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Tuesday Bird Droppings: The Orioles have a new lease at last

It’s finally official. The O’s are locked in to play at Camden Yards for years to come.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles
This jewel of a ballpark will be hosting Orioles baseball until at least 2038.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

It’s done. It’s official. The ink is dry and the deal has been rubber-stamped. The Orioles have finalized a new lease with the state of Maryland that will keep them at Camden Yards for at least 15 and potentially 50 more years. After the two sides agreed to terms last Thursday, the deal became official yesterday when both the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Board of Public Works voted their approval. Soon after, the O’s issued a press release announcing the deal, which “represents the commitment by the Orioles organization to the City of Baltimore, our fans, and the desire to reinvigorate the area in and around Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Downtown Corridor.”

The long, drawn-out, often frustrating lease saga has finally reached a satisfying conclusion. Oriole Park officially will be hosting baseball well into the next decade, for those who had any doubt. The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Barker and Hayes Gardner wrote about some of the specific details of the lease, which doesn’t guarantee development rights around the ballpark as Orioles chairman John Angelos had initially been seeking. Instead, it gives the O’s and the state an additional four years to agree to terms about development rights. If they do reach such an agreement by the Dec. 31, 2027 deadline, then the Orioles will be locked in to the lease for a 30-year term (through the 2053 season). If not, the O’s would have the option of reducing the lease to a 15-year term (ending in 2038). The team also has four five-year options it could choose to exercise in either event.

Oh, and if the team gets sold, all terms of the lease will transfer to the new ownership group. That could prove to be relevant if the reported discussions of David Rubenstein buying the team come to fruition.

By agreeing to a new lease, the Orioles will receive $600 million in public money to use on stadium improvements. There’s no word yet on how they’ll direct those funds, but there are certainly some aspects of the otherwise beautiful ballpark that could use an upgrade. A sound system that fans can clearly hear would be a good start.

In any case, the lease is done at long last, and that’s one less thing for Orioles fans to worry about. Now we can fully shift our attention to complaining about how the O’s haven’t added any starting pitching yet.

Links

A ballpark lease is signed. What’s next for the Orioles? - The Baltimore Banner
The Banner’s Danielle Allentuck and Andy Kostka suggest that Angelos might be even less inclined to open the checkbook now that he didn’t get guaranteed development rights in the new lease. Sigh. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Orioles acquire Heasley from Royals - School of Roch
The O’s did make one minor move yesterday, acquiring reliever Jonathan Heasley from Kansas City. This guy once threw seven shutout innings against the Orioles, the best start of his career, so maybe that performance really stuck in their memories.

O’s international program keeps taking steps forward and a new class is coming - Steve Melewski
We’re this close to seeing the Mike Elias regime’s international efforts start to arrive in the majors, which is a welcome change of pace after the O’s were a non-entity in that market for decades.

Answers to your Orioles questions, Part 2 - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff answers questions from readers, including one who asks why the O’s haven’t re-signed Shintaro Fujinami, who is “an incredible budding talent ready to be nurtured into greatness.” Fuji’s mother wrote in, I see.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Three former Orioles were born on Dec. 19: left-hander Doug Johns (56), outfielder Chito Martinez (58), and righty Mike Fetters (59).

The Orioles have made a bunch of free agent signings on this date:

  • In 1991, they inked veteran right-hander and former Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe to a one-year deal. It was Sutcliffe who started the first game in Oriole Park history, throwing a complete game shutout in just over two hours on Opening Day 1992. Sutcliffe went 26-25 with an exactly 5.00 ERA in two seasons with the Birds.
  • In 1996, the Orioles signed outfielder Eric Davis to a two-year contract. Davis memorably defeated cancer in his first season, inspiringly returning to the Orioles just three months after getting a cancerous tumor removed from his colon. He was hugely productive when on the field, slashing .321/.380/.567 with 36 homers in two seasons, including a team-record 30-game hitting streak in 1998.
  • And in 2000, the Birds signed another former Cy Young winner, righty Pat Hentgen, to replace the departing Mike Mussina as their ace. Hentgen was, uh, no Mike Mussina. Tommy John surgery limited him to just 13 starts in his first two years in Baltimore, and he went 7-8 with a 4.09 ERA in 22 starts in 2003.