I have this recurring dream. The scene is Eli Jacobs' luxury sky box at Camden Yards. Jacobs, while munching on some shrimp etouffee, calls over to Larry Lucchino in his luxury sky box, where Lucchino -- always nervous when the boss calls, as well as most other waking moments -- is munching on his fingernails. As he heads down the hallway separating the two boxes, Lucchino strides past the mahogany inlay that is so endemic to the traditional baseball experience.
"What's up, chief?" Lucchino says upon his arrival. (I told you I was dreaming. Jacobs is about as informal and as approachable the Supreme Court. In real life, Lucchino would actually say: "What can I do for you, Mr. Jacobs, sir?")
"Larry, this is Sam Skinner. He runs the country, which is why I invite him here. I was just telling him that amusing anecdote you were telling me about how you called the mayor of Baltimore and told him we were a little too busy to pay the rent, and he said, 'Don't worry about it. Get it to me when you can.' And then you sort of winked and said, 'No interest, right?' And he said, 'Sure.' And you said, just on a whim, 'No penalties, right?' And he said, like his feelings are hurt, 'Larry, it's me, Kurt. We're pals. Think of it as me lending you 20 bucks till the end of the week.' "
"Anyway, what Sam wants to know is if you think something like this would work either on the budget deficit or his mortgage payment or both."
Lucchino thinks it over.
"Only if Kurt Schmoke is holding the note," he says, smiling.
Yeah, good old Kurt. He's down in the city's luxury sky box, sitting by the phone, wondering what little favor he could possibly do the Orioles next. That's another recurring dream of mine.
Lucchino: "Kurt, can you get someone to knock down that Holiday Inn that you see over the center-field wall? It's an eyesore."
Schmoke: "Sure, no problem."
Lucchino: "Kurt, do you think you could call off school in April and May so people can't use that crummy, it's-a-school-night excuse for not showing up for games?"
Schmoke: "Sure, no problem."
Lucchino: "Kurt, can you get people to stop complaining about those seats that point out to center field?"
Schmoke: "Gosh, Larry, there is that pesky First Amendment, but I'll try my darnedest."
He usually does. That is how Baltimore, which is just about broke, decides it's not so broke that it can't give the Orioles a three-month, interest-free, penalty-free extension on last year's rent from their days at the late, lamented Memorial Stadium. His explanation was that he hadn't really given it any serious thought.
Is it just me, or do you find this just the slightest bit outrageous?
It's not just that the interest over three months would be a minimum of $50,000 -- or about how much two new teachers would cost, or about how much two new cops would cost, or about how much Glenn Davis earns per whirlpool treatment -- it's the principle of the thing.
How can the Orioles have the nerve to suggest they couldn't pay the rent because of the confusion caused by their move to Camden Yards? Did their accountants do the actual heavy lifting? Who'd they hire, the Acme Accounting and Moving Co.? Motto: Our Moves Are Tax Deductible.
If the Orioles had any excuse not to pay the rent on time, it would be that they'd never seen such huge stacks of money before. My gosh, we gave these people a license to print money, and all they ever want to do is keep it all.
I mean, I know it doesn't happen often, but I've known people who moved and paid their bills in the same year. I bet you have, too. This is pretty simple, really. If you don't pay your bills, you pay some penalty. I'll give you a true-to-life example from someone I know quite well, but only if you promise not to tell my wife.
It seems this local sports columnist got a $17 parking ticket that ++ he neglected to pay. He was busy. He was busy investigating Eli Jacobs' management fees. (What do you think he does for that management fee besides suggesting to Lucchino that he suggest to Schmoke that the team should pay less tax?) In any case, the columnist gets a notice in the mail. He ignores it. He gets another notice. It slips his mind.
Finally, after three months, making the columnist and the Orioles similarly tardy, Baltimore, justifiably exasperated, tacks on a $49 surcharge to the $17 parking ticket, for a penalty of approximately 188.23529 percent. If the Orioles' rent is $4 million, and they were penalized in the same way, the penalty would be $11,529,411.
I wonder how they'd feel. I know how I feel about the 49 bucks. I keep asking myself why I didn't call the mayor.