Angelos will have no shortage of input

JOHN EISENBERG

August 04, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

Now that Peter Angelos has found the money to buy the Orioles, let's hope he can find the patience and sense of humor for an endeavor that will require bountiful portions of both -- owning them.

For going to the trouble of freeing the $173,000,000 club (now we can really call them the O's) from Eli's Purgatory and becoming the majority owner in his hometown, the city of the baseball monster, Angelos can look forward to many joys of the modern sporting life. Headaches. Criticism. Intrusions. Non-stop second-guessing by Joe from Glen Burnie.

All the good stuff.

Sure, there'll be plenty of upside, too. He gets to tell Larry Lucchino what to do. He'll have no trouble whatsoever arranging for the Oriole Bird to appear at someone's birthday party. He gets to preside over the only owners' box in baseball requiring ticket-holders to sign up for a partial plan. ("OK, Boogie gets Wednesdays, Pam Thursdays, Clancy Fridays. Happy? What? Oh, sorry, Jim. Can you do Tuesdays?")

Countering all those advantages, though, will be an equal or greater array of disadvantages. Some are generic to the ownership gig. He has to take Don Fehr's calls. He has to laugh when George Steinbrenner tells another bad joke. He has to pretend he is fond of the .220 hitter earning $3.75 million a year.

More nettlesome to Angelos, however, will be the disadvantages resulting from his singular circumstances as a hometown owner with 327 minority owners.

Owning the club your friends cheer for is plenty prestigious, sure, but it hardly makes for an idyllic life. Only everyone in town has an opinion about what the Orioles should do, or worse, should have done. A recluse such as Jacobs can avoid dealing with that stuff. A hometowner can't. A hometowner is one of us, right?

It means the 30-second interlude with the postman becomes a 30-minute interlude. ("Here's your mail, Mr. Angelos. Have a nice day. And, hey, that game last night: Two runs down, two on, and McLemore is bunting? That's crazy.")

It means that just going to a restaurant becomes an affront to privacy.

Angelos: "Party of four, please, Angelos reservation."

Waiter: "Oh, sure, Mr. Angelos. Your table will be ready . . . as soon as you start playing Hammonds every day. Ha, just kidding. But, I mean, seriously, what is Johnny thinking?

Angelos' life is about to become a 24-hour talk show, the relentless blather of opinions showering down around him. And let's not forget that other proud American tradition: Other people telling him how to spend his money. (Blush.) No, Angelos won't have to deal with it too often. Only maybe 43 times a day.

And, gracious, think about the expectations this engenders, the pressure to deliver that'll fall on Angelos' shoulders from the notion that a hometown owner is just a rich fan -- one of us! -- who will spend whatever it takes to win, sheerly out of some sense of civic duty.

When Jacobs didn't go after a Ruben Sierra, who might make the difference, it was supposedly because he didn't care, because he was an out-of-towner who treated the team as an investment. But what if Angelos, who obviously cares, also doesn't want to sign a Sierra?

Won't be pretty.

Sure, it might help him to have all those minority owners hanging around to help deflect the flak. The sheer volume of owners should help with payroll stuff. Angelos can be the first baseball owner in history to pay for a free agent with a pledge drive.

Angelos: "The baseball people think we can get Fred McGriff."

Shriver: "Put me down for $10,000."

Let's face it, though, that great, roiling mass of ownership is bound to cause some problems. Most of them are just along for grins, but you know that somewhere in there is a lapsed Rotisserie League geek who'll be calling Roland Hemond every day. ("Looks like the Tigers need pitching. Can we get Chad Kreuter?")

That crowded baseball office is bound to be a trouble spot, too, with Lucchino and Hemond and Bill DeWitt and Frank Robinson and Doug Melvin rattling around in the decision-making bubble. With all those egos and opinions in play, it'll take the negotiating prowess of the Maastricht Treaty signers to get the Orioles to so much as sign a minor-league free agent.

Oh, well. You figure they'll get it worked out somehow. The word on Angelos is that he is smart and smooth and gets things done, which sure beats bankruptcy court. It's going to be a rowdy ride, but hopefully he can get used to it over the years. And if he can't, hey, he can always emulate his predecessor and glumly, reluctantly sell the club for a $100 million profit.

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