have argued, I think to this point, successfully, that there should not be another Major League Baseball franchise 30 to 40 miles away from Baltimore. It isn’t that we would deny the people that live in those areas the recreational pursuit of baseball. We think baseball is a great game for everybody. But when we look at the experience of Boston, Philadelphia, Oakland, San Francisco – Boston and Philadelphia and St. Louis had two ballclubs. The history of baseball dictates that you can’t put two teams that close together. We are opposing that. We think Orioles baseball is plenty good enough for us as well as the people in the Washington suburbs and we thank them for that support and we want to retain that support.”

Peter G. Angelos

The Barn, March 1997

 

 

WITH THE BIG MONEY SPLURGE OVER the winter, Peter G. Angelos believed he’d solved most of his 2004 problems on the field with the Orioles. But, truly, the team on the field or how it performed in the spring was the least of his big-picture problems with the franchise. Angelos was far more focused on its future viability in Baltimore if his Major League Baseball partners were going to acquiesce to mounting civic pressure from Washington, D.C. and move the fledgling, all-but-homeless Montreal Expos to the capital of the free world to openly compete in a marketplace that had solely been the territory of the Orioles since the early 1970s.

Once again, a decade into his ownership of the Orioles, Angelos found himself knee-deep into circumstances that went far beyond the boundaries of the normal business of simply running a baseball team and trying to win and turn a profit. For the first time in modern baseball history – the last team that moved was the Washington Senators to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1972 – a MLB team was going to being uprooted and potentially moved directly into the territory of an existing franchise.

While he picked many of battles over years with political figures, media members, Orioles players, agents, partners, insurance companies and big businesses, this was certainly a battle that found Angelos. He was a natural fighter. But this was not a fight he ever wanted.

When Camden Yards was flooded with fans in his early days he always maintained that there was no way two teams could survive and thrive in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. He was always adamant – if not even enthusiastic and animated – in his protests of anything related to Washington having a Major League Baseball team.

Washington baseball was his worst nightmare.

And he saw the clouds were forming very clearly heading into 2004.

Angelos saw where this might be going, and despite his work on an amicable relationship and pro bono efforts during the 2002 labor negotiations on behalf of Major League Basbeall, he still truly believed that commissioner Bug Selig would never cross him and his daily struggle to keep another MLB team out of the nation’s capital. He called Selig “a friend” at one point and indicated his staunch belief that Washington baseball would never happen.

“Washington has a baseball team,” Angelos would say. “They’re called the Orioles.”

You can hear him discuss this topic at length here from March 1997:

If anything had been proven over the years it was that Peter G. Angelos loved a good fight. He was now more than $150 million upside down in his ownership of the Orioles – reports would say at this time that the team was worth $325 million, which would’ve more than cleared up his losses. But, having lost money every year for 10 years and reaching into his personal vast fortune annually to financially support the team was an unnerving reality. But, given his reputation and track record, it was his own doing by chasing away large chunks of revenue streams with a myriad of poor decisions and poor civic form.

Now, as a mostly unpopular figure through both cities’ baseball fan bases, he was bunkering …

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 10) – Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 10 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

10. Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

 

 

“Mr. Angelos feels the term general manager is obsolete and I agree with him. We’re going to keep working to turn this thing around and we’re all going to be working together.”

Syd Thrift

Orioles Director of Player Personnel

January 2000

 

 

BY NOW ONE OF THE biggest problems Peter G. Angelos was discovering was his inability to lie or buy his way out of the dilemma of the very public and ongoing accountability of running a Major League Baseball team. By all accounts, those around him would say that he had very little natural interest in baseball at all before he bought the Baltimore Orioles. He was a boxer as a kid and a bookish, nerdy, difficult, know-it-all political aspirant who was least likely to get a player autograph or spend a free day at a lowly baseball game on 33rd Street as a kid.

 

Mr. Angelos was far more interested in ruling the world than being a peasant local sports fan.

Angelos was much more serious and interested in law, government, politics and pontificating for anyone who would deem him significant enough to listen to him drone on about his expertise in the world and his world view. Buying the baseball franchise bought him an audience to listen, and an initially fawning media that hung on his every word. Angelos was once called a “windbag” by a rival politician during his City Hall-aspiring days and six years into his reign of terror with the sputtering Orioles, his many words and lack of success with people would lend some credence to that claim.

