Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Just when you probably thought things couldn’t get worse for the Baltimore Orioles after nine losing seasons in a row, they have.

Much worse.

Owner Peter Angelos said over the weekend he has no plans to sell the club anytime soon, which should be more than enough to make remaining fans of the Orioles sob in their suds and swallow crab shells — the hard kind.

Prayers aren’t always answered, apparently.

By comparison, the loss of Miguel Tejada for the season or the rehiring of Lee Mazzilli as manager would seem minor. In the 14 years that Angelos has owned the club, one of the proudest franchises in baseball has become one of its most laughable.

And having destroyed baseball in Baltimore, King Peter I did his best to ruin any prospect of it coming to Washington. Fortunately, he failed, but he got his pound of flesh anyway when the lunkheads who run Major League Baseball bought him off with the creation of a regional sports network that pours millions into Angelos’ already bulging pockets.

Now we have no recourse but to watch most Nationals and Orioles games over the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. With apologies to Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton, the Nats’ good TV commentators, we should shudder inwardly each time we tune in.

It seems quaint now that Orioles fans used to complain about absentee ownership back when New York financier Eli Jacobs owned the club. Heck, even his predecessor, high-powered D.C. criminal lawyer Edward Bennett Williams, was better for Baltimore than Angelos.

Being no slouch as a barrister himself, Angelos was totally upbeat when he met with reporters Sunday during his first appearance at Fort Lauderdale Stadium in three years. He also slipped pointed questions with the skill of a good boxer trying to stay upright against, say, Joe Louis.

“I’d like to give the fans a winner,” he said. And of the criticism that rains down on his bald dome from all sides, he insisted, “Of course it bothers you … but you have to deal with it. I am the managing partner [of the ownership syndicate], so I have to take the heat.”

Burn, baby, burn.

After reiterating that he won’t peddle the club despite drastically declining attendance at Camden Yards, Angelos tried a lame joke, saying he didn’t want to talk about passing on the Orioles to sons Louis and John because “that requires something terrible happening.”

No comment.

He also said manager Sam Perlozzo continues to improve in his second season and is “a great guy and a great manager.”

Which probably means: Sammy, don’t send out your laundry anyplace that doesn’t offer one-day service.

The O’s lingering lousiness is bad news for some in the Washington suburbs as well as in Charm City. For more than three decades, they were all we had, and bonds of loyalty aren’t easily broken (although Peter has done his best, or worse). Some of the young people in my own family remain Orioles fans because the team you grew up with usually stays your favorite.

Memories of Earl Weaver, Frank and Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken still can bring a tingle. When Cal Jr. is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July, you can bet a lot of folks from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Southern Maryland will be among the spectators yelling their heads off in Cooperstown, N.Y.

And will Angelos be there?

Who knows — and who cares?

The Orioles are supposed to be better this season, which isn’t saying much, but they will remain losers off the field until Peter Angelos tires of being hated by the multitudes. Of course, he has only one person to blame.

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