Once games begin, Angelos says, he will own hands-off approach ORIOLES '94

April 01, 1994|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Writer

Since he began signing Cal Ripken's paychecks last October, Peter G. Angelos has revealed bits and pieces of his management style.

In that short time, the Orioles' owner has shown that he cares about pennants as much as profits from his baseball investment, that he operates without fear in the free-agent market, that his front office is not the ideal place for those who desire job security.

But, with Opening Day approaching, one question about Angelos' master plan for running the Orioles remains unanswered: When the season begins, will the new owner keep hands off?

With the tying run at second and Lee Smith warming up, will Angelos be on the phone to the Orioles dugout with a friendly suggestion?

If the Orioles lose five straight, will he be in the manager's office, mulling lineup changes with Johnny Oates?

If things go wrong on the field, will Angelos be there, figuring he can make them right?

Only one man possibly could know the answers, and he didn't have to think long. Sitting in a Florida restaurant last week, Angelos, Baltimore lawyer and rookie baseball team owner, smiled at the notion that he ever would substitute his judgment for that of somebody wearing an Orioles uniform.

Not likely, he said.

"I won't be involved at all," Angelos said. "I'll have nothing to do with that."

Has he shared this thought with Oates?

"I think I have," he said. "Maybe not very forcefully. But in various discussions, I think that comes out. The message is in the words I have used generally speaking about my role with the ballclub as the principal owner. I think he understands there won't be any intrusions, any Monday morning quarterbacking. There won't be any tampering with the playing of the game of baseball. At this juncture, my role has ended. I am back to the spectator's ranks."

For Oates, general manager Roland Hemond and assistant GMs Frank Robinson and Doug Melvin, that might be the best news since the arrival of the ornithologically correct bird. After a productive, but trying, off-season, the Orioles' baseball brain trust will be watching carefully to see how the new owner reacts to the long baseball season.

For Angelos, there's no mystery. In many ways, he says, it'll be just another Orioles season. He expects to be at the ballpark often -- "Probably, I am there a majority of time," he says. And he won't be sitting in the club seats along the third base line that his Baltimore law firm held during the first two seasons at Camden Yards. He's stepping up. This year, you're more likely to find Angelos in the poshest spot in the ballpark --the owner's spacious private suite, directly behind home plate.

Beyond those details, Angelos says, he's approaching this season as he has the past few -- as somebody who thinks it's about time the Orioles finished ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I'd say I'm a normal, ordinary fan," the owner said. "I get excited at the usual times, and I'm passive at least half the time, which is normally the experience at a game."

He downplays the significance of his financial stake in the team. Last August, investors led by Angelos bought the Orioles for $173 million, a record for a major-league baseball franchise. His investment, $40 million-plus, is the single biggest chunk.

The idea that, once the game begins, Angelos will revert to nothing more than Joe Fan may seem incredible. But the owner says that is exactly what he expects.

"I don't think I'll have a different way of watching a baseball game because of the ownership interest," he said. "I'd like to see the team win, but I always did like to see the team win. Everyone wants to see the team win.

"As an owner, maybe you want to win a little bit more, because you have your stamp, your imprimatur on it. But whether we win or lose, I won't take it personally. You can't personalize it. If there weren't so many variables in the game of baseball, you could approach it from that standpoint. But one could assemble the greatest roster in the history of baseball and still not win. You do the best you can. And if the gods smile upon you, you win. And then you are a hero all over again. That's the way I see it."

But as Angelos explained how unlikely it would be for wins and losses to affect his moods, a funny thing happened. He laughed. He shrugged. Then he all but conceded the obvious -- that he never again can go back to being a casual Orioles fan.

As he talked about the half-dozen or so major deals and free-agent signings he helped engineer during the off-season, an unmistakable edge of emotion crept into Angelos' voice.

fTC "Obviously, I am going to want to see [Rafael] Palmeiro do real well," he said. "As well as [Chris] Sabo. And Lee Smith. The Smith move, that was a very crucial move."

Now, he was on to Gregg Olson, and the difficult decisions that led the injured reliever off to Atlanta.

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