Now, with an evolving track record and many knee-jerk executive decisions, his fingerprints were all over every aspect of the Orioles and the fan experience. His check and report card was coming due in the media. There was no way to avoid the humiliation and daily soap opera of despair that the team generated – on and off the field.

Angelos wanted everything his way.

And, now, he had his wish.

And he couldn’t handle how miserably his strategy – if you could call it that – was failing. And how unpopular a guy who was wrecking baseball for lifelong Orioles fans could actually become and how quickly the “Marylander of The Year” accolades could be under siege from the fan base and a media that was simply reporting the bizarre nature of every unorthodox transaction, while watching competent baseball people come in the front door of The Warehouse and get pushed out the side door like yesterday’s rubbish.

The franchise was without a true leader, without a plan and without a clue. But the team still had a legion of disappointed and disillusioned fans. Tens of thousands of Orioles fans turned to the team on a daily basis as they’d done with their parents and in some cases their parents’ parents. Baseball in Baltimore felt like a birthright, like an appendage or a member of the family.

For local fans, the franchise was a “we” not a “them.”

That was the lure and allure that drew Peter G. Angelos to the team to begin with – the significance and royalty of the Baltimore Orioles. It wasn’t his love of a spring afternoon at a baseball stadium or a hot summer night in a pennant race. It wasn’t because he loved a well-pitched game or keeping score with a No. 2 pencil. It wasn’t because he had memories during his formative years with Brooks Robinson or Jim Palmer or even Jim Gentile and Gus Triandos. It wasn’t because he entered debates about Eddie vs. Cal or Frank vs. Brooks.

Angelos bought the team to be loved. He certainly didn’t need the money. He craved the power, the status it would bring. He sold the very concept that ONLY a local owner could make the franchise better and

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 5) – King Peter silences Jon Miller and anyone else who doesn’t bleed Orioles orange

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 5 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 2 is available here.

Chapter 3 is available here.

Chapter 4 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

Chapter 13 is available here.

 

5. King Peter silences Jon Miller and anyone else who doesn’t bleed Orioles orange

“Now, wait a while. Number one, every fan has a right to criticize the team condemn ownership, say that Davey Johnson should be fired or given a million dollar pay raise and so on and so forth. What I’m saying is, that if you’re a part of the Orioles organization and you’re broadcasting Orioles games, it’s not your prerogative to knock the Orioles team. Everyone in this room works for some organization. They are not expected to go around knocking the organization that they’re working for. That’s a fundamental proposition. You don’t hear these baseball writers who work for The Sunpapers knocking The Sunpapers do you?

 Peter Angelos – March 1997

 

 

 

IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG after the massive disappointment and loss to the New York Yankees in the 1996 American League Championship Series for Peter G. Angelos to get back involved in ways to make the Orioles experience better for himself and to further alienate longtime fans of the team.

In January 1996, he made sure John Lowenstein was no longer doing the Home Team Sports broadcasts of Orioles baseball. By then, the franchise had eliminated all public references to itself as the “Baltimore Orioles.” The team was simply “The Orioles,” Angelos said, out of respect to the regional nature of the franchise. That’s the way the phones were answered at The Warehouse and that’s the way the letterhead read in its primary logo. It’s the way every broadcaster on the Orioles team was to refer to the club in any reference.

Just “Orioles.”

Never, the Baltimore Orioles.

Angelos’ next target for improvement came in October 1996 in the aftermath of the Orioles loss to the New York Yankees. This time, it was the beloved voice of the Orioles on WBAL Radio and throughout the team’s vast radio network: Jon Miller.

Baltimore has always been a city with a strong association to its media, celebrities and voices. With a strong history of legendary radio and television personalities, sports broadcasters in the Charm City were afforded “family” status because they were the storytellers and vision creators for the games in the 1950s and 1960s when the Colts, Orioles and Bullets were taking shape and recruiting fans to their teams and sports.

Chuck Thompson had just entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York after beginning with the Baltimore Orioles in 1955. His staccato voice and genial “everyone’s uncle” quality was synonymous with Baltimore, despite being a Philadelphia native. He was simply beloved over two generations and had passed the “Voice of the Orioles” torch to Jon Miller, who was on his way to his own Hall of Fame career after joining the Birds in 1983. Radio partner WFBR-AM 1300 general manager Harry Shriver, who helped create the marketing message of “Orioles Magic” in 1979, recruited Miller to Baltimore. It couldn’t be overstated to proclaim that part of the charm of the Orioles over the years were the broadcasts which were homespun, informative, more than mildly provincial, entertaining and made the game of baseball completely transportable on summer nights in Baltimore.

