Saturday, April 17, 2010

For Pete's Sake.....

Its time, its long been beyond time, but Peter Angelos needs to sell the Baltimore Orioles. He has single handidly killed the sport in Charm City, to the point now that he's irked generations of fans so that the sport may never recover in Balmer.

To get to this low, low point, one must revist the past. The once proud Brids of Baltimore were the most consistent team in baseball from the mid 1960's to the mid 1990's. They had the winningest overall record during that span, even better then the dreaded Yankees & Red Sox. Very rarely did the have a losing season during that span. The O's were routinely in contention for division titles, claiming 6 AL Championships in a 17 year span to go with the franchises only 3 World Titles. If you grew up in the 80's, the old 7 team AL East Division format was ultra competitve with 6 different teams wiining the division in a 10 year period ('81 Yanks, '82 Brewers, '83 Orioles, '84 Tigers, '85 Blue Jays, '86 Red Sox). Only Cleveland never came close to winning and thus they made a movie called Major League to even give Cleveland its Division Title!

If the Orioles of 1966-1996 had played in today's current wild card format, the team would have been in the playoffs on 7 other occassions in just the 80's & early '90's (1980, 81, 82, 89, 90, 92 and 93)!

After the death of Edward Bennet Williams in the late 80's, by the middle of the 1993season, the Orioles were sold to native Baltimorean Peter Angelos, a trial lawyer who made his money in Asbestos cases in the '80's and '90's. At the time, the franchise sold for a record $160-170 million, which seemed outlandish, but really was just the beginning of over inflation for sports franchises. The O's had just become the trend setters in the retro ballpark craze by opening Camden Yars in 1992 and were playing to sell out crowds every night. They had the Iron Man and local hero Cal Ripken, up and coming pitchers like Ben McDonald & Mike Mussina, and the ability to sign any free agent they wanted, like Rafeal Palmeiro and others. They were poised to win and Angelos seemed like a new breed of owner who could push the O's over the top, to compete with the Steinbrenners of the worlds. Beside, when Angelo's bought the O's, the Yankees were in the middle of a 15 year drought of not winning the dividion or making the playoffs (let that sink in for a second. If you grew up in the '80s, you were use to the Yankees sucking every year!)

As Angelos purchased the team and the club just moved from midtown Baltimore and 33rd street to downtown by the Inner Harbor. This move made it much easier for people south of town, specfically Washington D.C., to ride into the stadium off of I-95 and easy access to get out. Prior to this, a trip through downtown during rush hour could take up to an extra hour to make it to the north side of town and Memorial Stadium. Thus Angelos started catering to the new breed of fan from D.C., for lack of a better term, the Yuppie craze of back in the day, the D.C. lobbyists, lawyers and politicians who had no loyalty to Baltimore and the O's, but instead came to the games to be seen and because it was the "in" thing to do.

By catering to the transient D.C. crowd, Angelos turned his back on the loyalists who routinely put 2 million+ fans into Memorial Stadium from Baltimore, Western Maryland, Deleware, the Eastern Shore and South Central Pennsylvania. As a result as time moved on, fewer groups from this area were squeezed out in a ticket crunch due to the increase in demand from the D.C. area. Angelos' shunning of his core group of fans led to a slow dissolve of the O's fan who would come out to watch baseball and the O's, with or whithout the bells and whistles of Camden Yards. By the time that Ripken had retired in 2001, there was no reason for the D.C. elite to keep coming up I-95 to see the Birds as the team was becoming far removed from the 96-97 playoff runs. He ran off the great Davey Johnson and probably cost Baltimore a World Title in the process. No player development from the farm system coupled with bad free agent signing led to a quick demise, coupled with an incompetent front office that had a revolving door at the managerial and GM position. Despite the fact that Angelos always claimed territorial rights on D.C., its two seperate markets (see Ravens and Redskins) and Washington was pushing for its own team which eventually the Expos became the Nationals.

Thus a younger of generation of fans was lost and now the second generation is on the verge of being lost. With the consistent demise of Baltimore as a city (they make TV shows about this stuff, Homicide & The Wire) and a loss of population, coupled in the Nationals taking away millions of potential fans that Angelos catered too for a decade and throw in a horrible product on the field, the end of baseball in Balmer could be in the rearview mirror and be closer then it appears. In all seriousness, I could see the team moving if they keep getting crowds of 9-10,000 at Oriole Park, there is no way they can stay there and Angelos will be forced to sell or move.

Its a sad time to be an O's fans, with unthinkable 12 consecutive losing seasons staring down the barrel of a 13th with a 1-9 start. 1983 has become for the Orioles what 1918 was for the Red Sox. Angelos just turned down an offer from Cal Ripken to come in and work with the younger players pro bono, because the Birds are doing so well without him. The only chance of turning this around is for Angelos to sell the team and then Baltimore must rebuild like the Rays, invest in the scouting and player development. Thats a 10 year fix when you start the process, but on the bright side atleast we don't waste our time getting our hopes up because the O's suck so bad!

Please Peter Angelos, sell the team (preferably to Cal Ripken) and leave!

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