Angelos refuses to gloat after 'victory'

April 03, 1995|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Orioles owner Peter Angelos could have strutted around yesterday and pointed out that everything that he predicted had come to pass. Baseball's labor dispute has been put on hold. The owners' hard-line bargaining strategy apparently has gone down in flames.

So, strangely enough, on a night when he could have declared victory in his internecine war with the rest of baseball ownership, he took a decidedly conciliatory tone -- much as acting commissioner Bud Selig did when he announced that major-league players would be welcomed back later this week.

"Everyone is delighted that Major League Baseball is with us again with major-league players," Angelos said. "The Orioles are absolutely delighted."

No bluster. No I-told-you-sos. Even though he seemed to be entitled.

It was Angelos who led the tiny ownership contingent that opposed ownership's plan to implement a salary cap, characterizing management's scorched-earth strategy as "mass economic suicide." The National Labor Relations Board eventually forced the owners to lift the implementation and a federal court Friday compelled them to restore the terms and conditions of the previous labor agreement.

Angelos also was one of the two owners who dissented in Thursday's 26-2 vote to approve the use of replacement players. The replacement strategy was abandoned two days later, when Selig announced the cancellation of last night's scheduled regular-season opener between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins and ownership's Player Relations Committee instructed clubs to disband their replacement rosters.

Fellow owners have been complaining for months about the maverick owner who just won't go along with the program, but yesterday's program was strikingly similar to the scenario that he asked them to consider before the strike began. The players are going to play the 1995 season under the old agreement and negotiations are going to continue.

The players and owners may work out a no-strike/no-lockout agreement, but the likelihood of a voluntary work stoppage by either side has been diminished by the tremendous financial damage that the strike has incurred. Damage that Angelos predicted long ago.

"That is not at all in my thinking right now," Angelos said. "We all have positions and sometimes we're right and sometimes we're wrong. Maybe this time I was right. Hopefully, the next time I won't be wrong."

The only question that remains is how Angelos will be treated by the rest of the owners when baseball gets back to business as usual. There have been indications that he will run into some roadblocks dealing with the other clubs -- as the Orioles did when they sought to reschedule a game with the Oakland Athletics to assure that Cal Ripken would have a potential chance to break Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record at home -- but he tried to cast his outsider image as exaggerated.

"Despite media reports to the contrary, I have a great relationship with the other owners," Angelos said with a laugh. "We may not agree all the time, but we have a great relationship.

"I think the important thing to think about right now is that Major League Baseball is back in its original form. What we all should do is work to see that this situation does not recur. There are still concerns about the financial state of the game, which is in disarray. There is no dispute about that."

The disbanding of replacement teams assured that Angelos will not be subject to disciplinary action from the American League for his refusal to go along with the strikebreaker strategy. AL president Gene Budig said yesterday that he was ready to announce a decision, but it became "moot" when the clubs announced that the major-league players would be allowed to return.

Angelos never seemed particularly concerned. He resisted the use of replacements both as a matter of principle and as a way to ensure that Ripken's playing streak would be preserved. That now is a foregone conclusion.

"Cal will obviously be playing the first scheduled game for the Orioles," Angelos said, "and if his physical condition is as I believe it to be and -- God forbid -- nothing happens to stop him, he'll break Lou Gehrig's record."

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