Riling Angelos and O'Reilly makes lively week for mayor

July 04, 2004|By DAN RODRICKS

A BANNER WEEK for Martin O'Mayor - both Peter Angelos, the personal-injury lawyer, and Bill O'Reilly, the personal-injury commentator, went off on him. O'Reilly, the Scott Farcus of talking-head television, called the mayor of Baltimore "insane" for saying he worried about George Bush's ineptitude more than the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. And Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore-Washington-York Orioles, blasted O'Mayor for not joining him in opposing a new baseball team for the nation's capital. Angelos called the mayor a "small-time politician." This from the man who dumped Davey Johnson and Jon Miller and, like China to the communists, lost Mussina to the Yankees.

First, on the Bush-bin Laden business: The phony bullies who populate talk shows need Democrats like O'Malley because they're not about to bash Republicans. Plus, O'Mayor has a habit of shooting from the lip, so he invites this kind of attention and criticism.

But, as usual, he also has a point, this one shared by more Americans than the president's apologists care to acknowledge - Bush's war in Iraq, premised on an unproven connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaida, has probably increased the threat of direct terrorism against the United States. As pleasing as it is to see Hussein in the dock, most Americans would have preferred to see our military cunning, might and blood used to get bin Laden. O'Malley has been a leading critic of Bush for giving billions of dollars in tax cuts at a time when the nation needs to be spending more on domestic security, especially in large population centers. So, he engaged in hyperbole but had a point, which is more than can be said of his spasmodic critics.

Now to Angelos. He's squawking a lot lately about the possibility of Washington getting the Montreal Expos and taking away fans and media revenue from the Orioles, and the Orioles becoming - imagine this - a perpetual also-ran in the American League.

Sounds dire.

What happens? The mayor of Baltimore comes along and says he doesn't have any big objection to the District of Columbia getting another baseball franchise.

And Angelos and others go O'Reilly on O'Mayor.

MO'M might have been engaging in payback politics (Angelos has been raising money for Doug Duncan, the Montgomery County executive, likely O'Mayor's chief Democratic rival for governor in 2006) or trying to curry favor with voters in the Maryland suburbs of D.C. But again, the man has a point: How can Baltimore complain about Major League Baseball giving Washington a baseball team after Baltimore's experience with professional football and the NFL? Remember 1984- 1996? Washington baseball fans have waited a lot longer to get a new team.

And here's another thing: O'Malley might also be smart enough to know that dire warnings are a dime a dozen. Issuing them is one of the standard ploys of all kinds of movers and shakers looking to get their way. Maybe in O'Malley, for once, we have a mayor who doesn't race to the table every time some millionaire businessman complains about his wine having turned.

Angelos says baseball in Washington will be ruinous to baseball in Baltimore. But we've been hearing gloom and doom of this scale for years.

Here's a kind of top 10 of dire predictions:

1. The Bay Bridge will kill all marine life, collapse in a storm and ruin the Eastern Shore.

2. Baltimore will never get a football franchise as long as the Redskins are in Washington and Paul Tagliabue is NFL commissioner.

3. No one will go downtown again (1968, after the riots).

4. Harborplace will kill all the restaurants in Little Italy.

5. No one will want to go to Jessup to buy fish.

6. Shutting down Charles Street for construction will drive the Charles Theatre out of business.

7. Unless we get slots, the Maryland thoroughbred industry will die, and the Preakness will move to Delaware.

8. Buying a home in the city is a waste of your money.

9. The rockfish are gone from the bay forever.

10. After Schaefer, Baltimore will never again have an effective mayor and the city will collapse.

So we've heard dire predictions before. A baseball franchise in Washington, with its miserable history of supporting teams, is not going to ruin the Orioles, and the Orioles are on the smart track again. (They are currently 12th in major league attendance while last in the American League East. With his daily Centrum, Angelos should take a chill pill.) If the Birdies stay on the up-track - and maybe even lower ticket prices, develop some top-notch pitching - a baseball team in Washington will be irrelevant. If corporate types from Reston or dandies from Georgetown have their own team to root for, some of the best seats at Oriole Park might open up for the rest of us. There might be a true hometown feel to the place. We actually might see the word "Baltimore" on uniforms again.

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