O's ownership is mob scene that only Angelos can control

Bill Tanton

August 10, 1993|By Bill Tanton

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the new Orioles owners meet for the first time with the club's top officials.

It might go something like this:

PETE ANGELOS: I'm delighted to welcome you gentlemen -- er, excuse me, Pam, ladies and gentlemen -- to this meeting.

I see we're a little short of chairs. Could somebody get a couple extra chairs? Thank you. Just unfold 'em and put 'em right there in the back of the room. That's it.

There are many, many issues we need to discuss -- what's that? Some late arrivals? Could we have a couple more chairs, please? OK, three chairs. Next time, we'd better meet in a larger room.

As I said, we have many things to discuss, but the one thing all of us care deeply about is the ballclub itself. I'd like to call on Larry Lucchino to bring us up to date on what the personnel people think we should do to improve the club for next year?

LUCCHINO: Thank you, Pete. Ladies and gentlemen, since the sale we've been hard at work, weighing our options, and after many hours of deliberation and evaluation with our general manager, Roland Hemond, we've decided that, above all, we need to add a top-quality, free-agent pitcher.

It'll cost us a lot of money -- maybe even Ripken money -- but after you've been in baseball for a while you learn that you can never have too much pitching.

BILL DEWITT JR.: Thank you for your input, Larry, but I believe your thinking is outmoded.

Years ago my father felt as you do now. To acquire a pitcher that he thought the Reds needed he traded away a hitter who went to the Hall of Fame -- and who is in this room, Frank Robinson, one of our assistant general managers.

I say we need to learn by our mistakes. If we're going to spend that kind of money, we should spend it on a power hitter. And don't you forget -- I am this organization's vice chairman for baseball.

TOM CLANCY: Now just a minute, Mr. DeWitt. I happen to be the second largest investor in this ballclub. You and your whole group own only 20 percent. I don't see how you or anybody else can make a decision like this without consulting me first.

This franchise hasn't had a real third baseman since Brooks Robinson. I say we get a third baseman -- finally!

ANGELOS: Now, now, gentlemen -- and ladies. Let's not get huffy with one another.

If we're going to start throwing our authority around, let me remind all of you that I am the major investor, the chairman and the managing general partner. Any personnel decision of this magnitude will, obviously, have to be approved by me.

FRANK ROBINSON (from a folding chair in the back of the room in a whisper to assistant general manager Doug Melvin): What a chain of command -- Roland to Larry to DeWitt to Clancy to Angelos. Where does that leave us?

DOUG MELVIN: I think we know where that leaves us. Excuse me while I slip back to my office. I need to make a couple calls. Some club with normal ownership must be looking for a general manager.

Fun stuff, huh?

And this would only be the beginning.

Remember, the owners in this cast of many are persons of celebrity or wealth or both. They're not used to yielding to others.

It wouldn't take anything as important as player acquisitions to set the wheels of discontent in motion.

At best, this is an unwieldy ownership group. For the past week people have been telling me they don't think there'll be enough room for all the egos. The potential for disaster is there.

Dr. Harsha Desai, chairman of the management department at Loyola College, is an expert on things like this.

The success of the new Orioles owners is of particular interest to the professor. No fewer than five of them also are members of Loyola's board of trustees -- Angelos, Clancy (a Loyola alumnus as well), Jim McKay (also an alumnus), Pam Shriver and Mike Sullivan, president and CEO of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises.

"The key is communication," Desai said. "The partners not only need to be able to express their own wishes. Equally important is their capacity to sit back and listen to the others.

"They'll need to discuss things openly and freely and get an agreement on what they want for the team. The rest follows."

What it'll also take for this thing to work is a strong No. 1 guy. That's Angelos.

People who've known him for years tell me he's tough and he's smart. And he's strong enough to take charge even with so many high profile partners.

If Angelos wants his grandson to be batboy, guess who's going to be batboy.

You got it.

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