If Cerone departs HTS, initiative for leaving would come from O's

THE BALTIMORE SUN

If the end of Rick Cerone's brief tenure as an analyst on Orioles telecasts is in sight, he's not aware of it.

At present, Cerone is immersed in the details of getting a $22 million ballpark for his new Newark Bears of the Atlantic League up and running by a planned May launch.

Though the rumor circuit has Cerone about to get sacked from the booth after one season, in favor of current Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan, he says he's not worried about it.

"I've heard the stuff about Flanagan, but that doesn't much concern me. That's his option," said Cerone.

Officials at Home Team Sports, which produces both the cable and over-the-air telecasts, are scheduled to meet with Orioles officials to review the past season, during which the topic of announcer performance is certain to arise.

If it does, HTS personnel will express satisfaction with not only Cerone, but also with play-by-play man Michael Reghi and co-analyst Jim Palmer.

"Overall, we feel our entire announcer team did a good job, and showed improvement throughout the year. We feel good about that," said spokesman Ted Ewanciw.

That doesn't mean, however, that a change may not come, and if it does, the initiative for it would come out of the team's warehouse offices.

Cerone, who signed a three-year deal before this season with options for both parties, said he doesn't plan to have any discussions with majority owner Peter Angelos about saving his job.

"Why? That would be kind of awkward. If he doesn't like me, there's not much I can do about it," said Cerone. "I think he listens to a lot of baseball. He's a fan. I would think he would like my work. I don't think there's a need to sit down with him."

Angelos could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Cerone's right; he shouldn't have to beg Angelos or anyone else for his job. If he wants, Cerone will find work somewhere next year. He has too many interesting things to say and far too much personality to be on the sidelines.

Cerone, an 18-year major-league veteran, was said to be stung ** by the ridiculously parochial comments of some so-called fans about his previous connection to the New York Yankees, both as a former player and announcer.

How silly that while a lot of Baltimoreans can't see past Cerone's past life, New Yorkers embraced former Oriole Ken Singleton, who has called Yankees games the past two seasons.

The Orioles' front office has increasingly flexed its muscle over the direction and tone of broadcasts on both the radio and television side, and Cerone would join a growing list of talented former Orioles announcers, including Jon Miller, John Lowenstein and Mel Proctor.

All had spent more than 10 seasons on the air, but all left -- for whatever reason you'd like to speculate on -- since Angelos took control of the club in 1993. It's not a coincidence.

Cerone, who came aboard last spring with considerable fanfare, says he understands the nature of the beast.

"Even though you work for HTS, you kind of work for the ballclub, sort of like the Yankee announcers work for [owner George] Steinbrenner. I don't have a problem with that," said Cerone.

That may be true, but that doesn't make it right. It's amazing that two years after the intense and overwhelmingly negative fallout the Orioles took for the departure of the highly respected Miller club officials -- Angelos included -- don't grasp how badly this reflects on them.

There's no arguing that when fans tune into a local telecast of a game, they expect a broadcast that centers on the home team. But they also expect and deserve truth. Fans want the broadcasters to say when a player stinks, but they also want to know if the manager is up to the task and if management has given the manager the tools to perform the task.

Flanagan was admittedly a pretty solid analyst in his two previous tours of duty, but he would return to the booth after two turns as the team's pitching coach with the taint of being Angelos' personally appointed color man, as the only guy who can tell it the way the team wants it told, sort of the way things used to run in the Soviet Union before that country found democracy.

And that's not good for anyone, least of all Flanagan.

By the way, you'd think that $15 million or more a year that HTS lays out for Orioles rights would give the channel a bit of, shall we say, intestinal fortitude, to politely, but firmly, suggest to team management that it should concentrate on improving the on-field product, while leaving the telecast to the professionals.

You might think that, but apparently, you would be wrong.

And finally, on the subject of Miller, his dulcet tones will return to Baltimore airwaves and WBAL (1090 AM), if only for a week. ESPN announced yesterday that Miller and Joe Morgan will call the World Series for ESPN Radio, with Rich Eisen serving as host and Charley Steiner and Kevin Kennedy reporting.

Asleep at the switch?

Local National League playoff viewers got a bit of an early-morning surprise Wednesday night when Channel 45 inexplicably dropped out of the 10th inning of Game 1 of the San Diego-Atlanta series for a couple of minutes each of "Cheers" and "Frasier."

Well, at least the shows were decent.

Around the dial

On the Sunday NFL pre-game show wars, Ravens running back Priest Holmes is the focus of a CNN "NFL Preview" (10 a.m.) profile on his breakout game against Cincinnati two weeks ago and his status as a single parent.

Tampa Bay linebacker Hardy Nickerson ventures all the way to Bristol, Conn., to be a part of ESPN's two-hour show (11 a.m.) and unlike previous studio guests, Hootie and the Blowfish, Nickerson doesn't have an album to shill. And Fox reporter Pam Oliver goes to Philadelphia and Washington to find out what has happened to those two cities' teams on "Fox NFL Sunday" (Channel 45, noon).

Good grief, it's hockey season already. Down the parkway, the Washington Capitals begin their defense of the Eastern Conference title tomorrow night at the MCI Center against Anaheim, and HTS has the telecast, the first of its 41-game schedule, starting with Al Koken's "Capitals Report" at 6: 30 p.m., followed by the game call at 7, with Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin. ESPN begins a slate of 102 games spread between two channels tonight with a telecast of the Philadelphia-New York Rangers game at 7: 30 p.m.

And finally, Fox (Channel 45) will have the first round of a women's figure skating performance from Charleston, S.C., Sunday at 2: 30, leading into football. The performances are as fresh as month-old bread, since that's when it was taped, but to those who will watch, the date just doesn't matter.

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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