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Trouble in Charmless City for O's

First off, I stand by the story. Every single word.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. have taken turns denying parts of my report from last Friday , the gist of which was that Angelos recently declined to hire Ripken to help his wonderful team.

Both declined opportunities to comment before I went with the story, and that's fine.

Both dispute that Angelos told Ripken he didn't want Ripken to receive credit once the team returned to prominence -- a detail confirmed by three sources -- and that's fine, too.

But now that both are in such talking moods, I have a few more questions, mostly for Angelos.

Why isn't Ripken already working for the Orioles?

Why isn't Brooks Robinson involved with the team? Why isn't Frank Robinson?

Why is a franchise with such a glorious history not taking better advantage of some of the greatest natural resources the game has to offer?

Funny, I don't think it's because the Orioles have all the answers.

A number of former Orioles -- including Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Eddie Murray -- serve the club as paid broadcasters, but the O's need to draw from their tradition in ways that go beyond Boog Powell cooking ribs on Eutaw Street.

It's damning -- and a direct reflection on Angelos' tone-deaf ownership

-- that Hall of Famers Ripken, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson are nowhere to be found at Camden Yards.

Not as damning as 12 consecutive losing seasons -- and soon to be 13 -- for a franchise in a far stronger revenue position than, say, the Pirates or Royals.

But damning enough.

Nolan Ryan's the Rangers' team president, George Brett's the Royals' vice president of baseball operations, Greg Maddux is a special assistant to the general manager with the Cubs and Tom Glavine's a special assistant to the president with the Braves.

Ripken?

He said in a statement that he and Angelos have enjoyed "a very good relationship for a long time." However, the two can't even get their stories straight about the extent of Ripken's discussions with the Orioles.

Ripken: "I have met with Andy (MacPhail, the Orioles' president of baseball operations) and Peter on a number of occasions to discuss many subjects. Ultimately, our discussions have turned to baseball, the Orioles and me. I have enjoyed those talks very much, and yes, the subject has been broached about me potentially joining the organization. I look forward to those talks continuing."

Angelos to ESPN.com: "Quite simply, Cal Ripken did not offer to become part of the Orioles' organization in any secondary position, such as manager or as an assistant to Andy MacPhail or in some kind of support role of MacPhail. If he wants to make such a proposal, I'd like to hear about it."

Maybe Ripken and Angelos should hold their next conversation on a stage in the Camden Yards infield and charge admission. At least maybe then the place would fill up the way it did in the early and mid-1990s, back before the only chance of a sellout was on Opening Day or when the Yankees and Red Sox came to town.

The Orioles, thanks to MacPhail, actually are on the right path, though you wouldn't know it from their 2-11 start. Yet, for those who believe the team will never recover as long as Angelos is owner, this latest silliness is more fodder.

Not that Ripken is any bargain.

The Iron Man's public image is pristine, but ask any of his former managers, and they'll say he can be stubborn, controlling, quite political -- a Hall of Fame pain in the rear.

In 1995, Ripken undermined the authority of a new manager, Phil Regan, by challenging changes in the team's cutoff plays and later calling pitches from shortstop. Davey Johnson, who replaced Regan the following season, practically needed an Act of Congress to move Ripken to third base.

Angelos, the team's owner since August 1993, is quite familiar with Ripken's passive-aggressive tendencies. Any wariness of Ripken on his part would be understandable. So would any reluctance to create the perception that MacPhail isn't fully in control.

But in the end, such reservations detract from the larger point, amounting to little more than excuses.

If Cal Ripken wants to work for the Orioles, then Cal Ripken should work for the Orioles. Period.

Ripken's baseball intellect is unsurpassed; he thinks he knows the game better than anyone -- and pretty much does. One of his ideas, according to a source, is to help young Orioles such as catcher Matt Wieters "finish off" their developments at the major league level. Frankly, the Orioles should be begging Ripken for such assistance.

Angelos, however, told The Baltimore Sun , "I just don't see Cal Ripken as being an assistant to anyone in a baseball context."

Really? Then what were Ripken and MacPhail talking about? A bloodless coup?

No, according to a source, they were talking about a mutually beneficial relationship. Ripken would have helped MacPhail in baseball matters. MacPhail would have helped Ripken learn the administrative side of the game.

Such an arrangement is still possible, and Angelos claims to be open to it.

Put up or shut up then.

Hiring Cal Ripken to work for the Baltimore Orioles shouldn't be so hard.