Even with no game on the schedule, the Orioles made headlines Monday after several sources reported that owner John Angelos suspended MASN play-by-play broadcaster Kevin Brown indefinitely over comments made during the pregame broadcast of an Orioles-Rays game in late July.
The kicker in the story is that by any reasonable account, Brown said nothing controversial and was stating facts about how the O's had little success in previous seasons against the Rays, especially in Tropicana Field. The statement and discussion about the lack of success were clearly planned as MASN created a graphic to reinforce the mentioned success or lack thereof. The comment at the heart of this controversy, according to Awful Announcing, is when Brown said, "The Orioles have won more games against them this season than the last two combined."
If true, this is problematic since Brown did not express an opinion with that statement and nothing he said was factually incorrect. Orioles fans have had a plethora of reasons to criticize John and the rest of the Angelos family in the past and this new controversy only adds fuel to the fire for critics.
The suspension of Kevin Brown makes John Angelos and the Orioles look terrible
Since the initial tidal wave of reports and criticisms, an Orioles team official has disputed the claims that Brown was suspended at all while telling Awful Announcing that they "do not comment on personnel matters." Needless to say, this is an ongoing story with several disputed claims and facts. It is undisputable, however, that Brown has not been on a broadcast, radio or TV, since July 26th and has not broadcasted a game on television since these statements occurred.
Of course, there had been grumblings around Orioles fandom since Brown was gone, wondering what had happened to their lead broadcaster since his only previous absences occurred mainly with schedule interferences from his other gig with ESPN. In Brown's absence, Geoff Arnold and Brett Hollander have each taken turns as the play-by-play voice on MASN with several color commentators joining them including Brad Brach, Ben McDonald, and Jim Palmer.
Another undisputed claim is that Kevin Brown has become a beloved figure for Orioles fans over the past few seasons due to his dry sense of humor, enthusiasm for the team, and willingness to tell things how they are. After losing Gary Thorne, MASN cycled through several broadcasters during the 2020 and '21 seasons before landing on Brown in 2022, and he was on the mic for several memorable moments in the past few seasons.
Brown's introduction to Orioles fans and a national audience happened partially in 2021 when his humor, enthusiasm, and compassion were on full display when a rogue cat interrupted play in an Orioles-Yankees game. Previously unknown, Brown received national attention for his empathy toward the cat as well as his sly remarks about the Yankees who were struggling that evening and losing 7-1 to a bottom-dwelling Orioles team.
All that being said, these reports have gained steam and it seems likely, despite the teams' claims to the contrary, that Brown was suspended for his remarks regarding the lack of success against the Rays. The most plausible explanation for this suspension is that John Angelos felt these comments made him look bad for a lack of spending and not playing a competitive team between 2018 and 2021.
Supposedly, broadcasters are not encouraged to talk in-depth about former players and teams that have no current relationship with the Orioles and these comments defied that. Regardless, this is a bad look for the Angelos family who fired broadcaster Jon Miller in 1996 for similar remarks. Miller went on to have a Hall of Fame career as a broadcaster and the firing drew similar ire from Orioles fans and a national audience.
There are many reasons why this is a bad move for the Orioles and specifically John Angelos. First off, this puts a stain on the franchise and creates an unreasonable distraction for an Orioles team that is fighting for their first division title since 2014 and their first American League pennant win since 1983. Good Vibes have been off the chart for the Orioles in recent weeks as they improved to a season-best 28 games over .500 with a weekend sweep of the New York Mets.
Undoubtedly, these reports will reach the players, most of whom likely have some relationship with Brown, since broadcasters and players travel together and interact with one another in many circumstances. It will be interesting to see how Orioles players respond to these reports and if any player publicly defends Brown.
While at a much lower level than the Majors, I personally understand the camaraderie and mutual respect that often occurs between broadcasters and the players and coaches they broadcast on a nightly basis. I have spent the last two summers as the broadcaster for a collegiate summer baseball team in my hometown of Hendersonville, North Carolina. In these summers, I have developed a personal and professional relationship with many of the players on the team as I traveled with them on multiple occasions and also broadcasted every home game except one in the teams' short existence.
From personal experience, I know that there is a mutual respect between players and broadcasters since most players understand that broadcasters help the viewers understand what is happening on the field and that a passionate broadcaster makes more fans interested in the on-field product. It is clear that Brown has a passion for the team and his job as a broadcaster, which certainly has not gone unnoticed in the Orioles clubhouse.
The more pressing concern in this suspension is the truly undemocratic message this sends to anyone who covers the Orioles and gets a check signed by the team. The message is simply, "I [John Angelos] am above criticism and if you defy that you will no longer be working for the Orioles." Aside from broadcasters, this affects many media members including beat writers, production members, and researchers.
If the team can censor what comes from media members, that sets a dangerous precedent for what can and can not be said about the team going forward. Clearly, the Orioles are darlings in the baseball world as they have worked their way from historically bad to historically good in the matter of two seasons. However, criticism about a lack of spending from ownership as well as questionable decisions regarding the team are certainly warranted.
The Orioles almost always rank in the bottom five of payroll in baseball and Angelos himself has claimed that he does not seek to spend large sums of money even when the team starts competing for a World Series. If the team loses stars like Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and Jackson Holliday to free agency in the next 6-8 years, then these criticisms will only become more vocal and warranted.
Not allowing media members to comment on these shortfallings creates friction between ownership and fans, which can lead to disaster. Look at former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria or Mets owner Fred Wilpon. Both of these owners were essentially forced out due to friction with the fans which set the franchise back exponentially.
In the NBA, Michael Jordan recently sold his majority stake of the Charlotte Hornets due to unpopularity with the fanbase, and in the NFL, Dan Snyder was finally forced to sell the Washington Commanders following plenty of scandals.
Since John Angelos took over the reigns, the Orioles ownership group has become even more distant from the fanbase as a lack of spending and lack of willingness to field the best possible team as well as controversial statements from John have caused tension in the fanbase.
Orioles fans certainly do not want the team to follow the same path as franchises such as the Marlins, Hornets, Commanders, and Oakland Athletics, who were doomed by poor ownership and lack of accountability. However, this suspension of Brown certainly sets a dangerous and dubious precedent for the team, which could doom them into a world of darkness and lack of success.
John Angelos may believe that he is above criticism, but the move to suspend Kevin Brown for these "controversial" statements is one of the lowest moves that a sports owner can make, and John should not consider himself above criticism.