Baltimore Orioles: Buck Showalter addresses the fans

Buck Showalter‘s officially been the former manager of the Baltimore Orioles for ten days now. His contract expired at the end of October. One thing you can say about Buck was that he immediately and for the entirety of his tenure endeared himself to the Orioles’ fans. And he now continues to do so in absentia.

By way of baltimorebaseball.com‘s Rich Dubroff, Showalter penned a letter to Orioles fans that was published yesterday (click here to read the letter). If you click on the link and read the letter, I think you’ll be impressed. You can almost hear Showalter in his folksy manner saying the words.

As I said, Showalter immediately endeared himself to the city of Baltimore and the Orioles fans. We’re reminded of that in his letter, as he mentions how passionate the people are about the city. And you really only have to spend five minutes in Baltimore to know that. Almost immediately you’ll see someone wearing Maryland flag gear, an O’s or Ravens cap, a crab shirt, or some other provincial article of clothing. Such is life in the Old Line State and in Charm City.

Buck Showalter latched onto these things as soon as he arrived in town. And in fact, probably before – he references coming into town and seeing the passion of the fans when he managed the New York Yankees years ago. Every city or region is proud of itself. However I’d like to think that Baltimore takes it to another level. And that’s a good thing.

But Buck Showalter didn’t just admire these things about the city. He became a part of it. He moved to the area, and truly became a part of the community. He talks about the neighbors in his community, and getting snow cones after Sunday day games. And I think that’s something that fans have forgotten over time. Sports figures rarely work in their hometowns – withstanding the Ripkens. In Buck’s case he lived in the Dallas area, and my understanding is that he’s going back to that as being his full-time home. But rarely do they engross themselves in the community where they work in the manner that the Showalters did.

That was important to Buck, and that’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Some people will argue they don’t care where the guy lives and so forth. But the fact that he lived and breathed the same daily grind that the fans did vouches for something. Buck always said that he “got Baltimore, and Baltimore got him.” And that was because he lived here and was a part of it.

Many times during the 2018 season I wrote and tweeted that fans will miss him when he’s gone. Buck understands the business, and seems to harbor no ill feelings towards the manner in which his time in Baltimore ended. But I stand by that statement; he’ll be missed now that he’s gone. Does that mean that the next guy can’t be just as good? Of course not. But I think Buck and Baltimore will always go hand-in-hand.

And there’s a silver lining to this: he’s still connected to the organization. His son Nathan is still a scout for the Orioles. Nathan Showalter and his wife live in the area, so it stands to reason that Buck might pop up in town from time to time. For the sake of everyone involved, I hope he isn’t a stranger.

Baltimore Orioles: Where’s Peter Angelos?

The slowness of the Baltimore Orioles’ search for a new GM and manager is well-documented. What’s unclear is the direction that things are headed. What’s also unclear is how involved owner Peter Angelos is in the proceedings.

We know that Angelos has been reported to be in failing health. However I suspect that unless he’s literally laying on his death bed in a semi-comatose state, odds are he’s at least aware of the current situation. That assumed, what’s his line of thinking?

Angelos reportedly turned control of the team over to his sons John and Lou in January of this year. On paper he’s still the owner and Chairman of the Board of the team. But (supposedly) he hasn’t been involved in team decisions or in the direction of the franchise since then.

And if you want evidence of that, look no further than now former manager Buck Showalter. According to various reports, (Peter) Angelos promised Showalter that if he wanted to be the manager past 2018, he would be. Over the years a lot of things have been said about Mr. Angelos, but one thing on which he’s always been consistent is keeping his word. If he says he’s going to do something, he follows through. And that’s a quality that I deeply respect.

So the fact that Showalter is gone should tell fans that the old man isn’t running the ranch any longer. On a personal note I would have liked to see the Angelos sons follow through on their father’s reported promise. However they can’t be blamed for not doing so. They never gave their word; their father did.

That aside, if in fact Peter Angelos isn’t in the aforementioned semi-comatose state, does he have a view on how his sons are proceeding? Furthermore is he giving or having to give any sort of approval on the moves that are being made? These are all legitimate questions.

Baltimore Orioles: Can snark be self-fulfilling?

