The Orioles are back in Baltimore after going 6-3 on a west coast road trip that saw them pick up a sweep yesterday to close out their journey. They are in first place with a three game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and continue to have the best record in the American League. Gunnar Henderson is one of the topics of national baseball, for a positive reason, after his feat yesterday where he doubled when he needed a single and his teammates gestured at him in disbelief.
I could go on listing the things that feel good about the Orioles right now. Unfortunately, it seems like every time people start wanting to feel good about the Orioles, managing partner John Angelos emerges from whichever of his lairs that he currently calls home, climbs up to the top rope, and drops a flying elbow on the good vibes. He’s done it again, with an article published in The New York Times on Monday.
It appears that after a season of sparring with some local reporters, and with increasing scrutiny being placed upon his foot-dragging in the Camden Yards lease negotiations by the local papers, Angelos has decided to try a different tactic with getting a little stenography done by the outlet that bills itself as the country’s paper of record without the confrontation that he will now probably always get from reporters from local outlets that he or MLB doesn’t own.
The essential problem with this strategy is that John Angelos is still John Angelos, and based on his temper tantrum in January followed by his eventually broken spring training promises about showing financial information to reporters, nothing positive that he says can be trusted as being worth anything. Only his actions matter now, and here we are more than a month after his proposed All-Star gift of a new lease, and what we’ve got in the NYT is “Angelos does not like the word lease,” apparently preferring his own delusional idea of “a public-private partnership.”
Recent local reporting on the lease negotiations has centered around Angelos’s apparent efforts to be given some control over developing what are currently the parking lots of the Camden Yards sports complex. The lots are what the state owns around the stadium where there’s space to try to build up something like the suburban complex that is near the park that now houses Atlanta’s no longer in Atlanta team, which seems to be the idea that’s lodged into Angelos’s brain.
The Times glides through the practical challenges that have been covered locally - including that some portion of the lots are on top of a railroad tunnel that makes development impractical, and that a large portion of the lots are promised to the Ravens as surface parking for tailgating purposes, since the neighboring football team, unlike the Orioles, has signed its long-term lease. It simply notes “There are many details to untangle,” and if the reporter challenged Angelos about any of this, there’s no evidence of that in what was published.
What was published are words that will pierce the optimism of any Orioles fan who’d like to believe that from some of the current crop of exciting young O’s players might emerge some to join the ranks of career-long Orioles, or at least Orioles who hung around through a long period of team success. From the Times article:
The Orioles’ $70 million payroll this season ranks 28th of the 30 teams. It is largely a function of the players’ lack of service time, which limits their earning power in the peculiar economy of baseball. Angelos has a lot of qualms with that system ... he conceded that it might not be feasible for his popular young core to be career Orioles like Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken Jr. Without major changes, he sees only one way the team could retain all of its young stars. “We’re going to have to raise the prices here — dramatically,” he said.
Spinning from here, Angelos returns to what is apparently one of his favorite things to say by telling the reporter “let’s say we sat down and showed you the financials for the Orioles.” Again, if this occurred, there’s no evidence of it in the article. Based on the track record, I think we know that it didn’t.
Over the course of that same escape of hot air, Angelos went on to specifically cast a negative on the idea of giving one player a $150-200 million contract, claiming, “we would be so financially underwater that you’d have to raise the prices massively.” I don’t have any memory of prices being reduced massively when the team practically zeroed out its payroll for the 2019 season.
If even $150 million is too much, there is indeed little hope of anyone sticking around past when his contract status lets him hit free agency. It is worth noting that even the budget-conscious Rays managed to find a way to commit $184 million to Wander Franco. What the exact constraints are and how to deal with that is going to be for Mike Elias to figure out in the coming years. It sucks to think about the idea of trading players a few years down the road who are “too expensive” in their second year of arbitration.
Angelos can quiet a significant amount of the anxiety by signing the lease. He could quiet another significant portion by not going out of his way to remind the public of his existence, which based on his 2023 public presence is the only viable solution for him to avoid sitting high up the list of worst professional sports owners. As yet, he has proven incapable of either of these things.
On an entirely separate train of thought from the lease negotiations and the team’s wherewithal to carry a payroll that enables sustained competitive seasons from a solid core of players, there were also some paragraphs spent on the recent suspension - or whatever the team wants it to be called - of MASN broadcaster Kevin Brown:
... the recent suspension of a broadcaster on the Orioles’ cable network highlighted at least some level of organizational dysfunction. Angelos said the team was reviewing the internal processes that resulted in discipline for (Brown), who merely pointed out on air that the Orioles used to struggle mightily in road games against the Tampa Bay Rays. Angelos said he hoped that Brown would remain with the team for a long time. “Nothing like that is going to happen again,” he added. “It shouldn’t have happened once.”
Had Angelos not spent the early months of this calendar year revealing himself to be untrustworthy regarding any specific public commitment he makes, his statement here might be the final word. Instead, one can only wonder at the “internal processes” that existed that led to all of this happening in the first place, and there cannot be a high degree of confidence that anything will actually be changed.
Angelos also claimed to have “regretted” that the situation with Brown took attention away from the team’s on-field performance. My regret is that he keeps reminding us of his existence.