It's an open secret that Rick Anderson and the Ottawa Rapidz are no more.
Anderson has cut ties with the club not even four months after he and Rob Hall bought the team from the Can-Am League. The former co-owner is relocating to Calgary and as a source put it, "no longer has any involvement" with the team. In due time, it will get into the broader public realm that Hall is owner and Shelagh O'Connor will be the team's general manager for the 2009 season. Both of them, based on what's known, are woefully out of their element. Tom Carcione will return as manager.
Anderson is leaving, not seven weeks after the Ottawa Citizen quoted him, "Next year will be even better than this year. And the next year will even be better ... This is a good quality of ball and the fans seem to be enjoying it, and we'll keep working on it."
This is very, very bad news for Ottawa-Gatineau's loyal band of ball lovers. For starters, the Rapidz will have to hammer out a lease with the City of Ottawa after their sub-lease from Ray Pecor expires after the 2009 season. Who's going to hammer out a longer lease that the team can live with if Anderson, "a mover and shaker in political and business circles most all his adult life" (The Citizen, April 29) is no longer around?
Hall (bottom right with Anderson in photo) is self-described as "more of an operations guy," not so schooled in the art of the deal, the face-to-face negotations. O'Connor might have that in her, who knows, but as for the baseball side, her online CV (since blocked) doesn't scream that she's the next Kim Ng.*
It might not matter much to Anderson to sever his partnership in the Rapidz. It's also understood that the situation can change very quickly for a businessman who's a political animal, especially with federal election talk percolating on Parliament Hill. It might also seem like small beer to the media (there's been nothing about it online, except for one comment at the near-dormant The New Ottawa Rapidz Blog) and it's certainly not on par with, hypothetically speaking, the Senators making a change in their front office.
The fact remains that Anderson came in promising good local ownership, spinning yards about his childhold trips to Montreal to take in the Expos at Jarry Park. God forbid that the people who do turn out to watch baseball in Ottawa read that and took him and Hall to be their saviours of summer, or something.
There were bound to be a few rookie mistakes, but for those of you scoring at home, here's Anderson's timeline:
- Buys the team, with Hall.
- Changes the name, leading to a public backlash and logistical problems -- the players didn't have proper fitted, full-back caps for the first few games.
- Fired Don Charrette as GM.
- Enables, at the least, and participates in, at worst, constructive dismissal of long-time Lynx employee Lorraine Charrette, who thought her job had been saved by the arrival of the new ballclub. (Helping out Ms. Charrette was a major motivation for a few citizen-fans who went the extra mile and then some last fall trying to keep hope alive for a team here, before the Zipperheads came out of the woodwork.)
- Effectively tells Can-Am League commissioner Miles Wolff, the minor-league mogul who "bought the Durham Bulls for less than the price of a used Volkswagen, and turned them into minor league baseball's most famous team," (Baseball America, July 21, 2006) where he can stick his advice.
(Wolff's Quebec Capitales have more wins, 53, this season than three major-league teams who started playing seven weeks earlier.)
- Hires Jeff Hunt as a consultant instead.
- Fires manager Ed Nottle, which rightly or wrongly, incited more public backlash. (By the way, to those you leaving comments on that Aug. 1 post about Nottle, you're politely invited to send an e-mail to email@example.com identifying yourselves. Your identity is safe with me.)
- Leaves town.
It's been said in a million and one ways that there's no end to the way that baseball can break a fan's heart, but this is ridiculous. Anderson said this was a "hobby" to him, but it's a hobby that carried with it a strong element of public trust, in market that is much more than once-bitten, twice-shy. The departure of a man who can charm and win over political folk, and the media, and having a technocrat and a public-relations person step seems like a terrible trade-off.
Sure, you can leave the door open just a sliver on the infinitesmal hope that Hall, O'Connor and the closest facsimile of a baseball person left in the Rapidz' disorganization, Mike Kusiewicz, who's still an active player, could make this work. But if you believe that, then please, kindly share whatever you're on with the rest of the group, so we can become so enlightened.
* (Kim Ng might be a bit obscure for non-baseball fans, but typing "Billy Beane in heels" would be a bit sexist.)
Update: No one should be surprised that the Team 1200, during an interview this afternoon, did not press Hall at all on who the owners and general manager will be next season. They also let him slide by with that cock-and-bull story about how first baseman Jabe Bergeron, one of maybe four players who merits a contract for next season, is doing the recruiting by chatting up opposing players at first base.
Update 2: Sorry for only getting to this now, but did everyone see the Sept. 3 Ottawa Business Journal: "Sports blog Out of Left Field also said Zip's director of communications, Shelagh O'Connor, would become the Rapidz general manager for the 2009 season."