Chuck Thompson coined the phrase, “Ain’t The Beer Cold” in the 1960s. In Baltimore, it still lives on long after his departure from the planet. That’s the power of Orioles broadcasts in the local vernacular.

Radio dramatically helped sell and market the Orioles brand for four decades. Great, gifted broadcasters helped get the team over with the locals and spread the gospel of

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 3): How close did Angelos come to owning Baltimore’s NFL team?

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 3 of future book “The Peter Principles” that I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia. I have released the first three chapters of the book, which chronicles the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. I think you’ll find much of this already-reported information to be illuminating.)

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 2 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

 

3. Giving Peter The Ball & Scabs

 

“I think they are concerned about litigation, but they feel as we do, that no one wants to litigate but one has to sometimes and the chances for success are excellent. I’m confident that Baltimore is the best applicant for an NFL franchise both from a financial and a fan standpoint.”

– Peter Angelos, May 18, 1994 to The Sun regarding Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke blocking his rights to buying an NFL franchise

 

 

TO UNDERSTAND BALTIMORE’S INNATE YEARNING for a National Football League team is to understand what the Baltimore Ravens have meant to the town, its sports psyche and the league since returning in 1996. After winning Super Bowls in 2001 and 2013, it’s very hard to fathom that time and space between March 28, 1984 and Nov. 6, 1995 ­– when the town that participated in what became known as The Greatest Game Ever Played in 1958, the place that the Colts of Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, Art Donovan, Raymond Berry and Jim Parker roamed on 33rd Street in what was affectionately known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Insane Asylum – was without the NFL.

The Orioles were the toast of Baltimore for sure in the early 1990s but there was always something missing in the Charm City when there weren’t NFL games on those 12 seasons of Sundays in the fall. After a decade of high-speed pursuits by the state of Maryland, Mayor of Baltimore and then Governor William Donald Schaefer, the Maryland Stadium Authority and several bidders in 1993, the city was repeatedly turned down in the expansion process. By the time Angelos had purchased the Orioles, the NFL had found itself in a precarious situation with Baltimore sitting empty and several suitors working every angle possible to steal an existing team and essentially steal another city’s team the way the Colts were stolen off in the middle of the night in 1984 by owner Robert Irsay. And Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke had tried every possible way to keep Baltimore from ever having a team again and once attempted to get a stadium built in Laurel to ensure it. Schaefer blocked Cooke and then rallied support for civic monies to be held to fund a Baltimore football stadium at Camden Yards if the NFL granted the city a franchise.

Despite all of the efforts of Schaefer and his steward Herb Belgrad, it didn’t work. In early 1995, the city of Baltimore was considered to be further away than ever in a search for a return to the NFL now that a pair of expansion teams had gone to Jacksonville and Charlotte and it was clear St. Louis was in the final stages of swiping the Rams from Los Angeles.

It was a dirty business, this franchise ownership, league gamesmanship, civic hostage taking of teams and the politics of modern sports. But Baltimore and Maryland were a unique player in the revolving door of NFL cities vying for the theft of teams from other markets where old stadia were failing to lure more revenue or ownerships were dissatisfied and looking for a bigger, better deal – led of course by Irsay’s decision to leave the land of pleasant living a decade earlier and the machinations of Al Davis in California with the Raiders.

Because of what the Orioles meant to the area and the success of the downtown revitalization spurred by the facility, Baltimore, Maryland had real money in the state coffers to fund a new stadium in the parking lot adjacent to the baseball stadium at Camden Yards. The area had always been earmarked as the site of a potential NFL team but the only problem was finding one of the existing 30 teams to find the deal too $weet to pass up. There was a lot of money to be made on an NFL franchise in Baltimore and the thought was that with many municipalities hard-lining NFL owners on the stadium issue on behalf of local taxpayers, it was only a matter of time before someone moved a team to the former home of the Colts. The insiders knew just how much money and how rich the Baltimore deal was for an owner who wanted to flee but the media and local fans were very skeptical after a decade of operating in the fog of having lost the Colts.

