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Saturday Bird Droppings: Orioles are making massive cuts to MASN

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The changes impact both the Orioles and Nationals, with the most noticeable changes coming on-air, where the O’s fans will be without many familiar faces and voices.

Gary Thorne, air broadcaster for the Baltimore Orioles on th Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

Significant changes are on the horizon for MASN, the Orioles-owned regional sports network that covers both the O’s and Washington Nationals.

A story from Brittany Ghiroli at The Athletic reports that MASN will not be renewing the contracts of Gary Thorne, Mike Bordick, Tom Davis, Rick Dempsey, Jim Hunter or Dave Johnson.

On top of that, MASN will no longer be paying for the normal 30-minute pre- and post-game shows for every Orioles and Nationals game. If the two teams wish to have those elements in place they will need to pay for them out of pocket.

Instead, what will be put into place are 15-minute shows before and after that game that are handled by the same crew that calls the game itself.

Much of this news is not surprising. The Orioles broadcast crews were noticeably (and likely intentionally) bloated prior to the 2020 season, and Thorne’s dispute with the network was publicly known.

It sucks that any of these people had to lose their jobs, and the departure of Thorne will be particularly tough to take for much of the fandom. At the same time, the Orioles are fortunate to have quite a few other talented broadcasters that can step in to fill the void. Kevin Brown was great on play-by-play last season. Jim Palmer, as always, does a fantastic job on color, and both Ben McDonald and Brian Roberts have filled that role admirably as well.

There are other options that are less appealing to me personally and likely to many that read this blog, but we won’t get into that here.

What is unclear is what these cuts mean for the future of the network. Is MASN in financial ruin, or were they just looking for logical (albeit unappealing) ways to pad the bottom line? Information on that is sure to come eventually.

What is certain is that the network has room for improvement. Apart from Orioles and Nationals games, the programming is bleak. Plus, the options to stream the channel are almost non-existent. Perhaps these moves give them the flexibility to make some of the needed changes.

Links

Baseball legend Hank Aaron dies at 86 | MLB.com
Hank Aaron may be the greatest baseball player of all time. He achieved incredible things on the baseball field while enduring constant racism and abuse. He will be missed immensely.

Former Orioles manager and second baseman Davey Johnson released from hospital after being treated for COVID | The Baltimore Sun
There isn’t much detail in here other than to say that Davey Johnson is back home and resting after treatment. Johnson is 77 years old and among a population particularly vulnerable to COVID, so it is nice to hear he has made it back home and appears to be improving.

Sanders talks about Diaz, McKenna and Mountcastle | School of Roch
For those of us (raises hand) that worry the Orioles may hold back some of there most exciting prospects for all of 2021, fear not! It sounds like Yusniel Diaz will be playing in Baltimore at some point next season, provided that he can handle Triple-A pitching as expect and avoid any serious injuries. Diaz may not be the alluring talent he was two or three years ago, but he still projects as an everyday contributor in the outfield for the O’s.

These are baseball’s 10 best 1B prospects | MLB Pipeline
There are no Orioles on this list, which is a bit surprising. Ryan Mountcastle landed as Pipeline’s third best first base prospect prior to the 2020 season and went on to slash .333/.286/.492 in his first taste of big league play while retaining rookie eligibility. It seems impossible that he would have fallen out of favor, but perhaps his position has switched to outfield.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

Cord Phelps turns 34. The infielder wrapped up his brief MLB career with a three-game stint on the 2014 O’s. He went 0-for-3, pinch ran a few times and never played an inning of defense.

Charle Greene celebrates his 50th birthday. The former catcher played in 18 total games for the Orioles between 1997 and ‘98, recording four hits in that time.

Panamanian outfielder Sherman Obando turns 51 today. He played 31 games with the Orioles in 1993, and then 16 more in 1995. Obando was then dealt to the Expos in exchange for Tony Tarasco.

Another short-timer, Marty Brown, celebrates a birthday. The former infielder appeared in just nine games for the 1990 Birds, going 3-for-15. He turns 58.

Finally, it is the birthday of the late Chico Carrasquel (b. 1926, d. 2005). The four-time all-star conclude his playing career with the 1959 Orioles. Over 114 games, Carrasquel hit .223/.292/.295 with four home runs and a 64 OPS+.

This day in history

2010 - Miguel Tejada is headed back to Baltimore! The shortstop agrees to a one-year, $6 million deal with the Orioles to serve as the team’s everyday third baseman.

2012 - The O’s add defensively-challenged infielder Wilson Betemit on a one-year deal.

2014 - Relief pitcher Grant Balfour gets his free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. He had previously agreed to a contract with the Orioles, but the deal was nixed following an unfavorable physical.