Turning heel

February 5, 2012

In my own mind, I hear Jim Ross shouting about how I’ve got no heart, I’ve got no soul and I’ve got no damn conscience, like he did after Triple H hit Shawn Michaels with a sledgehammer.

Abandoning one of my sports teams, no matter if it’s brief or not, is, for me, like doing a Triple H-style heel turn. I haven’t gone full heel yet and started taunting the fans, saying things like “I’m not a hick! I’m not from MEEMPHIS TENNESEE!! UH-UH-UH” like Andy Kaufman used to but I’m close.

This is not an easy decision for me. I’ve been an Orioles fan my whole life. When the Orioles were last good, in 1996 and 1997, I was in college up in Springfield, Mass. This is where Yankee fans and Red Sox fans, the two most loathsome fanbases in baseball, meet. When the O’s won the AL East in 1997, I proudly sported my championship t-shirt around campus.

Little did I know that would be the last time I’d ever see a winner in an Orioles jersey. This franchise has a black cloud hanging over it and the weather report looks bleaker than Siberia for the foreseeable future.

What I’m getting at is, I’m thinking about abandoning the Orioles and pulling for the Phillies.

I suppose I would like to enter what Newt Gingrich calls an “open relationship.” I’ll still have affections for the Orioles but I kinda what to see what a winning baseball team looks like. I’d like to cheer for a team that isn’t eliminated from playoff contention by spring training. I want to experience meaningful games in July and August. I want to see a sold-out ballpark again, sold-out with fans of the home team that is. The Fightin’ Phils can offer me all this.

I blame Peter Angelos. This incompetent dictator of a sports owner has destroyed my beloved Baltimore Orioles from within, and the result has been 14 going on 15 losing seasons and zero hope on the horizon.

Business owners in Baltimore, particularly in the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill district, which can be as thriving as Wrigleyville under the right circumstances, should fume at Angelos for what his team has done to their bottom line. No fans at the park, no fans frequenting their business.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the trend-setter for modern ballparks celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, will sit mostly empty as the Orioles once again lose 90 games.

Good guys and good players like Adam Jones, JJ Hardy and Matt Wieters will ply their considerable talents on a team with no chance in hell for the postseason.

The last straw for me is the rumors that the Orioles are looking into signing Manny Ramirez to fill their DH spot. Manny Freakin’ Ramirez!

The 40-year old guy that’s been suspended for PEDs twice in four years.

The guy that couldn’t hit his weight in Tampa last year and retired after he was caught doping again.

The guy that won’t be able to play until May because he has to serve a 50-game drug suspension.

The “Manny being Manny” guy.

If the Orioles ink Manny, I’m out. I’m done with the Orioles. Because signing Ramirez is even worse than the other aging sluggers looking for one last cash-in the Orioles have brought in, a list that includes Sammy Sosa, Raffy Palmierio, Miggy Tejada and Vlad Guerrero. Manny is not only over the hill, he’s high maintenance. You think he’s gonna want to be there when the Orioles are hopelessly out of it by August?

I should be willing to give new Orioles GM Dan Duquette the benefit of the doubt. After all, he’s only been on the job for a few months. But if his first offseason is any indication, it looks like he’s another Angelos puppet. The Orioles have not signed one major league caliber free-agent, inking craptacular names like Dana Eveland, Endy Chavez and Wilson Betemit. Other than Hardy, Jones, Wieters and Nick Markakis, I’m not sure there’s one guy on this team another club would want to trade for.

Well, I’m tired of it. In the last two years, here are the O’s best offseason moves 1) Hardy 2) Bringing back Natty Boh on tap at the stadium. That’s it. Would you root for a team with a record like that?

Never mind the cheapskate owner who pockets his millions in cable fees. There’s no reason the Orioles shouldn’t be like the Phillies, the Angels or the Rangers, middle market teams with big cable deals that have the resources to sign big money free agents. But it’s clear that the Orioles will never compete as long as Angelos owns the club, and he’s not selling anytime soon, so it looks like we’ll have to wait until he passes into the next life to see a winning baseball team in Baltimore.

This past week, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, GM Ozzie Newsome, team president Dick Cass and Coach John Harbaugh faced the media for their “State of the Ravens” press conference. The team brass does this every year and reminds us all what a top-notch organization the Ravens are.

No matter the difficult playoff losses the last two years, I know I’m grateful that we have a team that contends year after year, that is well-run and has an owner that runs this franchise exactly the way you want it. Bisciotti is hands-off during the year, but when it’s time to face the music and answer tough questions from fans and media, he doesn’t hide in his ivory tower. The expectations for the Ravens are championships.

Meanwhile, Peter Angelos hasn’t showed his face around in who knows how long. He doesn’t do interviews, he doesn’t hold “State of the Team” press conferences and he’s never at games. The Orioles hope and pray that they’ll finish .500. Imagine that. This team strives for mediocrity.

And people wonder why the Ravens are practically a religion in Baltimore and the Orioles are an afterthought. It starts at the top. Bisciotti gives a damn and tries to put out a top-notch product for the people forking over lots of dough to see his team play. There’s a reason why M&T Bank Stadium has become one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL.

Now, go to an Orioles game sometime this year, look at the swaths of empty seats while the O’s lose again and see if you think team management really gives a crap about you. Better yet, don’t go to a game, because your money is going straight into Angelos’ pockets.

Sorry, I’m done. The Phils are right up the road, have the best pitcher in the league, seem to give a crap about their fans and have a team good enough to play meaningful games long after the Orioles are 28 games out of first.

I suppose it’s time I learn the lyrics to “High Hopes.”

  • Ryan Mavity has been a reporter with the Cape Gazette since February 2007. He covers the city of Rehoboth Beach, Baltimore Ravens football and Delaware State University football. He lives in Georgetown with his wife, Rachel and their son, Alex.

    Contact Ryan at