Once again, Angelos went into his office in Baltimore and tried to don the cape as a civic hero, flying in to save the day and bring the NFL back to his hometown.

But there were several other suitors pushing to be the winner in this grab for a football team in 1994.

Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass left Angelos’ partnership before it ever really began in September 1993 – he never invested in the team after being the original local person who was interested in the club when Eli Jacobs put it up for sale. At the time he said it was in an effort to pursue an NFL team that he hoped to call the Bombers, paying homage to the World War II planes that were built in Eastern Baltimore County at Martin Marietta.

Malcolm Glazer and his sons Bryan and Joel had been one of the three failed efforts by Baltimore to win the 1993 NFL expansion process. Now, they had set their sights on buying the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their home state of Florida, where they lived in Palm Beach.

Baltimore beer distributors Bob Footlick and Bob Pinkner had also partnered with Robert Schulman in an effort to pursue an NFL team.

And, of course, with his August 1993 victory in the New York auction house and his leading man status as the owner of the Orioles, Angelos was funded and motivated to join Miami’s Wayne Huizenga as the second man to own an NFL and MLB franchise simultaneously. There had previously been language to disallow such a local

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Give a spit and prep for Stanley Cup playoffs with Caps head coach Barry Trotz at Michael’s Cafe Timonium March 29

Posted on 17 March 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

All Washington Caps fans are welcome to join us on Thursday, March 29th at Michael’s Café in Timonium as we welcome former Baltimore Skipjacks head coach Barry Trotz back to Baltimore County. We’ll be chatting at length about the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Capitals quest to win the goblet as we swab for There Goes My Hero and the bone marrow registry.

Along with our WNST.net Caps historian and blogger Ed Frankovic, I will be bringing out the tough questions for Coach Trotz and doing some hockey history with one of my favorite people.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and every year the stories of the old days in Baltimore grow taller.

And, yes, pictures like this exist.

I would encourage anyone who has followed our #JennStrong leukemia journey over the past four years to come out and take a few minutes to learn about how we’re trying to save more lives by getting more young people onto the DKMS bone marrow registry to assist blood cancer patients around the world.

As always we appreciate the sponsorship of Freedmont Mortgage, Cole Roofing, the Maryland Jockey Club and the many partners we’ve had over the years for There Goes My Hero. And we’re really looking forward to having some crab cakes and beer after the Orioles beat the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day. If you’re going to Camden Yards, drop by and see us afterward and meet Coach Trotz.

Rock your red and join us at Michael’s Café in Timonium and help us celebrate their 34th year serving those tasty crab cakes. Join us for a cup of that famous “split level” soup and a prime aged steak and a glass of wine on Thursday, March 29th.

And #GiveASpit and #PuckLeukemia.

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Ravens open their wallet in lucrative wide receiver market

Posted on 13 March 2018 by Luke Jones

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome vowed to make changes to the wide receiver room in his final season in charge, resulting in a surprising opening to free agency.

After failing to land a top-tier talent such as Jarvis Landry or Allen Robinson, the Ravens have opened their wallet to spend significant money in one of the most lucrative markets for seemingly-ordinary wide receivers we’ve ever seen. Whether that’s a smart decision is open for debate.

The reported one-year, $5 million agreement with former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown at least involves a wideout who recorded a 1,000-yard season earlier in his career, but the four-year, $29 million deal with $14.5 million guaranteed reportedly struck with former Washington wide receiver Ryan Grant was immediately met with shock and even confusion Tuesday night. Grant did set career highs with 45 catches for 573 yards and four touchdowns in 2017, but the 27-year-old has made just 84 receptions for 985 yards and six touchdowns over his four NFL seasons combined.

Is that production worthy of one of the richest wide receiver contracts in team history? Of course, that’s not exactly an extensive list of deals as the Ravens have historically been very thrifty at the position, but this was an organization lacking salary cap space, making the Grant signing even more puzzling.

At such a price, are these two even as good as Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, let alone better?

The 6-foot, 204-pound Grant was a favorite of Washington head coach Jay Gruden and is considered a good route-runner with the ability to play outside or in the slot, but he’s never had as much as a 100-yard game in his career. A 2014 fifth-round pick from Tulane, Grant graded 57th among qualified wide receivers by Pro Football Focus this past season and ranked 60th among outside receivers in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 project, the latter of which labeling him an “ideal” No. 4 receiver.

