The Baltimore Orioles are the best team in the American League in 2023. That definitely wasn’t the case in many recent years, and their passionate fan base knows it. Remember, this is a city that has a conflicted a bifurcated relationship with two football franchises, one they stole and one that left them in the middle of the night, and no other professional team of consequence, not to mention scant little to cheer about on the college side (sorry, Terp alums, a) you’re locted in a Washington, D.C. suburb and b) y’all haven’t done that great in the Big 10 so far).
Kevin Brown is a smart, up and coming broadcaster, one of a dizzying number of younger suitors who the O’s have employed in recent years, and has a pretty decent resume on top of it, as USA TODAY’s Gabe Lacques passionately reminded his readers in an opinion piece published this morning:
Brown, youthful as he seems at 33, is not just some kid fresh up from Class AA. Brown also calls ACC football games and the women’s College World Series for ESPN, along with college hoops, the Little League World Series, MLB exhibition games and almost anything else the Worldwide Leader asks.
By now you probably know why none of that are reasons why he’s a household name and someone who actually was the subject of a chant to “free” from a large crowd even as they blew a crucial game with a potential playoff opponent last night on a ninth inning grand slam off their usually reliable closer. As Lacques’ colleague Steve Gardner previously reported:
Brown remains suspended for what’s reportedly a violation that may be the most picayune excuse ever to discipline an on-air talent: Telling viewers the team is performing far better than it was in recent years.
His banning from the Orioles’ airwaves since July 23, as first reported Monday by Awful Announcing, is more than just an impetuous decision made by a club official – likely owner John Angelos – who can’t take anything even tangentially negative said about his team.
The Angelos family has owned the Orioles for decades, much of which has not seen a lot of success. It’s been 40 years since their last World’s Championship, an event that was celebrated without Brown on hand this past Saturday night at Camden Yards. And in the wake of one of the few successful seasons since then, an Angelos had a similar reaction to a broadcaster with a more than decent track record, as THE ATHLETIC’s Ken Rosenthal recalled:
In 1996, the Orioles did not offer a contract to beloved play-by-play announcer Jon Miller, who fell out of favor with owner Peter Angelos because, ahem, he was not enough of a homer.
“They should be an advocate for the team,” Angelos said of his broadcasters. “They should bleed a little bit for the Orioles.”
At the time of Miller’s departure, I was a columnist for The Baltimore Sun. Shortly before Angelos ran him off, I wrote a column warning the Orioles would be making an “all-time blunder” by declining to bring him back.
The crazy part about Brown’s absence — the Orioles claim it is not a suspension, even though he has not done a TV broadcast since July 23 — is that he reportedly is in trouble for praising the team, not criticizing it. His “offense” was a remark noting the Orioles have won more games at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays this season than in the last two years combined.
That statement qualifies not only as a fact but also as a testament to the Orioles’ turnaround. But John Angelos, Peter’s son and the team’s managing partner, evidently interpreted it as a knock on the team’s previous performance, even though his media relations department’s game notes described similar progress.
So there must something in the DNA that creates a pettiness gene. Bear in mind we’re barely a year removed from this little news item that demonstrates exactly how controlling the Angelos’ can be. As Rosenthal’s colleague Daniel Kaplan reported in April 2022:
The Washington Nationals said the Baltimore Orioles have withheld distributions from their shared regional sports network, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), since 2018, in the latest dustup between the teams over the broadcaster.
The disclosure came from a Nationals attorney during a court hearing this week in the long-running lawsuit over the rights fees MASN pays the Nationals. “MASN is an entity that is completely controlled and managed by the Orioles,” Stephen Neuwirth of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, the D.C. baseball team’s outside counsel, said at the New York State Supreme Court session. “The Nationals have no say whatsoever. … Since 2018, MASN has stopped all profit distributions to the parties, which is very important money for cash flow purposes to the Nationals.”
In 2019, the Orioles lost exactly two-thirds of their games while the Nats rode a late-season surge to an unprecedented and unexpected World’s Championship. More impartial Delmarva baseball fans had to ante up for a second MASN channel, far less promoted that the flagship dedicated to the O’s, and undoubtedly drove the network’s cumulative viewership and revenue for that year, and likely beyond. Angelos benefitted from the Nats’ presence, and has steadfastly fought sharing the wealth.
So for as much as the O’s are a great story, their mascot downright adorable (what other fan base PREFERS a cartoon bird?) and their fans should exalt at the potential ahead, it’s really difficult to cheer for a team run by such a putz.
And even harder when you don’t have an announcer as talented and polished as Kevin Brown broadcasting their exploits.
When poppa Pete chased away Miller around the time the karma of Jeffrey Meier sealed that team’s fate, Rosenthal reminds that karma also smiled on Miller:
Miller, then 45, made out OK. He immediately joined the San Francisco Giants, for whom he has been a play-by-play announcer for the past 27 seasons. He also called games for ESPN from 1990 to 2010 and received a baseball broadcaster’s highest honor, the Ford C. Frick Award, from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
So better days could lie ahead for Brown–indeed, it’s been reported he will return in Seattle Friday night and could be on hand for some exciting and historic calls. Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.
Here’s a thought: One would assume better days lie ahead for the Nats, who are in the midst of their own remaking with a lot of young talent acquired for the remnants of that 2019 team. Let the Nationals start their own channel with MLB’s help, just as San Diego and Atlanta are, in this case not to avoid non-payment from Bally’s but to avoid abuse from MASN.
And then hire Kevin Brown as their lead broadcaster.
Then, perhaps in a long-dreamt-of Beltway World Series, Brown will have the chance to broadcast THEIR exciting moments.
And, along the way, flip John Angelos the bird in the process.