From the sky box to the poor box?

MIKE LITTWIN

August 30, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

Here's how I understand the story. Eli "Check's in the Mail" Jacobs goes to the bank and gets one of those bill-consolidation loans. You hear ads for them on the radio: "Can't make the car payment? Gonna lose the TV? The VCR? CD player? Your major-league baseball team? We can consolidate your debts into one, easy-pay, practically free, hey-just-forget-you-owe-us payment."

Anyway, Jacobs gets the $21.3 million loan, and two months later, he misses the payment, and the bank goes after his assets, meaning Cal Ripken could be a teller at Mercantile next season. Maybe his dad could be a security guard.

So, what's the deal?

There are at least a few possibilities:

* This is just one of those paper-shuffle things rich people do, in which they never actually pay anybody, which is why, unlike us, they're rich. I read about it in one of Donald Trump's books. Remember Donald Trump?

* The check is in the mail. "Miss Murphy [wink], I told you [wink] to send that check yesterday [wink], didn't I [wink]?"

* He couldn't come up with the cash (a couple of hundred thousand bucks in interest, or as rich people would say, chump )) change).

Let's try to imagine this last scenario. Let's try to imagine it while humming along with John, Paul and the boys: "Money, it don't buy everything -- that's true. But what it don't buy, I can't use. I want money. That's what I want."

So, Jacobs calls up his accountant and tells him to send a check to the bank and the accountant says, "Sorry, Mr. Jacobs, no can do."

"No can what?"

"There's no money."

"No money?"

"Bupkus."

"You mean . . . "

"Nothing."

And here's where I see Jacobs as played by Dudley Moore in the movie "Arthur."

"I'm puh. I'm puh. Pu-h-h. P-u-h-h-h. P-u-h-o-o-o-r. I'm p-o-o-o-r."

Actually, I can't see Jacobs as poor. I don't see him in the cast of "Grapes of Wrath." I certainly don't see him as the working poor. Can you envision him even pumping his own gas?

This is a guy who has his own personal chef at Camden Yards, delivering his own personal food to his own personal decorator sky box. No hot dogs and peanuts for him. He's a rich guy the way guys are supposed to be rich. Ross Perot brings his lunch in a paper bag. I mean, what's the point? I can bring lunch in a paper bag. If you're going to go to all the trouble of being rich, act the part. Limos, jets, a vacation home in the south of France. If you got the bucks, spend 'em. As an example, Boogie is my kind of rich guy.

And Jacobs? One day he's dining on veal Marsala . . . and the next day he's working at Boog's Barbecue?

No way. Jacobs is the person who, when he could afford to have lawyers, would sue anyone who suggested he wasn't the richest man who didn't have "Sheik" in front of his name. I'm with him. I figure he still has many millions. They're probably in Swiss bank accounts or maybe buried under second base.

It could be that this is all a ploy for the Orioles to go on an austerity kick after spending $30.5 million on a shortstop who hasn't hit a homer since Bush was leading in the polls. No wonder the guy feels poor.

The money crunch could be used to explain why the Orioles didn't claim David Cone on the waiver wire. We all figured Roland Hemond was asleep at the wheel when it turns out that maybe Jacobs, despite 44 consecutive Orioles sellouts, couldn't afford the $20,000 waiver fee. You buying that?

Next, I see Jacobs telling Johnny Oates he has to cut back. Maybe just take 18 players on the road. Actually, Jacobs wouldn't know Oates if he tripped over him. He'd have Larry Lucchino tell Hemond to tell Oates.

There are ways to raise money, of course, and I don't mean a garage sale. There's a team sale. It has been speculated that Jacobs is in the process of trying to sell the Orioles. Maybe he has given up paying any debts until he does, sort of like when you don't shave when you've got a winning streak going.

It's not what I'd do, though. I think there's a better way. It's the way of the '90s.

I'd keep the Orioles. I'd go to the bank (maybe a different bank this time) and get one of those major-league-baseball-team equity lines. You know how they work. You subtract your mortgage from the worth of your team and you can borrow up to 80 percent of the difference. And then you can go out and get a new paint job, or a new car, or send your kid to college, or -- I know -- maybe sign a pitcher for the division race.

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