• Aug

    Orioles Make it Easy to Become a Nats Fan

    John Domen fills in for Tony and gives his take on the Orioles:

    I’d be lying if I said this was anything new.  It’s really been a trend for the last six or seven years.  But now it’s accelerating.  I know some people who made the switch long ago, and I’m sure more and more are considering it.  It’s not fun to say it.  It’s understandable, but it’s not fun.  But the fact is the Baltimore Orioles are making it very easy for many of us to become Washington Nationals fans.

    There have been plenty of times this year where I wished I could make the switch myself, to be honest.  I grew up in Prince George’s County.  I just barely live beyond the DC beltway and get all the DC television stations.  I even work for the Nationals’ flagship radio station. 

    But I can’t do it.  I understand if others can, and at this point I can’t even criticize them for it.  But I can’t develop more than a passing interest.


    I will say this though:  I no longer hold much animosity for the Nationals.  I don’t relish in them losing.  I don’t want to see them fail.  I wouldn’t quite call myself a fan, but the grudge has been let go.  There’s no rivalry, and there won’t be for many years.

    The Nationals have been losers for six straight years.  Their very best season was an 81-81 record in their first year in DC, in 2005.  I won’t go back beyond that because their time in Montreal seemingly never happened, having been all but wiped away.  (And with that, the earth just shook.  A sign of how significant this column is?  Nah, probably not.)  The Orioles have been a losing team, and many times a very unlikable losing team, for 15 years now.  And yet it’s the Nationals who have the better farm system, with more quality players closer to the big leagues than the Orioles do.  And they already have a better record right now, even though they aren’t all that far removed from being the epitome of a losing baseball team. 

    Having already lost one whole generation of younger fans, the Orioles are in the midst of losing another.  Anyone who grew up in the area between the ages of 20 and 40, give or take, only knows the Orioles.  There were no Nationals to think about cheering for.  The Orioles owned that group.  You might also say they then took them for granted as fans.  Aside from a few years like 1989, 1996, and 1997, and especially in the years after that, the Orioles gave you Cal Ripken to hang your hat on, with a supporting cast of mostly false goods.  As soon as Ripken retired things really started to go downhill.  And every year when we think they can’t get any worse (this time last year, for instance), they have.  Every real baseball fan who grew up between York, Pennsylvania, and Fredericksburg, Virginia, should be an Orioles fan.  The Orioles should still own that entire generation over that swath of old territory.  But they don’t.  Not any more.  And the organization only has itself to blame.

    A fan can only take so much.  You hear players and owners talk about how it’s a business?  Well, what is there to motivate the fan to support these guys, beyond civic pride in even having a team?  What have the Orioles done to maintain your loyalty?  For some the answer is easy and that’s fine.  For others, it’s easy to come up with a long list of complaints and that’s fine too.  But after 15 years of failure I understand why some fans are calling it quits.  I wish I could just quit being a fan myself, sometimes.  It’d be easier than watching singles-hitting clean-up hitter Vladimir Guerrero ground into another double play, or watch Kevin Gregg pitch like a bulimic (nibble, nibble, gag), or Felix Pie do whatever the hell he does.

    Any Orioles fan who sticks through that this year, let alone all the dreck and bad times that have been associated with this club for the last 15 years, surely deserves something for their loyalty.   But what do you get?  Some examples include extra surcharges on tickets if you decide to buy the day of the game.  “Thanks for coming out to the game.  Here, pay us extra for the privilege of watching this team lose again!” 

    Then there’s the “processing fees” that get attached to your tickets, even if you’re simply printing it out on your own computer.  Beers that cost about $4 for a six-pack of cans are $8 in a plastic cup.  They should just slash concession prices for the rest of the year.  Not just the last weekend, a token gesture if they’re even considering it, but the entire last month or so.  Parking should be free, or damn near close to it.  I’m sure the revenue sharing money they’re pocketing could help cover the costs.  It’s the least these guys could do. 

    To be perfectly honest, I’ve gone to as many games in Southeast DC as I have at Camden Yards this year.  If I don’t make it to Baltimore again the rest of the season I won’t even feel bad about it.  That’s even though Camden Yards is still a better stadium.  That’s even though the pre-and-post-game offerings are far better in the neighborhood surrounding Camden Yards.  That’s even though my favorite team plays in Baltimore.  And this is coming from someone who admits he can’t muster enough to cheer for the Nationals, even though I’d plainly like to.  There is a little bit of me that is frustrated, even defeated, by the idea that I’ll probably always cheer for the Orioles.  Defeated, I suppose, because I’ve lost all hope.  I think it’s a hopeless endeavor to do what I’m doing.  Even Sisyphus would sympathize. 

    It’s hard to believe that over the last 15 years of awful baseball, this may be the worst of them all.  This may be the year the O’s lose 100 games for the first time since 1988.  A team that was supposed to finish at, or at least near, .500 this season may be the worst of the last 20-plus years.  It’s mind boggling.  It’s frustrating.  It’s, it’s just… defeating.  Adam Jones is one of my two or three favorite players of the last decade.  Even on this very unlikable team, he stands out.  I admire his hustle, his desire, and the things he does on the field. 

    But, this team?  It’s hard.  It’s real hard.  And I understand why some longtime fans may be giving up and turning their attention to the new local team.  I haven’t done it myself.  I’m hoping the day comes where I can chastise them for it.  But right now it’s fair to question what the Orioles have done to live up to their bargain in this business.  What have they done over the years to keep your passion? 

    If I’ve stuck with them through all this, I probably always will.  I doubt I’ll ever be a real Nationals fan.  But, sometimes, a part of me wishes I could, since they’re the ones who have something to look forward to. 

    It’s hard to be an Orioles fan right now.  It’s even harder when you’re living around the DC area.  I haven’t given up.  Yet.  But I understand why others would.  The Orioles are making it real easy for us.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.