- - Tuesday, July 10, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Like that blood-splattered car Jules and Vincent in “Pulp Fiction,” the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Redskins are each a horrific, gut-churning mess that the folks in charge can’t begin to figure out how to clean up.

Both are in trouble, to various degrees, and need help. So they have each called in their own versions of Mr. Wolf to start cleaning up.

Last week, quietly, on the day before the July 4th holiday, the Orioles announced they hired a chief operating officer for business operations — former Miami Heat executive John Vidalin.

Six weeks earlier, the Redskins announced they hired NFL executive Brian LaFemina as their president of business operations and chief operating officer.

Both moves were a major departure for the troubled organizations — particularly since they brought in outsiders. Both hires were a cry for help.

The Orioles are on pace for record-low attendance. They are in a multi-million dollar battle with the Washington Nationals for MASN cable money, which is shrinking with each cord cut. And they have been plagued by mismanagement for decades under the ownership of Peter Angelos.

The Redskins have watched as their despised FedEx Field home stadium filled with visiting team fans instead of regulars wearing the local team’s colors. And the Redskins not-so-faithful, after they’ve sold their tickets to out-of-towners, aren’t staying at home to watch, either. Television ratings for Redskins games have dropped to frightening levels — reportedly beaten out by other broadcasts featuring out-of-town teams.

Like the Orioles, the franchise has been plagued by mismanagement for decades under current ownership.

So they both brought in fixers to save them from themselves.

Who will last longer in the job — Vidalin or LaFemina? And who will look older when they leave?

In their press release, the Orioles announced that Vidalin will be in charge of “day-to-day operations of the Orioles’ business departments, including revenue (ticket sales and corporate partnerships), branding, customer experience, ballpark operations and event development.

That’s a list of nearly all of the things the Orioles are bad at. Very bad, among the worst in the industry.

Sales? Branding? Partnerships? This a language they rarely speak or understand at the B&O Warehouse. But they have sunk low enough that they are willing to bring in hired help who does speak the business of sports.

Vidalin was the executive vice president and chief revenue officer for the Miami Heat. Before that, he spent 10 years working in the NFL, including as chief sales officer for the San Francisco 49ers.

“John’s senior executive experience working for some of the most iconic sports team brands and most-respected organizations across the world’s top sports leagues make him the ideal choice to oversee our talented business division in further developing our Orioles and Oriole Park brands in the years to come,” John Angelos, one of Peter’s son who is now more involved in the operation of the franchise, said in a press release.

I suspect that, after working with some of the most iconic sports team brands and most-respected organizations across the world’s top leagues, Vidalin has never seen what he will see when he starts the job in August.

Every sports organization has a level of dysfunction, but the Orioles are in a league of their own. How much influence and power Vidalin will actually have is debatable. On the baseball side, it’s a battle for power between John and Lou Angelos, the sons; general manager Dan Duquette, vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson or manager Buck Showalter.

By the time Vidalin sets started, the organization’s most prized asset — superstar Manny Machado — will likely be gone. Good luck with marketing John.

LaFemina was part of an influx of outside talent brought in by Snyder. He was hired, along with a new senior vice president of consumer sales and marketing, Jake Bye, from the Rams organization.

Bye will be, according to the Redskins press release, in charge of “marketing and sales efforts pertaining to all Redskins consumer revenue streams as well as continuing to develop and enhance the team’s fan base.”

Did you ever think you would see a day when the Redskins announced a hire to “develop and enhance the team’s fan base?” Or, as LaFemina said when he met with reporters last month, the Redskins referred to as a “sleeping giant?”

The mighty Washington Redskins a sleeping giant?

When he said that, I half-expected the floor in the boardroom to crack open and reveal Bruce Allen looking up at everyone, smiling. Good luck working with the Prince of Darkness, Brian.

The common theme between the two woeful organizations here is revenue — the disappearance of it and the fight for it now in the Baltimore-Washington region between sports and entertainment businesses.

Vidalin and LaFemina have been brought in to fight those battles. They will likely find their biggest fights are within their own organizations.

As Pulp Fiction’s Jules was so fond of declaring: “Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.”

Thom Loverro’s weekly “Cigars & Curveballs” is available Wednesdays on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.


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