There are not going to be very many times where a sports team's ownership is in the news where that turns out to be a good thing for the franchise. Orioles fans are familiar with this from decades past when the idea of "meddling Peter Angelos" was a regular topic. If recent news is any indication, Angelos is at it again.
The most pressing concern is how Angelos's name keeps coming up in stories about whether the Orioles will be sellers at the trade deadline and if so, how much. Both national and local writers have spent time pointing out that anything "significant," including possible trades of relievers Zach Britton and Brad Brach, will require the approval of Angelos.
Less of immediate interest but still full of Angelos fingerprints are a couple of stories from this week involving 2017 Orioles draft picks. You may recall from about a week and a half ago that the Orioles did not sign their fourth round pick due to an apparent failed physical. That player, Texas high school righty Jack Conlon, became a free agent and has reached an agreement to sign instead with the Giants.
The Orioles physical is something that gets joked about a lot, and it does seem like the Orioles are more rigorous about it than other teams. This is often chalked up to Angelos and his experience as a litigator. It's weird. This doesn't happen to other teams.
Still, the next time a player dinged by an Orioles physical goes on to long-term success elsewhere will be the first time. The most notorious recent example was when the Orioles physical led to their restructuring last year's agreement with starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, and it turned out in retrospect they probably should have just run screaming away from Gallardo altogether, rather than signing him for fewer years.
Another odd post-deadline draft pick story cropped up a couple of days ago. The Orioles, somehow, signed their 26th round pick, Cameron Bishop, about a week after the signing deadline.
This happened because, according to Ken Rosenthal, the Orioles submitted the paperwork about signing Bishop five minutes late. Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America reported that the late paperwork was apparently the result of ownership trying to back out of the deal at the last minute.
Why this happened is not explained, but it may not be a coincidence that there was apparent ownership resistance to signing Bishop after the UC-Irvine pitcher missed his entire junior season due to an oblique injury. Bishop will now receive a bonus of $605,000, which the Orioles were able to offer him since they didn't sign Conlon.
There are those who think that this sort of stuff is Angelos being cheap about the Orioles. One only needs to take a stroll around his alma mater and mine, the University of Baltimore, to know that Angelos isn't cheap in general. On that subject, I often think about the year where he anonymously gave money to keep Baltimore's public pools open all summer.
Maybe there are times where Angelos, who is very personally successful in his chosen field, thinks that lessons from that personal success apply to running a baseball team. This thought is often at the root of the whole "meddling Angelos" business - that he knows better.
It's a reasonable enough idea. The guy who helmed a $4.5 billion settlement on behalf of the state of Maryland against the tobacco industry surely knows a thing or two. Angelos won so much money for the state that the legislature voted to cut his fee in half once it became clear the settlement would be in the billions. Eventually, the state refused to pay him even that halved fee and he settled for a mere $150 million, or 3.3%.
The drive that in past decades brought Angelos and his law firm success in cases about tobacco and asbestos and other things doesn't mean that Angelos, today, is equipped to know the best way that a baseball team should be run.
There's no special insight Angelos can bring from a long legal career to know whether or not the Orioles should trade Britton or Brach or even Manny Machado. Yet his influence looms large over every story written about the Orioles in the run-up to the trade deadline.
It might not even be about Angelos thinking he knows something as about Angelos, the civic force in Baltimore, not wanting to see the core of a team that's brought successful baseball back to the city dismantled. He would hardly be the only person in Birdland whose argument against selling is largely emotional.
Few people, even among those who see the wisdom of being sellers, want to see a press conference after Britton is traded from the only organization he's ever known.
The problem, if that's what the motivation is, is that wishes for a better Orioles team in the present, or next year, aren't enough on their own to fix a present-day disaster of a starting rotation.
Clinging to the Buck Showalter catch phrase, "I like our guys," is a nice idea, but many of our guys are going to be free agents after this year or next. The collection of our guys here in 2017 doesn't seem like it's going to be enough to go anywhere good. Sooner or later, the Orioles are going to need to get some new guys or else we might get a repeat of the not-too-far-gone dark days of the franchise.
The Orioles farm system is not sufficiently stocked to replenish the big areas of need for this team by next season and it's definitely not equipped to plug in players for 2019 and beyond while having the team continue the sort of success or at least non-failure that fans have gotten to taste since 2012.
It's not going to be an easy choice to make, which is why it should be left up to a baseball professional and his staff. If Angelos can't trust Dan Duquette any longer to make the best choices for the franchise, then he should find someone else who he can trust. What he shouldn't do is veto the professionals he has put in place.
Whether it's about draft picks or trade discussions, the best thing that Angelos can do is open up his wallet and then get out of the way. Whatever does or doesn't happen for the rest of July, hopefully Angelos is not a barrier to good things coming down the road for the Orioles in the future.