Strong opinions leaving Angelos on his own among team owners

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

An article yesterday incorrectly quoted Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos as saying that his "fellow owners" should be reminded to respect truth and advocate reason. Mr. Angelos actually said "fellow owner" and was referring to Philadelphia Phillies president Bill Giles.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Peek into a ballroom at the next meeting of major-league baseball owners. Scan the crowd of millionaire bankers, cable television executives and pizza-delivery moguls in their wingtips and tailored suits. Then look for Peter G. Angelos, Baltimore lawyer and Orioles owner.

He's the one other owners are working feverishly to avoid.

It's true that Mr. Angelos joined the exclusive fraternity of baseball owners less than a year ago, hardly time enough to have forged close ties with the investors who run the other 27 major-league teams. But the isolation that shrouds him these days has less to do with his tenure than with something else about Mr. Angelos:

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

He makes trouble for the owners and, worse, makes it publicly.

"I didn't sign on to be silent, to be acquiescent," Mr. Angelos said. "I am no schoolboy, and I'm not a Boy Scout who just joined the troop. If I have something to say, I'll say it."

Much of the hard feelings result from Mr. Angelos' frequent sniping at management's handling of negotiations with striking players.

"I don't mind people voicing opinions, but I don't think the things he has said have been helpful," said Philadelphia Phillies President Bill Giles, who complains that Mr. Angelos' comments give the false impression that the owners are ready to retreat from their hard-line bargaining position.

Can the owners rein in Mr. Angelos?

Mr. Giles doesn't seem concerned.

"We've had these problems before with different people," he said. "You just live with it. You don't put them on [influential] committees."

Many of the owners' decisions are shaped by baseball's Player Relations Committee and Executive Council, powerful groups from which Mr. Angelos has been excluded.

Mr. Angelos rejects suggestions that he has picked a lousy time -- in the midst of collective bargaining -- to become the owners' answer to the Lone Ranger. And he does this with more than a hint of irritation.

"When is the appropriate time to speak one's mind?" he said, his deep voice rising so loudly that a man at an adjoining booth at a local restaurant turns to see what the commotion is about.

"At the three [owners] meetings they have a year? When they get their little PRC together and their little Executive Council together, to the exclusion of the Lone Ranger and Tonto and all the rest of the Indians? Who are they kidding? You mean when I bought this ballclub for the purpose of having Maryland ownership that I signed on to some organization in which what I have to say is to be heard one year from now?"

A loose cannon

Without a doubt, Mr. Angelos has been viewed as management's loose cannon during these negotiations.

In August, shortly before the strike began, Mr. Angelos was sharply critical of the owners' tactical move to withhold a $7.8 million payment to the players' pension plan. (Mr. Angelos warned that the action "sets the stage for further recriminations.")

Last month, Mr. Angelos was one of two owners -- with the Cincinnati Reds' Marge Schott -- who refused to sign a management declaration announcing the cancellation of the World Series. He took issue with a section that blamed the players for refusing to negotiate in good faith.

And on Sept. 24, Mr. Angelos took what might have been the most defiant step of all, meeting privately with players union chief Donald Fehr in Baltimore. Mr. Angelos arranged the meeting without notifying management negotiators, including Acting Commissioner Bud Selig.

How did Mr. Angelos get into this position?

It probably was inevitable, given Mr. Angelos' take-charge personality and his deep reservations about management's negotiating team, led by Mr. Selig and negotiator Richard Ravitch.

Mr. Angelos, a veteran labor lawyer, says he likes both men, while making clear that he believes the owners' strategists are misguided.

Of Mr. Selig, for example, the Orioles owner said: "He is a very successful automobile dealer. What makes him think he has the abilities to do what he is attempting to do here is beyond my comprehension."

Mr. Angelos began to part company with baseball's negotiators at an owners meeting -- one of the first he attended. Mr. Ravitch was making a presentation to the group that showed mounting losses for baseball owners during the 1994 and 1995 seasons. As Mr. Angelos recalls, it was a "most impressive presentation" that had him thoroughly convinced that the owners were right to be pursuing a hard line in their talks with the players.

When Mr. Ravitch finished, Mr. Angelos asked whether the same speech might be made to the players' representatives, too.

As Mr. Angelos recalls, Mr. Ravitch replied: "We can't do that."

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