Jacobs great guy, but even he can use some advice

MIKE LITTWIN

September 13, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

News item: Orioles owner and multimillionaire financier Eli 1/2 Jacobs sues Warfield's magazine for libel, claiming $36 million in damages.

I want to get this on the record as quickly as possible: Eli Jacobs is a swell guy. A kind person. A humanitarian. I like to think of him as the Albert Schweitzer of the business world. (I don't have $36 million.)

He's good to children. Friendly to dogs. A champion of the downtrodden. Heck, he'll help the uptrodden, too, if they need it. (I don't even have $6 million.)

He's a good citizen. Cares about his town. No, make that he loves his adoptive city. Anne Tyler couldn't love Baltimore more. (You want to talk finances? I got two cars, used. I got a mortgage. I got, let's see, $452.87 in my savings account. I got so much money on my credit card that I'm legally obligated to name my next child Visa.)

I don't want to hear anyone else calling Mr. Jacobs cheap. I might have said something to that effect myself. But I was kidding, OK? He's not cheap. He's prudent. Come on, the man has a family to support. (Did I tell you about my family? I have a lovely wife and child who are hoping to continue to live in the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed.)

Let's talk about the Orioles. It's time to stop the griping. Sixth place is plenty good. It gives you something to look forward to next year. By the way, did I say thanks, Mr. Jacobs, for bringing us Paul Kilgus? (OK, my wife. I didn't want to bring this up, but when we got married she told me specifically that I was not to get involved in any libel suits.)

So, he sues a magazine. You have to understand that Mr. Jacobs is a private and proud man. We have to respect that. The last person connected to the Orioles who said he was a private and proud man was Eddie Murray. You saw what happened to him. You don't want Mr. Jacobs to leave town, too, do you? Do you? (The dog. Did I mention the dog . . . )

Hey, enough. I can't stand it anymore.

As Bo Jackson says in the commercial, I don't have time for this. Besides, what could Jacobs win by suing me? When you got nothin', you got nothin' to lose.

So here's the truth. Mr. Eli Jacobs is determined to throw his weight around when he doesn't get his way, or until he gets his way. That makes him an unpopular man around town, but he doesn't have to be. By taking just a few simple steps, he could make himself at least popular enough to be mayor of Baltimore.

My advice (yes, unsolicited) to you, Mr. Jacobs:

* Drop the lawsuit against Warfield's. It's a nuisance lawsuit. Does anybody really think you're going to open your books for a measly 36 million bucks, basic chump change for a guy in your financial set? We all know the only books you're ever going to share are available in your local library. Anyway, why all the hardballing just because you're offended by some story in a semi-obscure magazine? Where the Orioles need some hardballing is on the field. Off the field, they need to project a kinder and gentler image. Dropping the suit would be a nice beginning.

* Relax. That doesn't sound so hard, does it? If you have a problem,get one of those wave-sound machines. They're great. One minute you're feeling uptight, and the next you find your brain on the set of "Endless Summer." Or you could just figure out that this is not business as usual where the idea is to cut everyone off at the knees. Owning a baseball team is different. It is a very public position and, in a weird way, a popularity contest. You want people to love your team. When people really begin to hate an owner (see: Robert Irsay), they can start to hate the team, too.

* Make a genuine effort to compete in the free-agent market for players. You're a businessman. You understand this supply-and-demand principle. Good things -- diamonds,CD box sets, power-hitting outfielders -- cost a great deal of money, while the commonplace -- toothpicks, aspirin, Kevin Hickey -- costs less. Fans expect effort from players, which they've been getting. They also expect an effort from ownership. Going into a brand-new stadium with a brand-new ticket price structure and expecting to draw 3 million fans, the Orioles can hardly say it's not time to open the checkbook.

* Get this name business out of the way. Let the Guv do it. He really wants to, and, hell, he gave you the stadium, didn't he? Letting him name it would be the gracious thing to do. Yeah, gracious. G-r-a-c-i-o-u-s. Like it would be gracious to stop squeezing the nearly bankrupt city of Baltimore for every penny you can get on the lease agreement. I have confidence you can do it. You figure a guy who owns a team that draws maybe 2.5 million fans while finishing in sixth place would find it hard to be anything but gracious.

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