Allegany Communications Sports
The timing could not have been more perfect or more cathartic for Baltimore.
Just 48 hours after another crushing NFL playoff loss by the favored Ravens, it was reported the family of Peter Angelos had reached an agreement to sell the Orioles to the group of private equity billionaire David Rubenstein for $1.725 billion. Rubenstein, a Baltimore native, signed the agreement and is set to take over as the team’s control person as part of the deal, leading a group that is said to include Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
In a snap, news of the potential sale, which now must be approved by Major League Baseball, lifted the collective heart of Baltimore at a most opportune time given the gloom that had cloaked the city since the latest Ravens postseason disaster.
The Baltimore sports fan has grown accustomed to January disappointment from the Ravens, but this is likely the soonest a Baltimore postseason playoff egg has been put on the shelf, as one of the youngest and most exciting teams in all of baseball should open spring training in just two weeks with a controlling owner not named Angelos for the first time in 31 years.
Naturally, as has always been the case, even on the way out, there exists a So-Angelos angle to the story, as news of the sale comes just six weeks after the Orioles and the state of Maryland agreed to a lease to keep the team in the city for at least 15 years, prompting Maryland State Treasurer Dereck Davis to say on Wednesday the state had been misled.
Through the arduous negotiations with the state, John Angelos, the team’s MLB control person during his father Peter’s prolonged illness, called Gov. Wes Moore in December to assure him he would not sell the team, according to the Baltimore Sun.
“We were lied to,” Davis said during Wednesday morning’s state Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis.
Quite true, and what else is new? Still, speaking as a Maryland taxpayer in this instance, I don’t mind being lied to — in the immortal words of Jacob McCandles — “Not. One. Bit.”
It was August 2, 1993 and I was having lunch at the bar of the world famous When Pigs Fly Restaurant on the West Side when Cas Taylor, the powerful Maryland delegate who was on the verge of becoming Maryland Speaker of the House, came downstairs from his office to have some lunch himself.
“Any word on the Orioles?” Cas asked as he sat down.
“Yes,” I said enthusiastically, “a group led by Peter Angelos bought them. Local ownership. Good news.”
I was so young.
The wiser local man, our friend, who was about to become the most powerful lawmaker in the state, never looked up from his plate as he informed me (in so many words) that he did not view this to be good news, as I can only assume Cas had had previous dealings with Mr. Angelos, the Baltimore attorney and native of Highlandtown who made his fortune on securing vast settlements for asbestos victims.
As usual, Cas Taylor was spot-on from Day 1, as any fan of the Orioles for the past three decades will attest. The Angelos ownership has been a disaster for the Orioles and for their fans.
Since firing good men and great managers such as Johnny Oates and Davey Johnson and replacing them with the likes of Phil Regan and Ray Miller, not to mention running Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick and popular broadcasters John Lowenstein and Jon Miller out of town, the Peter Angelos creed seems to have been, “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as it’s me.”
The first public indication of this came on September 6, 1995, the night Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s unbreakable consecutive-games played record. During the postgame ceremonies, the diminutive Orioles owner spoke on and on and on as though the nation had tuned in to see him, until what had been a festive sellout Camden Yards crowd turned outwardly testy.
In fairness, that night never would have taken place if not for Peter Angelos and his refusal to allow the Orioles to use replacement players during the 1994 MLB work stoppage. He was devoted to his hometown, but his micromanagement of the team would become his undoing,
In the beginning, he spent money on payroll, sometimes wisely, other times not, at one time making the Orioles the highest-paid team in baseball. Then there was Albert Belle and the spending stopped. Then when he tried to do the right thing, he bid against himself to sign Chris Davis to the albatross contract that is still on the books.
In between Belle and Davis, the Washington Nationals came along, which didn’t help, but there was really nothing Angelos could do about it, so he consented to lose the most lucrative region of his team’s MLB market on the condition he be allowed to start the MASN Sports Network.
Then there was the losing, and a lot of it:
A 15-year streak of missing the postseason.
One of the worst baseball teams in modern history.
No World Series wins.
No American League pennants.
Three Division titles in 30 years.
The current team, of course, and the direction of the organization is on solid ground, and for that John Angelos deserves credit for allowing the baseball people to do the baseball work, something his dad never seemed to allow.
Still, he constantly lies on the record, which is what entitled silver-spooners, who treat their employees and their state like (dirt), do.
So … don’t let the door hit you, little John.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT