The Baltimore Orioles have managed to negotiate their way out of new spring training homes a number of times over the past 15 years, including the fabulous Disney complex that the Atlanta Braves call their spring training home. As a result, they have been stuck in the old Yankees home in Fort Lauderdale since 1996, which has been great for writers after work but has contributed to the dysfunction of the franchise because the complex could not handle their minor leaguers as well, who have trained a few hours away in Sarasota.
Finally, though, the Oriole may get a decent spring training home — unless they manage to mess this up as well. Two Florida communities abandoned by teams — Sarasota, which had been the Cincinnati Reds’ home, and Vero Beach (“Dodgertown”), where the Los Angeles Dodgers trained for years (both teams have moved to Arizona) are wooing the Orioles to move there.
But things have gotten ugly. One county official called the Orioles MASN network “worthless” while another has called dealing with the team “a struggle.” In Vero Beach, county officials have become exasperated with the Orioles’ negotiation tactics and, according to the newspaper web site TCPalm.com, Indian River County Commissioners have set a 5 p.m., Dec. 15 deadline for a deal or else forget it.
“And it has to be a signed contract, not ‘We’ll come down there and talk about it,’” Commissioner Peter O’Bryan said. “Every time we hear from the Orioles, it’s delay after delay after delay. I think at this point, we need to say enough is enough. With the Orioles, it’s always been a struggle.”
In Sarasota, elected officials are battling about how much money to spend. They had tried to woo the Red Sox with a $70 million complex, only for Boston to decide to stay in Fort Myers with a deal for a new complex. So Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta said the county should spend less than half that on the Orioles — about the same amount they were willing to spend to keep the Reds in Sarasota.
“(Baltimore) is a $30 million team, the same as Cincinnati,” Barbetta said, according to the Sun Newspapers web site account. “In fact, Cincinnati was (ranked) slightly higher.”
Barbetta’s comments angered commissioner Shannon Staub, who has been in negotiations with Baltimore officials, according to the Sun Newspapers website. “Cincinnati did not have the sports network,” Staub said, of a potential partnership with Baltimore’s Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
Barbetta answered, “The sports network is basically worthless.” Ouch.
Barbetta is not a big fan of the Orioles. When comparing the Red Sox to the Orioles, Barbetta said,”One’s the gold standard and the other’s the tin standard.”
The Orioles complex in Fort Lauderdale has just been one more example of the dysfunctional way the franchise has operated. Most teams have complexes large enough to house both major and minor leaguers. It comes in handy when team officials, including the manager, want to get a look at a young kid. In Viera, all Nationals manager Manny Acta has to do is walk over to the minor league complex in the afternoon to watcha young player. The Orioles managers did not have that luxury, since the minor leaguers trained several hours away in Sarasota.
By the way, the Nationals have a stake in this. Vero Beach is one of the closest spring training locations to Viera, and the Dodgers were a regular opponent on the Nationals spring training schedule. They could use someone to replace the Dodgers in Vero Beach.
I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM on Friday, Dec. 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 15, from 5 to 7 p.m.
To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com