Baltimore Orioles: How important is PR?


Let me preface this up front by saying that I personally don’t believe in the concept of public relations – or PR. I just don’t see it as something that’s cost effective in a sense, and quite frankly I see it more as spin than anything else. I’m a firm believer in the concept of the truth, and I do believe that in the end the truth will eventually come out. In fact, I tend to respect those who do decent things without broadcasting them from the highest mountaintop more so than I do someone who tells everyone about it. However, could the Baltimore Orioles have possibly benefited from PR last week?

Talk about a week where things didn’t seem to go right; first Brian Roberts signed with NY, then Troy Patton was suspended for using a banned substance, and lastly (and probably most publically) of course there was the whole Grant Balfour situation. Again, I personally believe that the truth is always going to be the truth regardless of spin or PR. So let’s look at these cases on a factual basis:

  • Brian Roberts – According to reports, the only offer that Roberts had in hand was the one-year, $2 million dollar deal he signed with New York. He publically appeared to be open to re-signing with the O’s, and the team appeared to publically feel the same. Yet the two sides never got together to talk.
  • Troy Patton – Patton was suspended for 25 games for using a banned substance. No real issue with PR here, given the fact that this is something that’s written into the collective bargaining agreement.
  • Grant Balfour – The team had a doctor administer a physical, and according to them (the Orioles) they found something in Balfour’s shoulder that called into question Balfour’s durability over the term of the contract.

Again, not that what you see above are the facts as we know them based on comments from the folks involved. However, two of those three situations are now being spun both by some members of the media as well as fans:

  • Brian Roberts – Must have left the team for greener pastures for a reason.
  • Grant Balfour – The Orioles simply didn’t want to pay him.

In the case of Roberts, it appears that Dan Duquette was as surprised as anyone to hear that Roberts had signed elsewhere. That tells me one of two things; either the Orioles may have publically gone through the motions of wanting to sign Roberts without really intending to do so, or they were just assuming he’d perpetually be there whenever they themselves were ready to talk. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. (Having said that, it is fair to question Duquette’s sense of urgency or at the very least his gauging of the free agent market in this particular case. If a player as tenured as Brian Roberts is about to sign with another team, it would have been fair to at least expect him to at least not have been caught off guard.)

The Balfour situation is a bit more complex. The Orioles do have a history of sorts in terms of questioning people’s medicals; they had a similar situation with Aaron Sele years ago, and he went on to have a great career. However the assumption of many fans has become that Peter

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Angelos stepped in and simply didn’t want to spend the money. Here’s the thing; for all we know that’s exactly what happened. But to state it as gospel makes one sound uneducated. I would tend to believe that’s not exactly how it went down however. If a potential contract gets to the point of a player taking a physical, it’s well beyond the owner signing off. Many people also say that the Orioles come across as not wanting to take risks, and that in and of itself might be true. However ask yourself; is signing a player that had a questionable result on a physical a calculated risk, or a dumb one?

In these cases the Orioles spoke the facts from their perspective when the situations arose, and then in effect they moved on without much spin. However fans and media members alike offer their own spin, and over the past few days that has almost distorted the facts of the case. We saw the same thing when the NFL tried to bully the Orioles into changing their September 6th game against Chicago. But speaking for myself I applaud the O’s for speaking the facts as they know them, and not using a PR machine of sorts. Peter Angelos is routinely on the list of the top philanthropists in the state of Maryland. Yet you don’t see him touting that or the Orioles publically talking about it. To do so would be stroking a PR machine, and would really serve no other purpose than to make one person look good.

I suppose everyone deals in some sort of PR. My point is that I’d rather lay the facts of a story out there without any spin because it comes across as a more forthright way of doing business. Again going back to the thing with the NFL, the real story was that the O’s, ChiSox, and the MLBPA would have had to sign off on changing that game. The story got spun by Roger Goodell and the NFL PR machine into Angelos screws over the Ravens and Baltimore. But ultimately the facts of any story or situation will always be the facts – like them or not.