It's too early to judge Angelos, either pro or con

May 27, 1994|By John Steadman

Becoming enamored with owners of professional sports franchises is a precarious experience. Peter Angelos, who bought the Baltimore Orioles for a record $173 million, isn't ready for deification. Nor is he to be vilified. A reading on a team owner must await 18 months for a fair appraisal. That, in truth, is the extent of any ownership honeymoon.

Then you'll know whether to put him on a tentative list for future Hall of Fame consideration or make a novena that he steps aside and sells the team. The rule of thumb is to refrain from liking or disliking any owner too much at the outset. Be slow to make a judgment, or you may come to regret the assessment.

Rate them too highly, like with a prospect in uniform, and invariably you're going to be disappointed. Covering them with praise before they do anything substantial is dangerous and certainly premature. By all means, provide sufficient time for forming an opinion. Let the owner earn his way -- with the end result being endorsing or rejecting how he chooses to operate.

Angelos is new to baseball. It's a game he rarely followed as a child or adult. His interest in buying the Orioles was admirable. He was signifying a love for his adopted hometown of Baltimore. That was his motivation and reason to give him the kind of early reception befitting a hero. But under no circumstances is he to be considered an expert, the last word on player trades or how the manager manages.

By this time, 43 games into his rookie season, Angelos knows the difference between a turnip and a shortstop. One growing perception, although erroneous, is that Angelos believes he's "Peter The Great," that he knows all the answers and is puffed up with his own importance. An ogre about to break out of his shell? Wrong.

He honestly has too many exemplary human qualities to be subjected to that kind of criticism. He brings with him the potential to be a good owner of the Baltimore franchise, even a chance to be the best because, in truth, when compared with others of the past, he doesn't have much to beat.

What does it take, you ask, to be a good owner? It's such a simple question. High school geometry is much tougher. The rules of the road for being a responsible, respected owner, regardless of the game or the shape of the ball, is to stay out of the way, let the general manager make decisions, the manager manage and the players play.

There's nothing difficult about that. What does an owner do? The job description, in the successful owner's handbook, is so basic it's elementary. All they should do is come to the games, entertain relatives and friends, smile at the fans as they come through the gates and refrain from speaking critically about the front office or the operation on the field.

There has been an uncalled-for overreaction to Angelos since a Washington newspaper reported Johnny Oates' tenure as manager was in jeopardy. You can't rule out anything when dealing with a tenderfoot owner.

It's difficult, by any measure of sound reasoning, to believe Angelos is disenchanted with Oates. His performance so far is close to spectacular, considering the Orioles are in the early race for the divisional title and achieving this despite a run of bad luck with player injuries.

The season hadn't even reached Father's Day and talk was the skids were being greased for terminating Oates as manager.

What a pity that would be. Names of a possible successor were being mentioned, such as Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken Sr. and Cal Ripken Jr. -- yes, make him a playing manager. Angelos never circulated the reports, but the fact the speculation arose never should have happened. It erodes confidence in the minds of the players, gives them a disturbed outlook and undermines the manager, plus creating doubt with the public.

Now Angelos, regardless of how many times he denies Oates is on his way out, has been placed in the position of damaging his own property. Too bad. All an owner should be intent on doing is building confidence and loyalty in his organization. Managers, in the best of situations, have impossible jobs.

Angelos promised last winter he would not have a presence in the locker room or dugout. "Those areas should be for the privacy of the team," he explained -- and the players were ecstatic. It was hoped Angelos wouldn't interfere, become involved in something he knew so little about.

That's what makes a great owner, realizing the limits of his knowledge and background while allowing the athletes and the manager to perform.

The jury will remain out on Angelos . . . for 18 months. That's the appropriate timetable. By his deeds you'll know him.

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