The Ravens brass clearly sees substantial potential to award him that type of a deal, but scrutiny will understandably until Grant proves critics wrong.

Meanwhile, Brown provides some intriguing upside if he can stay healthy after he caught 65 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015. The speedy 5-foot-11, 179-pound receiver has averaged 14.5 yards per catch in his career, but he was diagnosed with the sickle-cell trait in 2016 and has been slowed by various injuries over the last two seasons.

In 2017, Brown played in only 10 games and caught 21 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. The former third-round pick from Pittsburg State has caught 173 passes for 2,515 yards and 17 touchdowns in his four-year career.

For Brown, a high ceiling is there, but there’s also a low floor because of health concerns.

With these expected signings at the start of free agency, the Ravens wide receiver room has certainly changed as Newsome promised. Whether it’s truly any better is the fair question.

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Caps Get Rare Regulation Victory in San Jose

Posted on 10 March 2018 by Ed Frankovic

For nearly 25 years, the Washington Capitals have not known the way to winning in regulation in San Jose. On March 10th, 2018, Philipp Grubauer stopped all 24 shots he faced and Nicklas Backstrom turned in an all world performance, including notching the only non-empty net goal, in a Caps 2-0 victory at the Shark Tank. It was the Capitals first win without extra time against the Sharks at SAP Center since October 30th, 1993.

“Do you know the way to San Jose…”

The Caps do now, and the way they won was with solid team defense, strong goaltending, and a committed effort to getting pucks deep and towards the net, especially over the last 40 minutes.

The victory improves the Caps record to 38-23-7 (83 points) and combined with the Leafs 5-2 triumph over the Penguins on Saturday night it puts Washington back in 1st place in the Metropolitan Division by a point. The Caps have a game in hand on the Pens and third place Philadelphia has also played 68 games like the Capitals, but trail by two points.

Here are nine thoughts and analysis on a humongous win in a state that has not been kind to Washington.

California Dreamin’ – Coming into this matinee, the Caps had lost seven straight games in the Golden State. Last season, with seemingly the best roster, on paper, ever assembled in franchise history, the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals went zero and three. La La land was not good to Coach Barry Trotz and his team this week either as they suffered a 4-0 defeat in Anaheim, a game that they looked like they were sleeping through, and then a tough 2-1 loss to the Kings on Thursday. The Caps played much better in that affair, but they could not put the biscuit in the basket. Saturday’s victory against a third straight California team that is desperate for points was one of the most sound defensive performances by the Capitals all season.

Hey Nineteen – When Washington gets strong play up the middle of the ice, they are an extremely tough team to beat. Many Capitals struggled in the first two games of this road trip, but Backstrom was near the top of that list. After his terrible turnover in period one in the City of Angels, he was a total non factor in the loss on Thursday. On Saturday, however, Nicky was the best player on the ice. His compete level was through the roof and he repeatedly won puck battle after puck battle playing with Brett Connolly (1 assist) and Andre Burakovsky in a newly configured trio. Connolly’s pass to Backy with 1:28 left in period two was a superb one, but #19’s slap shot was even better and he ripped it over Martin Jones’ glove into the top shelf. That tally is Backstrom’s 17th goal of the season. I’m of the opinion that several Caps are trying to pace themselves so that they can peak their game in April, when the postseason starts. Backstrom is definitely one of them, but on Saturday, the Caps needed a win badly in a tightening playoff race, and Nicky announced his presence with authority all afternoon.

Meet in the Middle – It’s no secret that Washington Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan has focused the build of this team up the middle of the ice. In addition to Backstrom’s outstanding game against San Jose, pivots Evgeny Kuznetsov (+1 in 20:05) and Lars Eller (goal, +1 in 17:04) were excellent. Since Coach Trotz went all Reg Dunlop and shuffled his lines around, Kuzy centered the Gr8 and Tom Wilson while Eller was flanked by Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie. The change certainly helped Burakovsky and Connolly the most since there aren’t many centers better than #19 in this league. However, I liked how Oshie, who is rounding back into form and is long overdue for a goal, and Vrana played with Eller. Vrana has really improved his defensive zone play and he used his speed to get the puck out of the Caps own end a couple of times. All three of the Caps top centers were playing well in San Jose and Lars was rewarded with an empty net tally with 1:49 remaining to put a dagger in the Sharks.

