- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

With apologies to Dave Letterman, the top 10 reasons for Washington area citizens no longer to be Orioles fans:
No. 1. Cal Ripken is gone.
Nos. 2-10. Peter Angelos isn't.
But seriously, folks, there is absolutely no excuse for us to spend a plugged nickel on the Woes any longer, either financially or emotionally.
And the time has never been better for us to get our very own team and have our baseball birthright restored.
Almost since the day his group bought the club in 1993, Angelos has been pushing us in this direction I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say unwittingly.
His stubborn, egotistical and just plain wrongheaded approach has reduced one of baseball's proudest franchises to one of its most pitiable. The Orioles have reeled through four losing seasons since going wire to wire to win the American League East in 1997, and the end is nowhere in sight. You thought this season's 63-98 record was awful? As they used to say in Brooklyn, wait 'til next year.
I feel sorry for Mike Hargrove and Syd Thrift, two fine baseball men who deserve better than working for Angelos but, hey, nobody is forcing them to stay. We're luckier than they are: We can bail out with no loss of income. And we should. We must.
Members of my family first became Orioles fans around 1979, eight years after the expansion Senators vamoosed to Texas. My children and thousands of other young people can't remember the Orioles without Ripken, so as long as Cal was around, we felt a lingering loyalty despite the departures of Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, B.J. Surhoff and others. But who are we supposed to nominate as a baseball icon now, Jeff Conine? Sure, he had a fine season, but he's a towering local figure about as much as, say, Tony Banks.
Nope, when Cal took that Corvette ride around Camden Yards at the end of Saturday night's heartfelt ceremonies, any reason for us to bleed black and orange was gone with the wind.
Baltimore is stuck with Angelos and his front-office lackeys perhaps far into the future, but we don't need him. We've got Dan Snyder to fill the role of meddling, misguided team owner.
So what should we do, baseball-wise?
We should wait, and the wait may be nearing its end.
Up in Montreal, fans are as cold as winter toward the Expos, who averaged 7,648 paying customers per home date this season. They've got to move somewhere, the sooner the better, and baseball's movers and shakers are realizing that Washington/Northern Virginia is more than the best option it's the only option.
We have a ready-made market willing to embrace a team.
We have two ownership groups with the necessary money and prestige, especially the Virginia Baseball Inc. gang assembled so patiently by Bill Collins.
We have a major league ballpark RFK Stadium, of course available for two or three years while our own version of Camden Yards is under construction.
And we might even have Ripken. As colleague Thom Loverro has pointed out, Cal has been effectively frozen out of any future decision-making role with the Orioles because of obvious ill will between him and King Peter and also by the presence of Angelos' two sons in the picture. Accordingly, it is very easy to imagine Ripken becoming president of baseball operations for a Washington team.
Heck, maybe he could even play shortstop for a year or two.
OK, so that's just a dream, but the idea of Ripken running a team isn't. And does anybody doubt that he would pursue such an adventure with the same work ethic and dedication he showed in uniform for 20 years?
I don't know if Cal would be interested. If he isn't, he should be.
Now for the key question, and it's one I've asked in print before many false alarms over the years: Should we get excited? After three decades of dashed hopes, should we figuratively hold our breath until Major League Baseball welcomes the national pastime back to the nation's capital?
In the past, I've always suggested that we wait and see. This still applies, but now my best guess is that it's time to get a little excited and maybe dash off a fervent note to commissioner Bud Selig at 777 East Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI, or an e-mail to MLB President/CEO Paul Beeston at www.mlb.com.
My friend Phil Wood, the knowledgeable baseball historian and broadcaster, considers baseball in Washington possible for next season and "a lock" for 2003. I'd rather have a team permanently based in the District rather than Virginia, and it should be called the Washington Nationals rather than something meaningless like the Virginia Fury, the supposed choice of Collins and his people. But at this point, I might not complain too much if the team played in West Virginia and was called the Charles Town Saddle Burrs. At least, it would be ours.
Is the hour of our baseball deliverance nearly at hand? I don't know about you, but I'm getting excited.

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