Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Riposte: Rick Anderson is outta here! Rapidz owner Zipz off to Calgary

The Ottawa Rapidz' first season was anything but dull. From a name change, to one of the team's players accusing this site's author of being "on drugs" for having the temerity to suggest it was a bad idea to fire a manager -- who probably should have been axed earlier -- while he was visiting his sick wife, it's been a trip. Oh, and for those who missed it back on Aug. 22, one of the co-owners has essentially flown the coop.

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 neatesager@yahoo.ca identifying yourselves. Your identity is safe with me.)
  • Leaves town.
Please bear in mind those bullet points are only highlights of Anderson's abortive experiment with being a baseball owner. Highlights, of course, can never completely do someone justice.

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."


Anonymous said...

Looks like Ms. O'Connor has pulled her CV down. Guess there's some truth to the rumor.

Anonymous said...

Either that or she blocked it ... cut-n-paste this into Google and you can find it.


Anonymous said...

Man, this is not good. I keep wondering - how is it that "successful" business types like Hall and O'Connor can spend so much time away from their "real" jobs? If the president of the company you work for bought a baseball team, would he/she have the time to run it?

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid the damage has already been done. I'm as loyal a baseball fan as one can be and was a devoted Lynx fan until the end. When the news of a Can-Am franchise coming to Ottawa was confirmed, I thought that was it, baseball was back in Ottawa and would work. But then the new owners came and I was sadly reminded, little by little, of the Loria/Samson days in Montreal. The name and logo change reminded me of Loria not signing neither French TV broadcast contract in 2000, and later not signing an English radio contract, always citing good reasons, even though common sense suggested it was a bad move. Then the firing of Ed Nottle (which was replaced with someone with little pro managing experience) reminded me of the firing of Felipe Alou, the most popular manager in Expos's history, replaced by Loria's friend Jeffrey Torborg (which hadn't managed in the majors in years). So what's the result? I went to Zip Stadium three times this year and was left wondering : why is that that I don't care about this team? Very very very sadly, I think I wouldn't care much if it was announced that the Rapz wouldn't come back next year.

Anonymous said...

They said they had a good year.
They were happy with the crowds.
Oh, and BTW, we lost close to a million bucks this year...huh?
Just another chapter in Ottawa's rich history of lousy sports franchise ownership.
Remember Horn Chen?
The Gleibermans...twice.
Howard Darwin, the marketing savant.
And now, this motley crew.
In the words of the late great Morton Downey Jr..."Zip" it!

Anonymous said...

I just like to know why Ottawa afms in all sports are so negative, my two sons went with myself to about 6 games this year all fo them were awesome, the players were great, they even wiped off our seats from the rain that had fallen what service, appreciate what you have

sager said...

Negative? Read our archive on the Can-Am League. There was great optimism for this venture -- as far back as August 2006, I said the Can-Am League could work here with good operators.

The operative part is "good operators."

Anonymous said...

O'Conner doesn't have a clue! And is the sister in-law of Mr. Anderson. And... there is lots more family to be found. It doesn't take much digging to find out that this franchise is doomed! The nepotism created rifts throughout the season in the park. This blogger knows that they let go some very bright and talented people because of thier inexperience in sport marketing and arrogance. Jeff Hunt didn't help much and why would he want to help zip.ca when he himself is reaching for a football! Maybe he helped by letting Anderson and Hall know that they really didn't have a clue. Something Don Charette has let many people know over the year. O'Conner doesn't have what it takes to be a GM, she hasn't the ability, experience or intelect! Stick to internet marketing.
Someone should take down the ZIP.ca sign.
What a misnomer.

Anonymous said...

Just like I said. The teams name should have been changed to the Ottawa Parking Lotz! It's funny how everyone on the blog laughed at me and assured fans that there would be a team for a long time to come. Well.... Who's laughing now. LOL...... I'm glad there won't be a team because the rapidz were an embarassment to baseball in Canada and were a bunch of whiney loosers who could'nt pitch to save there lives. Maybe if they used the right pitchers when they had them the team would have won and more fans would have come out. Nottle was going around saying that it was going to be so easy to get players to come to Ottawa because of the facility. What a retarded drunk bafoon! What a shitty team! What an embarassment to Ottawa! Thank god that crap is finally over. Good thing Fraser Robinson won't have Daddy's political pull when it comes to getting another job. lol.....