- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

BALTIMORE.

Here’s a prediction for Opening Day at Camden Yards next season: The “Tenth Man,” a fan selected from the crowd, won’t be from Virginia.

Heck, he might not even be from Baltimore. After all, why would anyone come? Especially if the opening series is against the Boston Red Sox, who closed out the regular season yesterday at Camden Yards.

Why would an Orioles fan want to be subjected to the embarrassment of being a visiting fan in his own ballpark?

Head south, I say. Come to Washington, where the owners will have incentive to put a good team on the field — unlike the fellow who owns the Baltimore Orioles.

Peter Angelos is about to close a deal that will guarantee revenue for his club because of the relocation of the Montreal Expos to the District.

Angelos managed to suck the life from a winning franchise with one foolish and egomaniacal decision after another. The result is seven straight losing seasons and the loss of more than 1million fans. Angelos achieved that without the presence of a team in Washington, through nothing more than his own incompetency.

Imagine what Angelos will do once he receives a sweetheart deal from baseball commissioner Cadillac Bud Selig that will protect him from financial losses.

What will force Angelos to abandon the heavy-handed manner that has torn this franchise apart? Competition with Washington for paying customers?

The deal Angelos is striking with baseball is designed to prevent him from having to compete. Even if this package is not as lucrative as expected, Angelos likely still would be guaranteed a profit if he kept the payroll at its current level of $55million.

That $55 million team completed another losing season yesterday with a meaningless 3-2 win over the Red Sox (the highlight of which was Boston outfielder Dave McCarty, put in to pitch, striking out Rafael Palmeiro looking in the sixth inning).

Just as Camden Yards is Yankee Stadium south when the New York team comes to play, it was Fenway Park south yesterday.

Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe struck out Miguel Tejada in the first inning, and the crowd erupted with joy — probably around the time Angelos was meeting in Baltimore with Cadillac Bud’s top lieutenant, Bob DuPuy, to hammer out details of a plan that will give Orioles fans even less reason to come to the ballpark.

That’s OK. More tickets for Yankees and Red Sox fans.

As far as Washington baseball fans are concerned, whatever it takes to get the deal done, just get it done.

They could care a lick about Angelos once he agrees to drop opposition to the relocation of the Expos to Washington. If the other owners want to give Angelos unprecedented protection from financial losses, then it is their problem — and it will be a problem.

But for Orioles fans, the problem is Angelos has no incentive to put a competitive team on the field other than his own desire to win. I believe he has that. I don’t think he enjoys losing. But his desire hasn’t been enough. He needs to be put in a situation in which, in order to compete, he is forced to change the way he does business.

Even if he decides to spend much more money next season, it still will be business as usual at the B&O; Warehouse.

The minor league system will be starting from scratch again: Darrell Rodgers, the director of the minor league operations, and director of scouting Tony DeMacio were fired recently, serving as scapegoats.

Angelos still is calling the shots, as witnessed by his reported interference in the selection of the Orioles’ No.1 pick in the draft this year.

His hand-picked front-office duo of Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan (whose face might as well be on a milk carton these days) planned to pick a high school pitcher. At the last minute, Angelos said they were to do no such thing. The Orioles instead selected a college pitcher to whom they just lost the rights because they were unable to sign him.

There might have been a financial bottom that Angelos would have hit, one that would have forced him to change his ways. Now Orioles fans will never know, because Angelos is protected from sinking that low.

So by all means, come to Washington next year — if you can get tickets, that is.

Leave the “Let’s go, Red Sox” chants behind. Come to a place where fans will root for a home team that has every reason to win.

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