When talking or reporting about the Baltimore Orioles, I call things down the middle. It’s part of my job; people often tell me that they want columnists and announcers to “openly root for the Orioles.” My response is that they think they want that, but they really don’t. When the media shamelessly roots for the team it comes across as incredibly unprofessional. Look no further than former ChiSox announcer, Hawk Harrelson.

However outside of the Orioles, I do have various teams for whom I openly root. One of those is the Washington Capitals of the NHL. During last night’s game against Pittsburgh, I tweeted to the effect of only a Pittsburgh team would argue that a goalie embellished being roughed and have the national media take up their cause. In fact, the national television crew calling the game felt that the Capitals’ goalie sold a roughing call to the officials.

Did he? That’s a matter of opinion. But my point was that Pittsburgh teams seem to always get the calls and the benefit of the doubt. And in this one spot where they didn’t, they complained and had the national media on their side.

I’m a sports fan just like the rest of the world. We make comments like that on occasion. Again, you’ll never see me say something like that regarding the Orioles, because I have an obligation to cover the team in as unbiased a manner as possible. However many fans do say things like that regarding the Orioles when they play other teams. Heck, Oriole players sometimes complain to umpires that they don’t get a fair shake. But do comments as such inadvertently prove to be true?

If national media members hear that they favor one team over another they’re going to say that’s ludicrous. That’s also going to ride in their gut for some time. But does human nature not dictate that the person might not start to resent that comment, and thus find himself at the very least NOT favoring the very team they were accused of being against?

Look at it from the perspective of an umpire or referee. If someone’s accused of favoring one team over the other, again does human nature not dictate that perhaps that ref/ump might give the benefit of the doubt the other way? Ultimately I do believe that national media figures and/or officials try to be unbiased. And most of them succeed. But there are certainly exceptions.

If you look at the NFL, many rival teams complain that teams such as the Cowboys, Steelers, Patriots, and others get more favorable coverage and officiating. In the NHL we see those same charges regarding the Penguins, the Lakers in the NBA (or perhaps just LeBron James), and the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and others in MLB. The ironic thing however is that again human nature dictates that when the opponents of the aforementioned teams complain about this, it gets worse before it gets better.

All of this is further ampified by social media. As an avid user, I’m the first to admit that. Again, I call things down the middle for the Orioles because I report on them. So do the likes of Boston and New York get favorable calls and/or coverage against the Orioles and others? The fact is that there’s no evidence which suggests that; the Orioles need to focus on winning. Do the Penguins enjoy those benefits against the Capitals (who ultimately defeated Pittsburgh last night)? They absolutely do!

Baltimore Orioles: Are delays stopping progress?

The long and strung out process through which the Baltimore Orioles are going to find a new General Manager and eventual field manager is well documented. At this point it simply is what it is. Ownership is taking their sweet time. That’s their right in a sense.

But is this process perhaps hurting more than it’s helping? As an example, the MLB GM Meetings are this week. The Orioles are attending the meeting…without a GM. That somehow seems counterproductive. Mind you, the GM meetings are in essence a precursor to the MLB Winter Meetings next month. One hopes the Birds have a true front office at that point.

However the Orioles are a ship that needs a direction. The longer they go without leadership, the longer we wait for a manager. Whomever that manager is will have a huge task on his hands, as he’ll need to figure out which young players he wants to keep and which of those who are kept who he wants to play. Spring training will be the big factor in deciding that, however there has to be plan.

The longer we go without team leadership, the amount of time to make those decisions gets more truncated. And yes, that could affect the process. Or the length thereof.

Baltimore Orioles: Election Day

There’s never much going on with he Baltimore Orioles at this point. So here’s an annual column I write that has nothing to do with the Birds. In effect, it’s a Public Service Announcement. It’s a short column but it has a great message: GET OUT TODAY AND VOTE!

Not many things are guaranteed in life. The right to vote is one of them. For whom you vote and which way is irrelevant. Your positions and views are just as valid as people who see things inversely. And your voice deserves to be heard just as much.

The entire US House of Representatives, 1/3rd of the US Senate, and in Maryland the Governor’s Chair is up for Election this year. We the people owe it to ourselves to make our voices heard. So please folks, exercise your civic rights and vote today – regardless of how you see the world.

Baltimore Orioles: How do fans feel about a forced sale?