Letting Them Play – For my money, the last two Washington games have been the best officiated tilts I’ve seen all season. In both affairs, the referees didn’t call a lot of penalties and let the teams play. However, stick infractions or obvious trips, clips, and interference were whistled. It was clear that the players for the Caps, Kings, and Sharks all knew how the games were going to be officiated and they played accordingly. There was lots of hitting and good end to end skating. The one constant in both contests was Trevor Hanson. The Richmond, British Columbia native is in his sixth season in the NHL and he’s quickly becoming one of the best zebras. Gord Dwyer and then Dan O’Rourke was the other referee in the Kings and Sharks games, respectively. The Caps had a three to one power play advantage on Thursday while the Sharks had two man advantage situations to none for Washington on Saturday. Both penalties on the Capitals at the SAP Center were well deserved infractions by Wilson. Simply put, I’d certainly like to see Hanson doing more Caps games.

Shoot to Thrill – Making the right decisions inside the offensive blue line has been a problem area for the Capitals this season, and in years past, especially in the playoffs. Those brain cramps have cost Washington a lot of odd man rushes and goals against this campaign. Poor offensive zone play is a big reason the Caps goals against average has gone up in 2017-18. In the first period of the Sharks game, the Caps forwards made a few mistakes in the offensive and neutral zones that San Jose turned into quality chances. Fortunately for Washington, Grubauer was at his best in a scoreless first frame where the Sharks had the better of the play. In the middle stanza, however, the Capitals really played the right way for the first time on this road trip and made sure to get pucks deep and towards the net. The result was a 12 to 3 margin in shots on goal in the middle twenty. When trailing 2-1 on Thursday at Staples Center, a House of Horrors for the Caps, Washington only put five shots on net in the third period. Connolly passed up a great look in the center of the ice and that’s just not a good choice given his super shot. Oshie and several others have been guilty of not firing the puck on net from the high danger areas, too. Coach Trotz, in his first two seasons in Washington, used to constantly utter the mantra, “This is a shoot first league.” He’s right and many of the goals are scored on rebounds or quick ones where the goaltenders don’t have time to get set. It would behoove the Caps to maintain the mentality they displayed in the second and third periods in San Jose, because that type of hockey is how you win in the spring. To reinforce the thought process, I recommend that AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill be blasted in the Caps locker room before EVERY period.

Blue Line Reconfiguration – After the loss to the Ducks on Tuesday, Coach Trotz and assistant coach Todd Reirden made changes on the back end. Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov were still together while John Carlson was paired with Michal Kempny with Brooks Orpik and Jakub Jerabek forming the third duo. Things went okay in LA, except for the game winning goal where Jerabek failed to keep a puck in the offensive zone and then Trevor Lewis went around #44 like he was an orange road cone to score on his third shot in succession. It was a poor play by Orpik, who has struggled pretty heavily since the all star break, but Jerabek and Grubauer didn’t exactly shine in that sequence either. You can certainly put some of Orpik’s issues on being paired with rookie Madison Bowey, a future top four defensemen, who was understandably starting to have trouble with the intensity and speed of the game post January 1st. Against San Jose, a team that typically gives the Capitals fits, Brooks turned in arguably his best game in three months. He was physical with five hits and he had no giveaways in 17:04 of action. He was also part of a penalty killing unit that allowed only one power play shot in four minutes of man advantage time. Orpik must continue to play the way he did on Saturday and it would probably be wise for the coaching staff to give him some days off before the playoffs commence to keep him healthy and fresh, especially in back to back tilts.

Solid as a Rock – Braden Holtby has not had a good post all star break stretch and former Caps goalie Brent Johnson stated on Twitter that he believes fatigue, which ultimately then led to a drop in confidence, has been the issue. After #70 gave up three goals in the first half of the Ducks game, and all of those certainly weren’t on him, Coach Trotz has gone with Grubauer in net. #31 had a decent game against the Kings in a loss, but against San Jose he was superb in the opening frame until the Capitals got their game in gear. The Sharks hit a couple of posts early, as well, but Washington has been due for some breaks. In earning his second shutout of the season, Philipp improved to 9-8-3 this year and his save percentage is up to .925. Grubauer will be starting on Monday against the Jets at Capital One Arena and he’ll likely split the back to back games with the Holtbeast against the Islanders later in the week. The German keeper has certainly earned the cage right now with his solid play. He has been steady and he came up with some big saves early against the Sharks.

