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Orioles will lose fans with slow rebuilding

A statue of Cal Ripken Jr. is decorated for a snowy Christmas at Orioles Winter Warm-Up.
A statue of Cal Ripken Jr. is decorated for a snowy Christmas at Orioles Winter Warm-Up. (Baltimore Orioles/Baltimore Orioles)

The baseball winter meetings have been held, teams have made trades to improve the product they put on the field and players have been added to an existing core in order to get better. Yet, all we read about was the Orioles trying to move players who might have some market value to get unproven players who after many years in the minor leagues may be able to make the major league roster. I believe this is wrong.

Our general manager falls back on the fact that he participated in the development of the powerful Houston Astros team and for that he deserves credit, yet that does not guarantee that lightning will strike in Baltimore and, in the meantime, we are asked to support the bad product he is marketing. He says that this approach is the only and correct way to build a competitive team for the future, yet I disagree with this philosophy. Ignoring the present for the future is not fair to the loyal fan base.

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Other teams rebuild in a more balanced way, they keep the fan base happy while putting competitive teams on the field. Teams that include hometown favorites to root for and admire because they are seen around the community supporting worthy causes. Not T-shirt nights and other gimmicks to mask the fact that they consciously are putting a bad team on the field. We are told that the farm system needs to be rebuilt, young players need to be allowed to grow and mature as ball players, yet it can also be stated that a core of veterans who can stabilize the team and teach baseball skills to younger players is still needed.

In Baltimore, we used to say, “The Oriole way.” Adam Jones knew the Oriole way. He was a star with a strong work ethic and deep roots in the community, yet this management team ran him off. And what about Jonathan Villar, a gritty infielder with a dirty uniform from hustling and stealing bases? Gone. If you look around baseball teams, you will see former Orioles, who if they had been allowed to stay in Baltimore, would make up an all-star team. I believe that the former managers of this team made some bad decisions, yet, that does not make the approach of this new management team any more valid.

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Making matters worse is the fact that ticket prices are not cheap, vendor goods at the ballpark are expensive, and parking fees are high. The cost to take the family to a ball game can approach $100. That is not a good value to fans who are basically watching a minor league baseball team. Meanwhile, Orioles management just tells us to be patient. They are not putting a competitive team on the field and that is supposed to be OK.

Many other franchises rebuild without asking their fans to pay major league prices to watch a minor league team. So how long do we have to watch minor league ball — two years, five years? The team is just going to lose fans. The interest of the once loyal fan base is already waning and people are deciding to spend their money elsewhere. Why go and sit in the stands to watch bad baseball?

What could very well happen in Baltimore is management justifying moving the team because of poor attendance. Does anybody remember Robert Irsay? This calloused approach toward our fans is wrong, and as I have stated, could easily have been avoided by a more balanced approach to rebuilding. Who remembers “Wild Bill Hagy” in the right field bleachers stirring up the fans back when Baltimore baseball was fun. The magic is gone and management is at fault. We can only hope to survive this so-called long term outlook at the expense of the loyal fan base.

The case can be made that the fans get to see Boston or New York play, but that does not excuse this approach. What we see is competitive teams coming to Baltimore and our team cannot even compete with them. The fan base should expect a good team, even while a rebuild is ongoing. Does Ford say, our cars are bad but we are working on the problem so you should still buy our cars? I don’t think so!

William Tress (wtress233@comcast.net) is a native Baltimorean and Orioles fan who lived in the shadow of Memorial Stadium for many years, but has moved to Pennsylvania in retirement.

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