Small-market woesJohn Eisenberg's column on the economic...


March 29, 1992

Small-market woes

John Eisenberg's column on the economic woes of small-market baseball cities was right on the money. As an Orioles fan, the not-too-distant future looks bleak.

Fans who advocate huge player salaries had better wise up. Owners don't have bottomless bankrolls.

What they have are revenue-generated markets. It's the fans' money that pays the players: money for tickets, merchandising, and product consumption (which pays for the advertising, which pays for the television rights).

In a small market such as Baltimore, there are only so many of us to generate the revenue that pays the players. The Orioles have already expanded their market area into Washington, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The only remaining untapped source of revenue is pay-per-view.

In Pittsburgh, the Pirates evolved from a low-payroll non-contender to a National League power in the past five years. Since players are eligible for arbitration after three years and free agency after five years, the Pirates have realized a sad truth: In today's era of stars who earn more than $5 million a year, they cannot afford the cost of remaining competitive.

We all hope the Orioles will soon evolve into an American League power. When that happens, salaries will rise as performance improves and length of service increases. We hope that our young players like Mussina, McDonald, Milacki, Hoiles, Gomez, Martinez, and the rest will become star players. But if they do, how will the Orioles generate enough revenue to keep them here?

Baseball appears to be headed toward a future where the small-market cities develop young talent only to turn it over to the larger cities, which can afford the contract demands of the better players. As soon as the revenue we can generate becomes inadequate, our top players will be gone. Just ask the Pirates.

Bob Marchinetti

Ellicott City

Give Palermo royal tour

After the pomp and ceremony of Opening Day subsides, but %% before the exhilaration of our new stadium fades, the Orioles hierarchy should invite someone who would have seen our new stadium from the infield, but because of an unforeseen incident might not get the opportunity. Baseball umpire Steve Palermo, who is recognized from his mannerisms on the field and his calling of a smooth game behind home plate, is this person.

It doesn't have to be a "Steve Palermo Day," but he should receive the same treatment other dignitaries of baseball will be getting this season in viewing our new stadium.

The only difference between them is the color of their business suits. Steve Palermo always wore blue.

Steve came to the defense of another, and his bravery has been applauded. We don't know what he is going through now physically or mentally, but an invitation would show he is not forgotten.

Baltimore should show Steve Palermo and his family our new stadium firsthand, instead of seeing it on television or reading about it in the newspaper.

Frank Urbanski


'Joe Six-Pack' left out

The complaint by Del. Howard "Pete" Rawlings about the Orioles attitude toward black fans is only partially correct. Actually, the fault is with the Orioles' attitude toward the lower-economic groups, the so-called "Joe Six-Pack," be they black or white.

Over the years at Memorial Stadium, the reserved-seat sections increased almost yearly, while the general-admission and bleacher sections continually shrank. Of course, there's no mystery there; the reserved seats cost more, thereby putting more money into the Orioles' pockets, creating an advance-sale mentality, and at the same time working against "Joe Six-Pack."

There once was a time when, before a game started, the radio announcer would say, "If you're not too far away, come on out; there's plenty of room." "Joe Six-Pack" may largely represent the Baltimore City dwellers who weren't far away by car. They are the "walk-up" fan; but the Orioles would prefer the advanced sale reserved seat patrons.

The configuration of the new ballpark makes it impossible for season- or individual-game ticket purchasers to get a seat comparable to one at Memorial Stadium, and at a comparable price. To get a comparable seat, one must "upgrade" to what is now a higher-priced section.

It could be considered shortsighted to have built the ballpark with less seating capacity than the old stadium had. But the Orioles planned it that way so that seats would be scarce and fans had better buy advanced-sale reserved tickets.

"Joe Six-Pack" may well get left out; he'll have to sit on his front steps and listen to the game on the radio. Meantime, the Orioles will be banking the money from the club-seat millionaires and the Washington suburbanites. The Orioles have turned their backs on the real fans, the "walk-ups," and on the city that serves as their home.

Harry E. Bennett Jr.


Fire Kenny Cooper

When almost any ball team loses the number of games that the Blast has, it's usually time to get rid of the coach or manager. How come coach Kenny Cooper is still around?

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