Angelos' tough talk could hurt Orioles

March 02, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

No one likes a loudmouth.

That sort of sums it up, doesn't it? Nearly everyone in baseball thinks Peter Angelos is out of line, not necessarily because of what he's saying, but the way he's saying it.

Loudly.

Frequently.

Obnoxiously.

Maybe you missed the latest installment of Proclamations by Peter, as related by Pat Jordan in the Los Angeles Times Magazine last Sunday.

Angelos on acting commissioner Bud Selig:

"Selig's methods to resolve baseball's problems are, how should I put it? Amateurish, ineffective and doomed to failure. Watching him is like watching a person put his hand in a buzz saw. You want to shout, 'You're splattering blood all over the rest of us!' "

On replacement players:

"This is Selig's delusion, ill-conceived, ill-advised, bizarre, ludicrous, unconscionable."

And on his fellow owners:

"They're going to retaliate against me, those --------."

Who can argue with such logic?

The barbarians are at the gate.

One way or another, the owners are going to get Angelos. Maybe by putting a team in Northern Virginia. Maybe by refusing to play the Orioles in spring training. Maybe in some way they haven't figured out yet.

Angelos doesn't care. He never cares. But how smart will he look five years from now, if his renegade stance imperils the franchise he professes to care so much about?

Five years from now, heck, it could happen in five weeks, if the strike is settled and the Orioles get off to a slow start when they start playing real opponents instead of each other.

What's Angelos going to do, fire Phil Regan?

All right, it probably won't come to that -- the Baseball Operations committee yesterday canceled the Orioles' exhibitions only through March 13, reducing the chances of the major-leaguers playing only intrasquad games if a settlement occurs.

But Northern Virginia? That's an increasingly strong possibility. And if Angelos isn't concerned by the prospect of a National League team within 60 miles of Camden Yards, he's ignoring the reason his team was worth $173 million in the first place.

It wasn't simply the ballpark -- it was the sold-out ballpark. Washington D.C.-area fans account for 25 percent of the Orioles' attendance. Without them, the Orioles would be in danger of becoming the Milwaukee Brewers.

The owners wouldn't put a team in Northern Virginia simply to harm Angelos -- they've got other, equally cynical motives. The point is, they never considered such a thing when Larry Lucchino was running the Orioles. Lucchino was an insider. Lucchino was respected. Lucchino played the game.

Angelos?

He's Charlie Finley revisited.

An owner with insight, but no audience.

Clearly, he's on the right side of the replacement issue, but the question is one of style, not substance. You don't become part of an entity -- an entity of 28 filthy rich egomaniacs -- then make up your own rules.

Such an act might work in a neighborhood like Highlandtown, or even a city like Baltimore, but it doesn't work at this level, not with these sharks.

The owners see right through Angelos, and so do the GMs. Angelos is no different than the rest of them -- he's acting out of self-interest. It's just that on the subject of replacement players, his self-interest runs contrary to everyone else's, and matches the fans'.

All over Florida and Arizona, baseball people are asking the same question: Who is Angelos to anoint himself Lord Protector of the National Pastime? Others care just as much about the game -- and approach it with a far deeper understanding.

This labor dispute is rooted in 25 years of history. Not every owner is in love with the idea of replacement players. But nearly all of them agree this is the time to make a stand. For a change, with the exception of Angelos, they're keeping their differences to themselves.

Angelos?

Oh, the Maryland Senate is behind him.

The owners won't listen to Congress or the president, but they'll listen to the Maryland Senate.

Maybe Angelos had no choice but to go public with his dissent, but surely he could have shown more political savvy. He could have given up the fight, and still been a hero. In short, he could have saved his hide.

Now, there's no turning back -- and not just because of the strike. Angelos flirted with tampering when he courted Tony La Russa and Tommy Lasorda last fall. It's no wonder he tried to buy the Tamper Bay Buccaneers -- not that he has any chance of getting into the NFL after all this.

The owners see through him. The GMs see through him. And the employees aren't carrying on a love affair with him, either. Since he bought the team in August 1993, about 52 of 90 front-office employees have resigned or been fired -- and this was one of the game's most successful franchises.

Heck, Angelos loses even the employees he likes. Four months ago, he gave assistant scouting director Fred Uhlman Jr. a two-year contract. Why, then, did he grant permission for Uhlman to interview with the San Diego Padres?

Uhlman, 27, was a rising executive; now, he's gone. One of these days, if he's smart, Frank Robinson will follow. Evidently, Roland Hemond is GM-for-life, not that the title matters, with Angelos calling all the shots.

And if the team collapses?

The fans will turn on Angelos as quickly as the owners.

No one likes a loudmouth.

And Peter Angelos keeps turning up the volume, when long ago he should have turned it down.

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