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Around the Survivors, A Perimeter Create

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Generally speaking, there exist three approaches fans of the Washington Nationals exercise with respect to the Baltimore Orioles:

  • deny their existence (or at least their relevance to the DC market);
  • loathe them;
  • accept and, perhaps, root for them.
I will not elaborate too much on these approaches, since to most readers they will seem self-evident and without need for lengthy explanation. Personally, as a resident of a city 90 miles to the south of DC, I subscribe to Type Three, and the perhaps is accurate proviso. I'd love to continue to root for the Orioles, but they just suck so damned much. I try my best, but it's hard.

Those suckers, Peter Angelos and his Angelosians, are generally unintelligent, unimaginative, and unattractive. Really, how do you root for such a consistently dumb operation when its most distinguishing features are tinged not insignificantly with ass-like qualities?

One thing I appreciate about the Lernastens is their dogged insistence on vision. They are wise enough to know nothing worthwhile is built quickly and in half-measures; while they arguably know this a bit too well, the important point is that they know it. Last month, I wrote a post on how "The Plan" is a truism, not a special revelation. When people take issue with what the Lernastens do or say, they are sometimes characterized "anti-Plan," which misses the point entirely. Those are disagreements over the implementation of its elements, not attempts to abrogate its essence. In other words, and in most cases, the discussion starts after an acceptance of "The Plan."

I dig up this rhetoric to make the point that the Orioles never adopted anything like "The Plan," when they should have seven or eight years ago. After years of spinning their wheels, only slightly altering their organizational philosophy year after year, their farm system is still unreliable. Every morning, Buck Martinez of XM Homeplate---not coincidentally, also Buck Martinez of MASN/O's---talks about the improvements the O's have made, what with the thousand middle relievers and proven veterans like Jay Payton and Aubrey Huff. We shall see what effect these acquisitions have---it is a very tough division, after all---but Payton seems much like Marty Cordova and Huff seems much like David Segui.

I don't know. At least Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis are home-grown position players. That's like a two-decade supply for the O's. What a Golden Age!

Today, Tom Boswell returns to his favorite Orioles-related shibboleth, the annual the annual Rekindling Eighty-Three Column. It's all but a dream; even Boz recognizes the rekindling would be a half-measure; we're not talking championships, only frenzied determination to amass a winning campaign before an entire decade of losing elapses.

I cannot quibble with Boz's assessment that the current O's have more and better young talent, especially in the starting rotation, than they have possessed in recent memory. But it took them a decade to get to this point, and by "this point," we're talking about the intersection of mediocrity and decency.

Good luck to ya, O's, but Operation: 82! is like a yearly endeavor up in Bal'mer. It's tedious, not interesting. Call me a fair-weather guy, but maybe I'll check back in after the winning season part is first achieved. Until then, godspeed.

* * * *

I think I've caught myself finessing the point here, when I really shouldn't: These guys make themselves so easy to loathe. An example, if you will (and I will):

As [WBAL-AM talk show host Steve] Davis posted at the station's Web site yesterday, the club has instituted a policy prohibiting members of team management - such as vice president Jim Duquette or manager Sam Perlozzo - from taking callers' questions when they appear on his nightly talk show.

This is not to say the Angelosians have insulated their management from fielding all fan questioning. Oh, no---we're just talking about the critical types of questions, I'm sure. You see, the rationale behind this policy is to "enhance" the O's new rightholder, CBS Radio, by limiting management-fan interaction to its stations, flagship WHFS-FM (Where have you gone, WHFS?) and sports talker WJFK-AM. There's a rational basis behind this policy, I'm sure, and I doubt CBS minds; it probably insisted on it, considering Hearst-owned WBAL whips the butts of both stations in the ratings. Assuming people still care about the O's up in those parts---and care enough to dial up management---they'll be doing so on the CBS stations, which would only serve to raise their stature.

