On Saturday night, the vibes at Oriole Park at Camden Yards were immaculate.
The organization was honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1983 Baltimore Orioles, the last team to bring a World Series title to Baltimore. The bulk of the roster was in town, and honored during a pre-game ceremony. Legends such as Rick Dempsey, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr., threw out the first pitch. The first 20,000 fans received commemorative Eddie Murray bobbleheads, but that meant almost 25,000 fans went home empty-handed, as the announced attendance for Saturday night’s game was 44,326, the third-highest mark of the season.
Topped only by opening day, and their first game of the year against the New York Yankees:
The New York Mets were in town, and the only people who went home Saturday night were Mets fans, including over 1,500 members of “The 7 Line Army,” a die-hard group of Mets supporters who made the trip down to Baltimore. The Orioles — the AL East-leading Orioles — won 7-3 to improve to 69-42 on the season.
They would complete the sweep of New York on Sunday to improve to 70-42.
For reference, they did not win their 70th game until September 2 last year. The last time they won 70 games in a season? 2017, when they finished 75-87.
Something special is happening in Baltimore.
But thanks to ownership yet again, the vibes are somewhat different today. Because news broke on Monday that Orioles play-by-play announcer Kevin Brown, who had not been on the air since late in July, had been “suspended indefinitely” by the organization. The news was first reported by Matt Jergensen, and it was later picked up by Awful Announcing.
Additional outlets followed with confirmations of their own.
Brown’s apparent transgression?
Prior to Baltimore’s July 23rd game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Park, Brown walked fans through the organization’s struggles playing the Rays on the road. As Brown outlined — backed up by an on-air graphic — the team was was 0-15-1 in their last 16 series at Tropicana Field. It was also shown that the Orioles had won as many games there this season as they have in the previous three seasons combined.
Here's the clip of Kevin Brown's pregame comments on the Orioles' recent record against the Rays ahead of a series finale on July 23. Sources tell AA these comments led to Brown's current indefinite suspension from Orioles' broadcasts. pic.twitter.com/csURU04fJU— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) August 7, 2023
All facts, facts which point to the tremendous turnaround from the organization this season.
However, that apparently did not sit right with someone in the organization, as Brown has not been on-air since. He was been in the radio booth, due to an issue with another announcer. According to The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Brown was only on radio on the Phillies’ series thanks to another issue.
“Multiple sources briefed on the decision say ownership has enacted a new policy mandating that their broadcasters wear only team gear when on-air, which has rankled some. That snafu lead to Brown filling in on radio after his comment in the Rays series because another broadcaster got in trouble. Broadcasters have also been reprimanded previously for mentioning past Orioles players who are no longer with the team.”
As Ghiroli writes, Brown was removed for his comments — which again were part of a pre-game package which had graphics to back up the facts he laid out — because “[d]espite it being in the game notes, ownership took exception to Brown pointing it out, sources said, believing it made them sound cheap.”
Congratulations Mr. Angelos, because now you look cheap, and petty.
This should be a season of goodwill in Baltimore. The Orioles are one of the young, exciting teams in the game, and are leading the AL East ahead of powerhouses like the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees. They decided not to make a splashy move at the trade deadline, which allowed them to hold on the bulk of their farm system, which is perhaps the best of all in baseball. There is a legitimate case to be made that the Orioles are in position to contend in the East not just this season, but for years to come.
In a way, what Brown was pointing out should be viewed as a testament to that fact, instead of seeing it as a shot at ownership.
But instead of the Orioles and their players being the focus of discussion right now, it is this decision. The organization — and John Angelos — have been raked over the coals the past 24 hours, and rightly so:
Yankees broadcast Michael Kay went OFF on the Orioles over Kevin Brown's removal from the booth. pic.twitter.com/laPeLieVYY— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) August 7, 2023
Jason Benetti taking shots at the O's pic.twitter.com/aDnElFLiuc— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) August 8, 2023
Gary Cohen on the Orioles/Kevin Brown controversy.— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) August 8, 2023
"Let me just say one thing to Baltimore Orioles management. You draped yourself in humiliation when you fired Jon Miller. And you're doing it again. And if you don't want Kevin Brown, there are 29 other teams who do." pic.twitter.com/HkKdr95hQp
This is not the first time that Orioles management has removed a member of their announcing team. Longtime public address announcer Ryan Wagner was let go prior to the start of the 2021 season for tweets he made on his personal Twitter account, and legendary broadcaster Jon Miller did not have his contract renewed following the 1996 season, after Peter Angelos took issue with Miller’s candid and honest commentary on the team.
Returning to Brown, according to reporting from Awful Announcing, a senior Orioles official communicated to them the following:
“We don’t comment on personnel matters” and “We look forward to hearing Kevin’s voice soon.” Additionally, they dispute our reporting that any suspension took place.
We might need a little more than that, and soon. Because the organization, through ownership, is at risk of spoiling what could be a massive year for the Orioles.
During the game Saturday night, looking on from my seat in Section 388, I spoke with a few Orioles fans, young and old, about how the organization has a chance to establish a new generation of fans. The recent success of the nearby Washington Nationals cut into Baltimore’s market, but with the Nationals going through a rebuild and Baltimore enjoying a turnaround — and being setup for the future — the Orioles can recapture the hearts and minds of present, and future generations.
As the fireworks sounded another Orioles win, and the bulk of the crowd made their way to the team store to get their hands on some suddenly-hot Baltimore gear, the vibes remained immaculate at Oriole Park.
Moves like this, however, threaten to wash those vibes away.