The Orioles simply can’t get out of their own way.

It’s a crazy notion for a team that currently leads the American League — a much-needed, much-savored dose of success for Baltimore, which has been starved for a winner for years. Now that they’re winning, we want to celebrate a little.

We should be talking about Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Felix Bautista, who are some of the most exciting players in baseball. We should be talking about Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde, who weathered the lean years with a strategy that is finally seeing dividends. We should be talking about the rising attendance at Camden Yards — hell, I wrote about that only yesterday.

But all of that is already yesterday’s news, truly, because Orioles management still make decisions that turn the franchise into a national punching bag.

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The latest: The conspicuous absence of Kevin Brown, MASN’s play-by-play announcer, who is widely considered a rising industry star and also contracts for ESPN. Brown’s voice has been a soundtrack that swells with the thrills and excitement of the season’s biggest moments. Look at the first-half highlight sizzle reel: What would Rutschman’s walk-off, or Cedric Mullins’ cycle, or a gulp from the Homer Hose be without Brown bringing his spark of wonder to the broadcast?

Just last month, Brown flew out to Seattle for what amounted to a daylong trip to call the stat-driven ESPN broadcast of the Home Run Derby. He shared a cramped shed with two other broadcasters out in the lot, far from the action. When Rutchsman switch-hit dingers pitched to him by his dad, Brown never saw the scene unfold live, but he brought his signature enthusiasm and charisma because he understood the magnitude of the moment. He loves baseball and he loves his job.

He is, in so many ways, the voice of the Orioles’ resurgence.

The Orioles apparently want total editorial control over everything that comes out of Brown’s mouth, however. Brown was taken off the air, according to a source close to the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, for a pregame segment citing the Orioles’ road record against their AL East rival, Tampa Bay: “The Orioles have won more games against them this season than the last two combined.” The team-provided game notes read: “The Orioles have won three of the first five games at The Trop this season after winning three of the 21 games played in St. Petersburg from 2020-22.”

Please, someone help me find the controversy.

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But despite repeating a statistic that one could have also found in the Orioles game notes, and that MASN produced a graphic to highlight how much better the team is playing this year, someone at the top determined Brown merited what accounts to suspension. Awful Announcing’s initial story on Brown’s muzzling predictably generated backlash from industry colleagues who admire Brown’s work and professionalism.

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Brown need not do much looking in the mirror. People can run afoul of all kinds of inane guidelines at MASN, which has helicopter-parent oversight from Orioles CEO and managing partner John Angelos.

Employees at MASN have been asked to delete pictures of former players and executives from the site. Do you want to find the tense exchange between Angelos and reporter Dan Connolly when the owner famously promised to “open the books”? You won’t find it on the MASN recording, because it has been clipped out of the video (the keen-eyed will spot a skip at the 12:18 mark).

If Angelos worried that the Orioles’ 2020-22 record at Tropicana Field made him look cheap, the fact that on-air commentators are required to wear Orioles-branded polo shirts that they buy themselves all but confirms it.

The best thing ownership has done for the Orioles is to delegate baseball duties to baseball people, which is paying off with wins this season in a front office run by Elias and Sig Mejdal. If you want insight into how smoothly other facets of the organization run, consider their response to The Banner: They can’t confirm or deny. If it wasn’t a suspension, the Orioles should just say so. “We don’t comment on employment decisions,” allows every free-thinking person to read between the lines.

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The timing of this face-plant is as perplexing as Brown’s pseudo-suspension itself. The team hasn’t been this good in a long time. The 1983 team just had a feel-good reunion on Saturday, an event that was handled deftly by emcee and MASN playcaller Brett Hollander, as well as the Orioles (aside from misspelling manager Joe Altobelli’s name on the scoreboard, but I digress).

Shouldn’t now be the time to revel? Shouldn’t the rocky seasons of the recent past simply peel away now that the Orioles are back in business? Instead, the franchise is making its biggest headlines yet with petty nonsense over what constitutes a fact.

A team’s record is an immutable fact. Just like it’s a fact that the Orioles last went to the World Series 40 years ago, or the fact that they’ve only been to the playoffs five times in the Angelos family’s stewardship.

It’s a fact that the Orioles have the 29th-lowest payroll in baseball, and it’s a fact that they haven’t signed extension-eligible players to long-term deals. It’s a fact that the Orioles haven’t signed a long-term deal to stay in Camden Yards, and that their lease will expire by Dec. 31 if nothing is done.

It’s an opinion — my opinion — that Angelos would best serve his city, his state and his fans by working toward keeping baseball in Baltimore — like he has promised many, many times, but so far delivered very little — and stop worrying about innocuous comments by his broadcasters. The franchise has seen enough young, talented contributors bolt for greener pastures; why make Brown the latest?

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The Orioles have acknowledged Brown is returning soon to the broadcast, and that’s welcome news. But given the franchise’s history with Jon Miller and Gary Thorne, who departed under stormy terms despite being much-loved by the fans, Brown’s comeback isn’t reassurance that all will be well. Ownership’s dealings with broadcasters, the most public conduit between fans and the team, provide a lot of visibility about how they do business.

Even though the wins on the field are piling up, in other aspects, it’s still business as usual for the Orioles.

kyle.goon@thebaltimorebanner.com

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum. 

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