You want to NOT be cynical, you really

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I love baseball, and here in Baltimore on what would be a beautiful 80-degree today at Oriole Park, if our team had an owner with a clue, we’d all be at the ballpark. But, alas, just like Barry Manilow, I’m stuck in search of trying to get that feeling again.

So, this weekend I went in search of the magic elixir of the nation’s pastime, trying to figure out on the eve of the 2007 season, if Major League Baseball is in as bad of shape as I think it is.

What I found was — as usual — appalling.

There I was on Saturday afternoon, tuning into MASN to get my first look at the 2007 O’s (I’ve been to enough spring training games and have wasted literally MONTHS of my life caring about games that always prove to be worthless…although the tan is nice) and the game was on from R.F.K. Stadium.
 
My first thought after seeing the crowd, or lack thereof, was this: maybe Peter Angelos was right or maybe his petty actions have made this is a self-fulfilling prophecy (Tom Boswell from The Washington Post would probably tell you it’s a little of both). Maybe this region really can’t support two bad baseball teams.

The game itself — and I’m guessing there were 4,000 in D.C. Saturday — was morbid, but to see the myriad of TV ads that were either for MASN, the Orioles or the Nats for season tickets, well, it was truly embarrassing. And the poor announcer must’ve read the ad for “Opening Day Nats tickets for Monday still available” 50 times, as well as discussing how the beautiful, new Nats stadium is springing up over Capitol Street. And Cal Ripken wasn’t there Saturday, but Cow Ripken was. It was Mascot Day!

Yesterday, the action moved to Camden Yards as the O’s finally had their official Fan Fest on April Fools Day. The joke was on them — it was in the 50’s and gloomy, the crowd was relatively small and morose and the players were incensed that the franchise made them do this batting practice and autograph session yesterday instead of flying them to Minnesota for some rest before tonight’s test with Johan Santana.

But it’s Opening Day — it really is — and no one cares! NO ONE! We can’t BEG for baseball phone calls here and get them. We attempted to throw a big party for tonight’s game on TV, but were told time and time again by bar owners that no one would bother showing up to watch the Orioles play. You can still join Rob Long at Bennigan’s Golden Ring tonight for the Florida-Ohio State tussle!

The O’s are again buying their way into some positive pre-season media coverage — just pick up this week’s Press Box and you’ll see that Bob Leffler and the Orioles are giving them brisk business. And Peter Schmuck has been a one-man PR machine, singing the high hosannas of the possibilities of the 2007 Orioles.

But the most sobering number — and the only one that really matters — came in my email inbox on Friday in the form of the Las Vegas futures odds on MLB, courtesy of Bodog. The Orioles are 80-1 to win the World Series. There are only three teams with worse odds — Kansas City and Tampa Bay are 90-1 and the lowly Nats are 100-1. Orioles skipper Sam Perlozzo is 11-1 to be the first manager fired this season, only sixth choice.

And maybe it’s the black cloud — or the black cat — that follows Angelos outside of everywhere it seems but an asbestos courtroom, but by screwing up the Orioles so badly, he berthed the Washington Nationals. The Nationals get to play at home on the “real” Opening Day today — and again plenty of seats are available according to MASN — on a sunny 77- degree Opening Day. And if you’re wondering: the early forecast for NEXT Monday here in Baltimore is 56 degrees.

But the biggest storm around my condo this weekend happened when my wife got the mail on Saturday, right around the fifth inning of the Nats-O’s snoozefest. She opened her latest missive from Comcast, only to find that the Red Sox (as well as the other 27 out-of-town teams) will not be available in our living room this summer. Seems that MLB and the Extra Innings package have now been sold off to a dish company and if she wants to watch the Red Sox this summer, we’ll have to pay money to MLB and watch the Sox on our 17-inch computer monitor.

Just another sign from the owners and players of Major League Baseball about how much they love, admire and appreciate the people who give their summer lives to their game. They want me to have baseball so badly, in the new media age, that they’re making it next to impossible for me to want the game.

Many of you might have expected that on Opening Day I’d have some pronouncement about the season or the Orioles or Peter Angelos or Free The Birds.

Here’s my pronouncement: you know how I know that nothing has changed in The Warehouse?

Not only have the Orioles squandered Baltimore’s birthright to a “real” Opening Day today — instead of NEXT Monday when the team could literally be 0-6 by the time they return to Camden Yards — they have taken the best part of baseball out of my home this summer.

I have sung the praises of hi-def TV for the past 27 months and from the first time I saw it my eyes told me television would never be the same. And if you doubt that I’m right, put on the ESPN HD feed of any game today and then flip over to MASN’s broadcast tonight and you’ll see which one looks like it’s covered in onion skin paper and a tad out of focus on every pitch, and you’ll see who’s zooming whom?

So for those of us who enjoy our baseball at home on MASN — something I believe they are counting on happening, since the network has taken on much more significance than the actual teams according to Vegas — Peter Angelos has now taken away HD baseball as well. Maybe he can get together to Fidel Castro to ban HD TV?

If baseball loved me, it would give me its best. Instead I have a guaranteed fourth-place team in lo-def, Opening Day on the road and my wife is still in the kitchen throwing stuff because the Red Sox aren’t available on our cable system this summer.

One day, I’ll write a book about their ineptitude. In the meantime, I’ll be running a radio station, opening a new website for real Baltimore sports fans and I AM going back to O’s games this summer — more to protest for change than to accept absolutely ANYTHING that has happened to baseball here over the last decade while the Ravens have taken over sole ownership of our souls even though we know want it to be this way.

It’s Opening Day and I’m begging some of my old friends to come over to my place for warm beer, cold weenies and stale chips. (When I called them to invite them over, EVERY ONE OF THEM had forgotten it was even Opening Day.) It would be apropos for the Orioles, who have become all of the aforementioned in our lives when it comes to baseball.

I almost want to boycott them on stupidity alone — from being racist pigs 50 years ago, to walking out on me and my Dad with labor disputes again and again during my childhood, to being a bunch of arrogant pigs in general, to now, taking the joy of their game out of my home this summer.

Maybe I shouldn’t bitch: at least the Orioles are on in my living room. My wife — and any fan of any other team besides the O’s and Nats — have now been hijacked.

But, trust me, I’ll see ya at the ballpark this summer.

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