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Oriole officials see another side of Peter Angelos

February 04, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

Before he heads off to meetings with Mr. Angelos, one team official gathers up a stack of newspapers, something to browse through if the owner is delayed.

Mr. Angelos has left many rank-and-file Orioles workers with the same feeling of having little time for them.

He has yet to call a meeting to introduce himself to the roughly 90 front-office employees, who mostly rely on media reports for information about the owner. And there was grumbling in many offices when New Year's passed without Christmas bonuses or pay raises, rewards the staff had received even from Mr. Jacobs. (Mr. Angelos says raises are on the way, and that he is reviewing a bonus plan.)

Waiting on decisions

For Orioles baseball executives, a recurring concern has been getting the go-ahead to make deals. During the Jacobs years, Mr. Lucchino had that authority in most cases and, because he worked full time in the Orioles offices, was almost always available.

With Mr. Lucchino gone, the deciding vote has shifted to Mr. Angelos, who isn't always reachable. Mr. Hemond has been particularly distraught about the communication gaps, fearing they hamper the Orioles' ability to react quickly to trades and free-agent opportunities.

"Trying to put together a deal when you can't communicate with ownership -- it makes it awfully difficult to pull the trigger," Mr. Robinson said.

The owner dismisses talk that he's difficult to find.

"I am accessible," he said. "I am in the office every day, or they can get me at home. They have my home number, and they call me there frequently."

Not an authority

He may be an aspiring trade-maker, but Mr. Angelos doesn't fancy himself the consummate baseball authority. Not yet.

"One thing I've respected, he always says: 'Hey, I am an amateur with this baseball, but my opinion is so and so,' " said Mr. Melvin, Orioles assistant GM. "He doesn't pretend to know it all."

Said Mr. Stamas: "You don't become an instant expert in this game. Peter recognizes this is a long-haul process."

Yet Mr. Angelos isn't timid about approaching his baseball people with the names of players he thinks ought to be pursued. From superstars to obscure utility men, few possibilities seem to escape his attention.

Mr. Angelos says Mr. Hemond was "dumbfounded" when he suggested the team take a hard look at an unsung relief pitcher, Mel Rojas.

"I knew so much about so many ballplayers, they were absolutely astounded," said Mr. Angelos. "You could see the quizzical looks in their eyes -- 'Who is this guy?' "

As it turned out, Mr. Hemond and others in the baseball operation mostly wondered where the owner's information was coming from.

There was concern that Mr. Angelos was relying on a secret, outside adviser, and an incident during trade talks between the Orioles and Houston Astros fueled those suspicions.

The Orioles were trying to pry pitcher Pete Harnisch from the Astros, and in the course of talks, a little-known pitcher, Jeff Juden, had been mentioned.

Updating Mr. Angelos on the talks, Mr. Hemond dropped Mr. Juden's name, expecting no response. The owner not only knew of Mr. Juden, but also volunteered unflattering information about him, ending their conversation by saying he had no interest in the player.

Not long after, Mr. Hemond appeared in Mr. Angelos' office, ready to quit.

"That might have been the trigger that fired the gun, but I don't think it was the only reason Roland went off," Mr. Robinson said. "Other things had built up."

In fact, Mr. Hemond's frustration slowly had been building, exacerbated by the team's failure to sign free agent Will Clark, uncertainty about the outcome of talks with Mr. Palmeiro and, more generally, the GM's sporadic communication with the owner.

Mr. Hemond wouldn't speak about his resignation, except to say the tensions have been "rectified quite nicely."

Mr. Angelos didn't hesitate to talk about it.

Speaking his piece

"Roland said he wanted to resign because he felt he was being mistreated. He felt he hadn't been properly consulted in several matters," Mr. Angelos said. "He had some impressions that were not exactly correct.

"I was proud of him. He stood straight and tall and spoke his piece. I was pleasantly surprised, since everyone said he was nothing but a yes man and the instrument of all my predecessors."

Mr. Hemond's threat to resign also solved the mystery of Mr. Angelos' baseball adviser. At the meeting, Mr. Hemond told Mr. Angelos of his suspicion, and even named a prime suspect: a career baseball executive named Joe Klein.

He was wrong.

"When Roland mentioned that name, I said, 'Who the hell is Joel Klein?' " Mr. Angelos said. "The only Joel Klein I know is some guy who was a flimflam artist about 15 years ago."

Mr. Angelos acknowledged to Mr. Hemond that he had been getting help, but told the general manager the information was coming from a source closer to home. Actually, in his home.

Mr. Angelos' son, John, a student at the University of Baltimore Law School.

"He knows more about baseball players than anybody I ever talked to," Mr. Angelos said of his son.

"When I got home, I said to John, 'You're Joel Klein.' "

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