I have to admit, there is still an excitement attached to a snowstorm, despite the fact that there is no chance of a snow day (The University of Michigan never closes. Seriously.). Then again, I don’t have a driveway so I have nothing to shovel. That doesn’t mean that other people aren’t piling on, however. Last week, Baltimore Beatdown posted a story detailing the “different worlds” that the Ravens and Orioles occupy in the sports world, most notably in the way the organizations are run. Being a Ravens-centric blog, it is no surprise what his conclusion is on the two organizations- the Ravens ought to be applauded for not raising ticket prices, having free agents who take less money to sign with the team, and are competitive every year. The Orioles, on the other hand, gouge their fans by charging $15 a pop for autographs for older fans, can’t attract free agents without paying massive amounts of “Confederate dollars”, and field a losing squad every year.
But is it that simple? Here at BSR, we thought it’d be good to deliver the perspective that shows that maybe it isn’t such a huge revelation that the Ravens wouldn’t have the same issues as the O’s, records aside.
First of all, I agree that it is bush league to charge such exorbitant prices for autographs at a FanFest when most of your players aren’t exactly superstars themselves. However, I am a bit hesitant to light into the Orioles for what they do at FanFest when the Ravens don’t even have a FanFest. There is no convention center where the Ravens have player interviews, the coaches speak about the new season and new acquisitions get to interact with the fans. Something is better than nothing, after all. Even beyond that, FanFest is pretty well done for a team with 13 consecutive losing seasons. The Orioles hasn’t been great on the PR front, but at least Buck Showalter hasn’t yelled at any fans over the radio a la John Harbaugh. No, the Orioles shouldn’t have raised ticket prices, and I wrote my own piece a few weeks ago calling them out for it. However, the Ravens rank 11th highest in ticket prices in the NFL- not exactly cheap at $132 a pop on average.
Say what you will about the product on the field; off the field the team has done a good job of reaching out to fans and making very vocal its involvement in the community. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts have become celebrities for their charitable activities as much as their on-field performance. That’s more than we can say about most Ravens players.
This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but it speaks to a difference between the sports. Baseball players tend to stay with the same team longer than most NFL players, which causes them to become more attached to their area and invest more in the city they represent. Baseball, especially the Orioles, have minor league teams riddled throughout the state they hail from, bringing their product across the fan base. The NFL doesn’t have such a presence, but it is the nature of the sport.
The remainder of the Baltimore Beatdown piece focuses on factors that aren’t so much related to the organization itself as just, well, winning. It is no secret that the Orioles haven’t fielded a winner in 13 seasons, which makes it difficult to attract free agents, and yes, forces the team to overpay. I don’t think that’s native to Baltimore; any team that has trouble winning has to pay more for free agents. As for players taking less to play for the Ravens, I know that has been the case in re-signing players, but I don’t know about free agents. Anquan Boldin was traded here and a couple of years ago the Ravens outspent their competitors in their 4-year, $28 million contract with Dominique Foxworth. Maybe Houshmanzadeh came to the Ravens to get a ring, but he wasn’t exactly a game-changer and didn’t take much of a discount to come here. The Orioles also got discount deals in resigning Markakis and Roberts, but it’s true that free agents aren’t banging down the door to get in. That said, if the winning ways were flipped, no one would come to the Ravens just to be part of the “organization”.
Bruce Raffel talks about “different mindsets and philosophies”, but I am not sure what he is referring to. Is it the mindset and philosophy of losing? If that’s the case, then if the Ravens go 2-14 next year and the Orioles break .500, would that mean their philosophies have switched? The Ravens have had stable, competent leadership under Ozzie Newsome for much longer than any recent Orioles GM has survived. Art Modell and Steve Biscotti have been downright brilliant owners compared to Peter Angelos, the man Sports Illustrated once termed “Bird Brained” on their cover. Call me an optimist, but I see the Orioles having a strong philosophy right now- develop young player and bring in veterans when necessary. Andy MacPhail has been clear on that and his actions have represented his philosophy. It doesn’t seem that Ozzie Newsome’s philosophy is all that different. The difference has been the results so far.
It takes years to build a consistent winner in major league baseball; you can do it in a couple seasons in the NFL. At the end of the day, the Baltimore Beatdown piece shows the difference between the two teams, but most of the differences boil down to one thing: the Ravens win and the Orioles lose. Everything else comes from that, not the other way around.