Closing Time – Overall, this was a much needed victory for Washington made more impressive by their style of play. This was a very important game to the Sharks and the Capitals matched San Jose’s compete level and desperation. It was a tight checking affair that is very reminiscent of how the game will be played in April and beyond. To win this way, with much improved team defense and better offensive zone decision making, bodes well for the Caps down the stretch.

Notes: Alex Ovechkin had 10 shots attempts and six shots on goal. His best chance to score his 41st of the season and 599th of his career was on a third period semi-breakaway, but Jones stopped him with his glove…Orlov led the Caps in ice time with 24:22. Carlson is getting a lot of press for his play this season, and deservedly so, but #9 has been very consistent since late October/early November on the back end…the Caps won the face off battle, 33-20. Kuzy was 10-8 after going 1-10 against the Kings. Eller was 6-1, Backstrom went 8-5, and Jay Beagle won six of nine draws…Wilson, who has been outstanding most of the season, took a puck to the head in the second period in LA but returned in that contest. On Saturday, he played, but looked a little off timing wise. He took two penalties and did not get a hard shot off on a good pass from Ovechkin in tight…Brent Burns led the Sharks in ice time with 26:01…congratulations to MacLellan for receiving a well earned contract extension from Caps ownership…it will be Washington vs. Winnipeg on Monday night at 7 pm from Capital One Arena. The Jets will definitely make the post season and they appear to be a lock for second place in the Central Division.

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Holtby Mutes the Cannon in a Caps 3-2 Victory

Posted on 07 February 2018 by Ed Frankovic

The Columbus Blue Jackets are probably most known for the loud cannon that goes off after every goal they score in addition to another explosion at the end of the game, when they win, at Nationwide Arena.

On Tuesday night in the college hometown of the great Jack Nicklaus, Braden Holtby provided some sensational goaltending and Nicklas Backstrom tallied with 42 seconds left after a sweet feed from T.J. Oshie to prevent that freaking cannon from going off for the third time of the night. The 3-2 Washington triumph over Coach John Tortorella’s squad, which afterwards he called “a gut punch,” improves the Caps to 31-17-5 (67 points) and preserves their four point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who defeated Vegas, 5-4, on Tuesday. The Capitals have two games in hand on Sidney Crosby and company.

Here are seven thoughts on this win, which improved the Capitals to 9-1-2 against Columbus in their last 12 meetings. The teams will meet again on Friday night at Capital One Arena.

Best Goalie in the NHL – Time and time again this year the Holtbeast has bailed the Caps out and won games for them, it’s a big reason, along with the outstanding play of Alexander Ovechkin, why Washington is in first place in the Metropolitan Division. I’d chronicle all of the big stops that #70 made in this affair, but to quote the great Mark Ratner from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, “That would take too long.” The Caps have largely gone with a blue line of two rookies all season so the amount of high quality shots Braden has faced this year has increased drastically. Tuesday was more of the same, especially in periods one and two when the Capitals were terribly sloppy with the puck and allowed 28 shots on goal, including 17 in the middle frame. To hold Columbus to just two goals given the opportunities they had is incredible. The Holtbeat is now 27-10-2 on the season with a .915 save percentage. He’s the best goalie in the NHL, in my book.

MVP, MVP, MVP – The Gr8 turned in another superb performance on Tuesday with two assists, 12 shot attempts, and eight shots on goal. Sergei Bobrovsky absolutely robbed Ovi a couple of times, but Alex was able to still make a huge difference in this game with his passing and shooting. On Washington’s second goal, he takes a nice drop pass from Christian Djoos and feeds Tom Wilson all alone in the slot. Top line Tommy then makes a gorgeous move to beat Bob on the backhand for his seventh goal of the season. Then, with the game tied in the last minute, Ovechkin does what he does best; he fired the puck on net from the left wing boards. It was not a high scoring chance opportunity, but when you have a shot like Ovi’s, putting it on the cage is never a bad thing. The Gr8’s high smoker handcuffed Bobrovsky and the disc bounced to the goaltender’s right. There the Osh Babe won a very key puck battle and then fed Backstrom behind his back for his open net game winning tally. All night it was Ovechkin’s line, which smartly included Backstrom and Wilson for most of the evening, and Oshie in a couple of key spots, that was dominant. Alex was on for all three Capitals tallies and was a +2 in this affair. He was not on the ice for either Columbus marker. He now has 32 goals and 26 assists (58 points) in 53 games. Don’t let any clowns on the internet tell you he isn’t MVP material because they are just biased haters. Alex is the biggest reason why Washington leads the Metropolitan Division with 29 games to go.

