Here in Baltimore, a local radio personality organized a protest against the Orioles’ inability to be competitive. Nestor Aparicio, owner of a sports talk radio station and one of its on-air personalities, called for fans tired of the Orioles’ losing ways to purchase the cheapest tickets in the stadium for the 4 pm game yesterday, and walk out en masse at 5:08. Apparently, between 800 and 1200 fans did just that. Nine years of below .500 ball has taken its toll on Baltimore fans with annual attendance having fallen by 1.6 million from 1997 to this year. Peter Schmuck estimates that fall in attendance has cost the team $35 million a year.
Reaction from the Orioles ranged from supportive of the passion of the fans who would make the protest to confusion about what the protesters hoped to accomplish. Owner Peter Angelos was not nearly so benevolent in his reaction. He called Aparicio a demigogue and referred to the fans as ignorant of the costs of running a baseball team. He went on to say that the Orioles were hard-pressed to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox because the Orioles could not pay $100 to $125 million in payroll.
Angelos did, however, concede that returning “Baltimore” to the team uniforms made sense now that there was a team in Washington.
It will be interesting to see if the Orioles make a big splash in the free agent pool this winter. Some reports indicate that the creation of the MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) will add enough to the Orioles’ revenues that they will be able to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees. Apparently lots of folks around Baltimore, including in the Orioles, think money will solve all the team’s inadequacies on the field.
The protesters are not among them. The desire voiced loudest was that Angelos sell the team.