Fantasy baseball: Orioles apologize to fans

April 05, 2010|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Baltimore Sun reporter

Do you ever wish a losing sports franchise would come right out and be completely honest for a change? No more excuses, and no more misdirection or spin. Just, for once, be upfront and open with all the people who are actually paying the bills - the fan base. It would be a tremendous gesture of good will. It would be the greatest public relations moment in the history of sports.

All it would take is swallowing an ego the size of the Chesapeake Bay, and then a speech that came from the heart. It will never happen, of course. But let's pretend, for a second, that it could. Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear this on Opening Day?

Dear loyal Orioles fan:

Where do we even begin? First off, thanks for your patience.

Seriously, thank you. Teams don't say that enough these days. Twelve years is a really long time to support a bad product, to continue wearing your Orioles gear outside the house. Especially when - and we're just being honest here - it's obvious in retrospect that we didn't have much of a plan for about a decade. We never technically said we were rebuilding, mostly because we were afraid you would stop showing up at the ballpark, but look where that got us. More than a decade later, we're still awful, and it's a struggle to get you out to the ballpark.

Despite what we said publicly, it's clear we took you for granted. Did we ever officially apologize for Albert Belle? If not, we should have.

Sorry about that.

Seriously, a few of those seasons, we can't even remember. The whole Sidney Ponson Era is kind of a blur, and not just for him. At times, we were sort of like a ship without sails. (Or a rudder. Or a captain. With a leaky hull.) And in the absence of a plan, we asked people like Jeff Conine and Marty Cordova to row with a set of plastic oars while we told you, our fans, that tickets to the regatta were still full price. Crazy, right?

Sometimes a professional sports franchise loses perspective. At least we understand that now.

We couldn't even get the simple gestures right for a long time.

Refusing to return the word "Baltimore" to the road jerseys for so long was kind of like the husband who refuses to wear his wedding ring when he goes out of town. Even if he's not cheating, it's just rude. We kind of turned a symbol of your civic pride into a punch line. Throw in the fact that our clubhouse might have been Ground Zero for the Steroid Era in baseball, and yeah, we have a lot of fences to mend.

Yeah, it's hard to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox and their ridiculous payrolls, but it's not impossible. Tampa Bay sort of killed off our best excuse for recent failures when the Rays made it to the World Series in 2008. Instead of making excuses, they focused on hiring good scouts and nailing their drafts. That could have been us. (Thanks for blowing our cover, Tampa Bay!)

This year, we think we've finally got some stuff figured out. (We know what some of you are thinking: How many times have we heard that song and dance? But we swear, this time we really, REALLY mean it.) Our young players really do look promising, and unlike Daniel Cabrera, Luis Matos, Ryan Minor, Hayden Penn and countless others, this time, the rest of the league agrees.

Sure, we still do stuff that doesn't make any long-term sense, like signing 30-year-old Garrett Atkins to play first base, even though he has hit just .252 away from Coors Field for his career, or bringing back Miguel Tejada to play third. But our general manager at least seems to have a plan this time. We think.

Give us one more chance to make this right again. We might make a real run at 81 wins this year! (OK, it's not enough, but at least it's progress.) In the spirit of Opening Day, can you find it in you to forgive us?

(At least until next year, when we might have to ask you again?)

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