Where Was Rob?

In 1988, the Democratic National Convention rocked to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's list of doings and concurrent demands of Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush, "Where was George?" Those who knew too well of (speaking politely) Kennedy's rakish and adulterous ways snarked right back, "Dry, sober, and home with his wife."

Last week's uproar over Orioles broadcaster Kevin Brown's suspension on perhaps the most nebulous grounds imaginable should have prompted the demand, "Where was Rob?"

Since not enough owners proved dry and sober enough to look all the way deep, the commissioner has another term to serve, through 2029. How delicious is this: Manfred got his extension on the same day Brown was last seen and heard on television for the Orioles until last Friday night. And from the moment we learned the Orioles took Brown's matter-of-fact comparison between the Orioles's lack of success in the Rays' home stadium the past couple of years and its success there this year as fouling their nest, Manfred's silence was as deafening as a heavy metal concert.

The clip in question went viral last week. It's impossible to hear it and conclude that Brown was anything other than absolutely complimentary about the 2023 Oriole turnaround in Tropicana Field. The turnaround was included in the team-provided game notes. That didn't stop Orioles boss John Angelos or a designated subordinate from suspending Brown.

It took Awful Announcing to unearth the suspension. It took about 10 seconds from their posting it aboard the social media site formerly known as Twitter for the suspension to go pandemic-level viral. It took about that much time, too, for the Orioles to start taking it on the chin for Angelos's stupidity. But it was still too much time without a peep from the so-called steward of the game.

Major league broadcasters poured out support for Brown en masse. One, Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay, said that if Angelos didn't like Brown speaking the plain facts, "then he's thin-skinned, he's unreasonable, and he should actually get a call from Rob Manfred, the commissioner of baseball, because it's unconscionable that you would actually suspend a good broadcaster for no reason whatsoever."

"It's amazing to me," said Kay's Yankee broadcast teammate Suzyn Waldman, while the Yankees met the White Sox in Chicago. "How can you do your job if you can't tell the truth? But he didn't even say anything negative. He was extolling how good they are, because look what they've done this year, and in the past they didn't do it. So I don't understand. When I saw the clip, I was waiting for him to say something horrible. And it was not."

But all that was preceded by maybe the most widely-discussed on-air slap at the Orioles administration, from the Mets' play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen:

Let me just say one thing to the 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.

It's a horrendous decision by the Orioles. I don't know what they were thinking. But they've gotten exactly the reaction that they deserve. And it's just a shame, because the Orioles are playing so well, and now they've diverted attention from that, and now made themselves a laughingstock.

Brown returned to the Orioles' television booth last Friday night, as the Orioles played in Seattle and lost to the Mariners. Hours earlier, he released a four-part Xtweet (Twitter is now known as X) which Kay suggested resembled "a hostage tape":

O's fans - I'm a storyteller. And never want to be a part of the story. The most compelling story in baseball right now is the story of the league-leading Baltimore Orioles - the best, most exciting young team in the American League.

Unfortunately, recent media reports have mischaracterized my relationship with my adopted hometown Orioles. The fact is that I have a wonderful relationship with the organization, and our ownership and front office has fully supported me since 2019 when I first came aboard.

I ask that everyone disregard the distracting noise of the past few days. I have worked closely with O's SVP Greg Bader for the past four years, and John Angelos and I have a solid dialogue based on mutual respect. We are all good here in Birdland!

I am proud to be an Oriole and call Baltimore home, and there is no place in baseball I'd rather be now and for the long haul. Go O's!

To which Kay said further, "I don't blame Kevin for releasing that statement, what's he supposed to do? Say, 'They're a bunch of complete dolts here. What they did to me was unfair?' He'd lose his job . . . That was a statement that was obviously vetted by the Orioles and their senior vice president. I don't blame Kevin for putting that out there because he didn't deny what happened. He said, 'Don't listen to the noise.' The noise is true."

Indeed it was. Which is why there remains the suspicion that Brown may not necessarily have written his Friday remarks of his own free mind and will. And, why it's possible to be grateful that Brown wasn't compelled to give the statement on the air Friday night.

A team administration that appears paranoid at minimum about the Orioles' recent years' tanking and field futility doesn't necessarily suffer truth telling gladly, even if Brown did nothing more than hoist a comparison that actually made the Orioles look newer and more improved than they actually are this season.

All of which could not have gone unnoticed by Manfred, whose silence over the Brown affair has said unpleasant volumes. Manfred may be little more than the owners' hired hand, but the commissioner is vested with limitless powers to act on behalf of the good of the game. Powers he didn't deploy regarding this shameful situation.

The commissioner who thought nothing of setting a few precedents involving the actual play of major league baseball, not all of which are edifying, seems to have considered nothing about setting one that would have involved disciplining a team administration that seems to believe broadcast censorship proper operating procedure. This time, merely being dry, sober, and home with his wife won't be enough.

Manfred was merely tone deaf when frustrated Athletics fans began letting their team's owner have it over his willful destruction and intended absconding of the team to Las Vegas. It seems he's been deaf deaf over the Orioles icing Brown without just cause. This is almost as ugly a look for him as it's been for the Oriole administration.

Brown may be back on the job, but the commissioner who couldn't be bothered to comment or act on his suspension and its wrongheadedness may yet end up presenting the Orioles a World Series trophy this fall. May. If so, it would be baseball's biggest and worst insult since that disgraceful day George Steinbrenner told the world, "I didn't fire Yogi, the players did."

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