Cleanup on Aisle Four! – Man oh man, what is with all of these turnovers in the Caps own end? I’m not sure what is going on, but the coaching staff has to do something to fix these issues whether it’s just poor execution or a scheme change is needed or a combination of both. The opponents are getting too many great chances and add in the fact that this team doesn’t handle the opposing rush very well plus they too often are caught puck watching on rebounds and you have a total mess in the defensive zone. On the first goal, Holtby makes the initial save, but the five Capitals players on the ice don’t cover anyone and the Blue Jackets pot the rebound through traffic. Perhaps Coach Barry Trotz should take these guys out on the basketball court and teach them how to box out on a rebound so that they can take those fundamentals to the ice? We’ve seen too many easy goals lately where there are Caps defenders right in the area to make a play to prevent a goal, but they don’t. This disturbing trend needs to stop and if not for Holtby we’d be talking about a bunch of goals against, after the 11 allowed in the previous two tilts, and a third straight loss.

Big Mac Victory – Five on five play is so important in hockey, but sometimes you need your special teams to win a game. After losing Friday’s tilt to the Pens because of three power play goals allowed, the Capitals rebounded with a perfect three for three on the penalty kill and one for one on the power play at Nationwide Arena. John Carlson’s laser through a Blue Jacket screen tied the game up in the first five minutes, but more importantly, the Caps killed off two Columbus power plays in the last 10 minutes, one of which would have given their opponents the lead. Brooks Orpik had a humongous block as the last CBus power play was expiring and that allowed the puck to go to the other end where Ovi, Oshie, and Backstrom worked their game winning goal magic. Washington’s special sauce in this win was the play of their penalty kill and power play units.

Clueless in Columbus – With one of the two linesmen having to bail out due to sickness, Dean Morton and Graham Skilliter had to call both penalties and monitor a blue line. I sure hope that is what they are using for their excuse for missing some key infractions on the Blue Jackets. In period two, Seth Jones got away with a blatant slash on Ovechkin’s right hand and even worse, just before the Columbus game tying goal late in period three, Devante Smith-Pelly’s stick was slashed in half by a CBus defender, but the zebras didn’t call a penalty. That was ridiculous and Morton should probably be working down at the local high end restaurant asking you how you’d like your steak cooked.

A Near Gordie – It’s no secret that Top Line Tommy is having a great season. Reunited with Backstrom and Ovechkin, Wilson was once again a force on the ice. He scored a goal and beat up top line winger Josh Anderson. Anderson was pretty much invisible after that first period bout and he finished the game a -2. #43 continues to drive the play and bring a much needed physicality (five hits) to the Capitals offense. All Wilson needed on this night was an assist to get the Gordie Howe hat trick, but he fell short.

Add It Up – In summary, the Capitals pretty much stole two points on Tuesday night thanks to Holtby and some of their stars, to include the Gr8. They were outshot attempted 67-48 and shots on goal were 39-25. It’s been awhile since the Caps have played a complete game. There is lots of room for improvement and Andre Burakovksy (-1 in 6:34 of action, including no third period shifts) remains on a milk carton. Coach Trotz tried reuniting #65 with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly on the third line to get him going, but once again #65 brought the line down. His shot takes too long to get off and he skates with his head down, too often. Jones flattened him easily in the first period at the Caps offensive blue line on one instance. As we head into the February 26th trade deadline, GM Brian MacLellan has a tough decision to make on this player who just isn’t stepping up as needed. The organization gave him a two year, $6M bridge contract last summer but when I go all Violent Femmes and try to add it up, maybe it’s got something to do with luck, but he’s not giving the team the necessary production. Actually, it’s not luck, Andre just isn’t doing the things necessary to be successful and the sand in the hour glass could be running out on his time in Washington.

Notes: Matt Niskanen led the Capitals in ice time with 23:17 and Oprik logged 22:56, including 4:38 of PK time. Jones led all skaters with 27:31 TOI…the Caps won the face-off battle, 28-26. Backstrom went 11-8.

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