As owner of the Baltimore Orioles, Peter Angelos has been a polarizing figure. Have mistakes been made that were unforced? Absolutely. However I would also argue that there’s another side to Peter Angelos that goes unreported. Such as the act of him paying all stadium employees for the games that were lost due to the riots in 2015. He’s very civic-minded, regardless of what your view is of his stewardship of the team.

The past two days I’ve laid out what I believe could be going on within the franchise, and how it’s possible that MLB is intentionally cramping the Orioles. That could ultimately point to the team being sold at some point. Or more specifically, a forced sale. Forced by MLB.

Let’s say you’re ready to be done with Peter Angelos as the Orioles’ owners, and by extension the potential stewartship of his sons. Would you be willing to in essence be told by force that the Angelos family is out? In effect, whether people like it or not?

Baltimore has long been a city that’s marched to the tune of it’s own drum. This is a city that refused to stand down when it lost it’s beloved NFL team, that is until they got another one back. This is the city that banded together to heal the wounds of riots in both 1968 and 2015 – with little outside help from anyone. Anytime something happens in other communities the nation rallies behind them. It seems taht when it happens to Baltimore the attitude is “well it’s their own fault – they did this to themselves.”

Point being that this is a city that’s largely self-sufficient and very independent. Whether it’s for a good reason or bad, would Baltimore stand for basically being told that their team is going to be sold? Somehow that doesn’t seem like the Baltimore that I know and love.

That aside, folks who claim a forced sale wouldn’t be a bad thing should tread lightly. Look at what the Orioles did this past season in selling off most of their high-priced assets. When Robert Irsay came into ownership of the Colts he slowly started gutting the team. Then he started demanding a new stadium, and threatened to move. With declining attendance due to losing seasons (due to no star power on the field), the team became very easy to move.

Need I go on? The Angelos family has ALWAYS been committed to the city of Baltimore. Certainly there would be a chance that the new owners would be local and would be just as committed. But all I’m saying is tread lightly.

Baltimore Orioles: Is MLB holding up the Birds’ plans (continued)?

Yesterday I talked about how MLB would need to approve John and Lou Angelos as the new owners of the Baltimore Orioles if their father, Peter Angelos, died or transfered ownership. To me it stands to reason that Peter Angelos would just transfer ownership to his kids and allow the transition to occur immediately as opposed to waiting until his death. But the politics of the league regarding the MASN case also plays a role.

I suppose it’s understood that when a family owns an asset such as a company, children of the true owner will often step in and play the role of the parent in a pinch. In this case, John and Lou Angelos are in essence running the team on their father’s behalf. But is MLB perhaps interfering where it shouldn’t?

I’m not suggesting this based on any evidence. I’m throwing it out there as a theory. The league has no stake whatsoever in the Orioles’ continued success. Is that fact? Not really. But it is my opinion. By their actions, they’ve made it very clear that they want the MASN case resolved in the Washington Nationals’ favor. This is mainly because the league knows it signed a bad deal with Peter Angelos years ago. So they’re hoping to have it thrown out. And again, in my opinion it’s the Orioles and the Orioles’ fans who are suffering.

I wouldn’t put it past the league to throw money wrenches into John and Lou Angelos’ plans for those political reasons. Whereas the Steinbrenner brothers ran the New York Yankees for their father for years before ownership was transfered, and were allowed to do so with autonomy. But is it not possible that the league office is interfering with whatever the Orioles are trying to do – simply because it’s the Angelos’ and it’s the Orioles?

Again, I’m not giving you any evidence that suggests this. Because there is none. I’m putting it out there as a theory – please don’t take what I’m writing as fact. However the Angelos brothers did seem to show a fairly decisive side in making the tough choice to sell off assets during the season. So does the delay in hiring a front office and manager not seem somewhat out of character?

And with that said, again we know that the league seems to have the motive to make things tough for the O’s and the Angelos’. So that’s kind of where this is coming from. Is it appropriate to say? Maybe, maybe not. But again, it’s simply a theory. Not based in anything more than circumstantial evidence.

Does the league have the power to hold up a GM hiring? That I don’t know. However I suspect that they could put some sort of scrutiny on ownership so as to be overbearing – since “technically” John and Lou aren’t the owners on paper. Which brings up another point; at sometime in the future, Peter Angelos will pass away. Would his sons be able to get the necessary 2/3rds vote from the other owners to become the new owners of the team?

