One of us, Angelos says all right things

KEN ROSENTHAL

October 05, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

Meet Peter Angelos, the fan in charge, the Anti-Eli, the Wizard of O's. No longer must Orioles fans click their heels like so many Dorothys. The new owner agrees there's no place like home.

Yes, even Eli Jacobs was a hit on Day One of his ownership, but it's difficult not to get carried away right now. The text from Angelos' first news conference should be required reading for all owners.

Maybe it was the cloudless sky, the soaring temperature and the stunning Camden Yards backdrop, but no asbestos lawyer ever sounded as intoxicating.

Angelos spoke of holding the club "in trust" for the citizens of Maryland, spoke of preserving it for "future generations," said it was "unthinkable" the Orioles would ever leave Baltimore.

And that was only the start.

Later, Angelos told reporters that the Orioles would have traded for Fred McGriff if he had been the owner.

Your eyes do not deceive you.

FRED McGRIFF!

Angelos dropped his bombshell after being asked if the current management team worked with limited resources under Jacobs.

"I think that's true, to an extent," Angelos said. "I also think prudent management of the financial resources of this organization has been the hallmark of the Eli Jacobs administration."

Really?

We thought it was the shrimp cocktail at the Camden Club.

"He has kept the payroll within certain parameters and given us a competitive ballclub," Angelos continued. "But for example, when Fred McGriff was available, I think if our group had been around, McGriff would be here today.

"You have to make exceptions at the right time. I would have made that exception."

Why didn't the Orioles?

"I know some of the key people in this organization said the offer the Orioles made was better than the one that the Braves made," Angelos said. "If I take them at their word -- and there's no reason not to -- maybe there was not enough energy put behind the effort because of payroll considerations."

Maybe? Try "almost certainly."

Informed of Angelos' remarks, club president Larry Lucchino practically burst into song.

"That reflects exactly the kind of attitude that can take this club from being a good, competitive team to being a winner," Lucchino said. "You've got to have the commitment and the wherewithal to go out and do it."

Little did he know it, but Angelos offered the best argument for keeping the Orioles' entire management team -- from Lucchino down to manager Johnny Oates. These are bright people. They've always had the commitment. They've just lacked the wherewithal.

Angelos promised, "We will have the most competitive ballclub that is humanly possible. We will make all the expenditures necessary to see to it that this club is at the top. But remember, we should never, never jeopardize the financial stability of the Orioles."

Go back far enough, and you probably could dig up a similar quote from Jacobs. The difference is, Angelos means it. When he talks about financial stability, he's not talking about satisfying his own wallet. He's talking about keeping the franchise viable so it can be enjoyed by our children and grandchildren.

Really, that's all anyone can ask. The idea isn't for the owner to go broke. The idea is for everyone to join the fun. It's not such a far-fetched concept, not with the team playing in the U.S. Mint at Camden Yards.

Oh, Angelos is going to make mistakes, maybe even soon if he fires Oates. This is baseball, where the best hitters fail seven out of 10 times. Even for those with perfect intentions, it's not a perfect world.

At this point, Angelos is no expert, but he knows what he likes. He can't pronounce Rafael Palmeiro's last name, but covets him as a free agent. He wasn't aware of the Cleveland Indians' strategy of signing young players to long-term contracts, but thought it a good idea.

One minute, he says the Orioles will compete for free agents, "very sparingly, only when absolutely necessary." The next minute, he says, "Obviously, if you go the free-agent route, you might not have to give up a substantial part of your club, which would be the most ideal."

Which will it be? Angelos couldn't tell you, but he'll figure it out. He's the Anti-Eli. He's the Wizard of O's. If you can believe it, he's a man who just invested $40 million in a baseball team, and he's One Of Us.

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