Bank on it: O's can afford that power hitter and pitcher

Commentary

August 06, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

The window of opportunity is finally open wide enough that the Orioles will have no excuse if they fail to acquire the necessary help to be competitive in the American League East next year.

The announcement on Friday night that the long-running dispute between the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and Comcast had been settled to the satisfaction of both sides creates the revenue potential that should allow the Orioles to spend what it takes to acquire a power-hitting outfielder and a No. 1 starting pitcher. Now it becomes an issue of front office execution.

At least, that's the way it sounded when Orioles attorney Alan Rifkin told reporters on Friday night that the agreement would have an immediate effect on the operation of the ballclub.

Maybe there is some other way to interpret that, but I can't imagine Rifkin was alerting fans that the Orioles would be using all that expected revenue to pay down debt and upgrade the executive washrooms. Unless he was speaking out of turn - and good lawyers generally don't do that - the message seemed clear that the Orioles now realize that they will need to spend money to make money.

It's all well and good to have the Nationals and Orioles television schedules nailed down for the foreseeable future, but advertising revenues depend on ratings, and ratings depend on the number of viewers who choose to tune in, so it's in the best economic interest of each franchise to put an entertaining product on the field.

Though it will take some time for MASN's full income potential to be realized, the Orioles apparently recognize that their frustrated fan base has reached the tipping point and they need to make a major offseason splash to recapture the market - perhaps something akin to what the Toronto Blue Jays did last winter.

We can only hope.

Friday was another in a series of unhappy anniversaries for the Orioles. It was on Aug. 4 of last year that the club fired manager Lee Mazzilli during a road stop in Anaheim.

Mazzilli has been careful not to lash out at the Orioles for dumping him after he had the club in first place for 62 days last year, choosing to take "the high road" and get on with his career.

"It was a tremendous experience," Mazzilli said. "You take a lot from it. There is so much you learn when you're in that position. Every time I come back here, I get a special feeling."

Now serving as Joe Torre's bench coach, Mazzilli said that he hopes to get another chance to manage and he'll be better prepared to make the most out of his next opportunity.

"Managing is the greatest job in the world," he said. "If I can't do that, I've got the second-greatest job in the world - bench coach for Joe."

Torre also is appreciative of the experience that Mazzilli gained in Baltimore.

"He came back a much better coach because of his managerial experience," Torre said. "He has shown more assertiveness since he came back. As a coach, you narrow your focus down to a few aspects of it. As manager, your expertise has to be wider."

Torre said he hopes that Mazzilli gets another chance.

"I liken his experience here to my experience in Atlanta," Torre said. "They were probably divided on he should be here or shouldn't be. They [the Braves] brought me in, but I was basically hired by TBS people who talked to Ted Turner. John Mullen [the Braves general manager] sat me down and said, `You weren't my choice, but let's do the best we can.'

"When you hear that, you know there better not be any oil leaks. It's tough, especially when they want results right this minute."

Ravens fans, and Ray Lewis, have to be holding their breath after No. 1 draft choice Haloti Ngata went down with a sprained knee during yesterday's scrimmage against the Redskins at FedEx Field.

The injury, unfortunate as it was, illustrates why NFL agents hold top rookie players out of camp until they reach agreement on a contract.

The scrimmage was free to the public, but the Redskins charged $25 to park in the lots around FedEx. There's a completely logical explanation for this, but if you want it you have to send Dan Snyder another 15 bucks and a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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