Point being, a sale could be forced if not. Those types of votes (with the children of the late owner inheriting the team) are often seen as ceremonial and in essence as a formality. But the possibility exists that the Orioles could be sold (by force) in the next few years. What happens then?

Baltimore Orioles: Is MLB holding up the Birds’ plans?

There’s angst amongst the Baltimore Orioles’ fan base, mainly because the team remains without a captain. I mean both in the front office and on the field. Ownership made it very clear that first they would hire a General Manager (or a GM-like position), and that person would hire a manager. So the horse has to come before the cart in a sense. But is it potentially ownership that’s the problem?

That last sentence is fairly deceiving. On paper, the owner of the Orioles is Peter Angelos. However we know that he’s been in failing health, and his sons (John and Lou) have been running the team in his stead. However officially Peter is the owner until he dies or until he transfers ownership to his sons directly. That last scenario actually happened this year with the team just down the road; Washington owner Ted Lerner wanted to transfer ownership to his son, Mark, and it was approved by his fellow owners.

And that’s a key point on two levels. 2/3rds of the other owners have to approve a new owner, whether it’s by sale, gift, or will. So if Peter Angelos dies and he leaves the team to his sons (or anyone else for that matter) in accordance with his will, 2/3rds of the other owners would still have to vote to approve them as the new owners. The same is true if he gifts the team to his sons. If 2/3rds of the owners don’t approve the transfer of ownership or sale, the league in essence could force the team to be sold.

The Orioles, MASN, the Angelos family, and the Washington Nationals are involved in a legal dispute over television rights fees. This much we all know. MLB’s made it very clear by their actions that they want the matter settled. They’ve also made it clear that they want it settled in Washington’s favor. Is that hurting the Orioles in their search for a new front office?

Basically, could the league be making it difficult for John and Lou Angelos to operate as the de facto owners? Chew on that for a day – I’ll get back to it tomorrow.

Baltimore Orioles: How does one market the team in 2019?

The Baltimore Orioles are a hot mess. Unfortunately they have been since April when the world seemingly stopped turning. However as I’ve written over time, Spring Training 2019 is going to be the most important camp in awhile. Not only to see who plays where, but also to see how everyone meshes under the new manager. And also to figure out who “everyone” is.

However the 2019 Orioles are going to have an identity problem from the outset. Who exactly are they? Or rather, who will they be? I suspect that Baltimoreans and Orioles fans will take the time to learn who these guys are as we go along. Your true die hards will know everyone out of Spring Training. But soon enough the new team will be guys that fans recognize by name.

But what do the Orioles do until that happens? How do you market things such as season ticket packages when you can’t even inform fans who they’ll be paying to see play? Similarly, how does the team draw fans to their annual FanFest celebration when they don’t have any star power (or even a manager) to hock?

The same is true in terms of merchandising. Cedric Mullins‘ jersey and shirsey will only sell so much. Needless to say I think that Birdland is excited to have Mullins here, but again he’s only one guy. And it’s still uncleaer as to how much people are going to be willing to buy in right now. Needless to say, the marketing department has it’s work cut out for it.

Baltimore Orioles: Branden Kline to the 40-man roster

Earlier this week the Baltimore Orioles instated pitcher Branden Kline onto the 40-man roster. In a sense, he’s officially a big leaguer. Of course the fact that it’s November means that he won’t be in games anytime soon. But nevertheless he’s on the roster.

The Birds considered giving Kline a September call-up this year. However with him coming off of Tommy John surgery, they opted to shut him down. And odds are that was smart. There probably wasn’t much for him to prove this September in any games.

For what it’s worth, Kline in essence took Adam Jones‘ spot on the 40-man roster. Jones because a free agent on Tuesday of this week, and is officially no longer employed by the club. And effective today, former manager Buck Showalter and former GM Dan Duquette can say the same. Their contracts expired at the end of October.

The Orioles were considering the option of protecting Kline during the Rule 5 draft, but putting him on the 40-man roster does that and then some. How he fits into whatever direction the team heads from here remains to be seen. Of course, once we know who the GM and manager will be, that might become a bit more clear.

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