I would tend to question the wisdom of this (and I can't imagine our man, Stan Kasten, would ever accede to something like it, but that's another matter for the moment). If the price of carriage is X, and CBS offers X + Y (or X - Y, if the O's buy time) just as the price of exclusivity, I don't agree. I want my management team out there and as accessible as possible, even if it costs me a little coin in the short run. But then, I'm not a Lord of the Realm, and I'm certainly not Peter Angelos, kyrie eleison. As fellow networkteer Camden Chat pointed out last month, the move away from WBAL is about content control. (It certainly cannot be about listener convenience, seeing as WBAL is Maryland's only 50,000-watt blowtorch.) Quoting from a Baltimore Sun article at the time of the O's-CBS announcement, a commenter wrote:

In recent years, Orioles officials have often complained about critical comments aimed at the club by WBAL commentators and call-in guests, Beauchamp said. The club has asked that certain personalities be steered away from baseball coverage and that call-in segments be limited because callers can't be stopped from bashing the Orioles.

And so the Orioles have selected a radio partner who promises a lighter touch. And then they've insulated their management under this protective embrace, which no doubt will include the host's dump button. That's a bit pathetic, but I can't say it's unique. Why, Daniel Snyder did the same thing.

* * * *

To be honest, this policy doesn't get my goat that much, if for no other reason than I'm not the type of guy who dials up sports talk shows. Generally, I prefer shows that expressly don't field listener calls, as the cost of the mouthbreathers outweighs the benefit of the occasional insight. Moreover, if you give me thirty seconds to talk to my team's general manager, well . . . what's the point? It's a quick snippet of time, and you're probably going to get platitudes anyway. Only if you've earned such much contempt, so much mistrust, will you see anything interesting come from fan-management interac . . .

Oh. No wonder the Orioles want that light touch.

Anyway, what really gets me here is the Orioles lying about the policy. "The club has always had its policy," some O's communications director named Greg ("Darth") Bader told the Sun. Please. I'm just going to limit this to the first time period that comes to mind---let's say, 1998-99 or so. I specifically remember O's management (Pat Gillick, Frank Wren, others) taking listener questions on WTEM. You might notice WTEM isn't WBAL; heck, it's not even WTOP, which at that time was the O's DC carrier.

No wonder the Sun article quotes Baltimore radio vets refuting the veracity of Darth Angelos's squeaky little Sith apprentice's statement. No wonder the article quotes a former O's employee doing the same:

John Maroon, former Orioles public relations director, sounded puzzled by the policy, too.

"It goes against building relationships both with the media and the fans," said Maroon, who now runs his own public relations agency after working for the Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Major League Baseball and Washington Redskins for 14 years. " ... I've never heard of that practice."

Well, truth or falsity aside, at least Bader puts a nice spin on things, assuring that "Orioles fans will have more opportunity than ever to interact directly with Orioles management in public appearances, on radio and other events."

Yes, great. On a less powerful station. And, I'm sure, only if you show the appropriate level of appreciation.

And these morons wanted a regional hold on Major League Baseball . . .

* * * *

For their part, the Nats have set the opposite tone during the early stages of the Lernasten reign. I cannot confirm or deny whether Kasten or Bowden or Acta takes listener calls on non-Bonneville stations like WTEM or Triple-X, but that's beside point anyway. Kasten has instituted an extemely open-door policy with his team's fanbase. Nats320, for instance, was so welcomed during a week in Viera that, by Friday, that Kasten gave erstwhile and enterprising blogger Screech's Best Friend credentialed access.

Although he's a businessman and administrator through-and-through, Kasten seems to realize people root for baseball teams because it's fun to do so. It's an act of love, in a sense, not an admission to drudgery. Thus, when Tom Boswell contends the Orioles have a one-year window to attract fans in the "border counties" while the Nats are fielding a club on-the-cheap, he essentially misses the point: It's not just a mad race for the Orioles finally to return to even a baseline winning season, and it involves more than just that. It's much more. It's appreciating and respecting your fanbase---catering to it in small ways, rather than creating all those fans for granted.

In this sense, Kasten has already beaten Angelos: Stan is smart and he has a heart.