Orioles owner Peter Angelos returned from the quarterly owners meeting in Phoenix a little poorer than he left, but he said again yesterday that he is in favor of a long-term revenue-sharing agreement that would enhance the top-to-bottom financial stability of Major League Baseball.
Angelos abstained from the vote on the new interim revenue-sharing plan that was approved Thursday, but said it was not because the new plan will cost the Orioles an additional $1.8 million in shared revenue this year. He said he refrained from voting and argued at the meeting that no action should be taken until owners determine how much the two cable superstations (WTBS and WGN) will pay into the revenue-sharing pool.
"I stated that the Orioles have supported revenue sharing all along, certainly since we took control of the club," Angelos said. "That support remains constant. The Orioles believe that large-market teams should assist their sister franchises to reach a level of financial stability, but I first insisted that the issue of what is owed and should be paid by the superstations be put to rest."
The superstations, which are affiliates of the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves, pay a fee to Major League Baseball for the right to televise games outside of their local markets. The owners decided two years ago to increase that fee, but still have not XTC determined the precise amount. When it is determined, the superstations will pay the difference retroactively into the revenue-sharing pool, which would decrease the burden on the large-market clubs.
"Once that's out of the way, the Orioles are affirmatively supportive of an interim financing proposal as well as a long-term plan to financially stabilize the game," Angelos said.
Regardless of the resolution of the superstation issue, Angelos said the amount the Orioles will pay this year in added revenue sharing will not inhibit their ability to upgrade the club during the regular season if that becomes necessary.
"The additional obligation would not deter us from doing what we need to do during the course of the season if we need an additional player or more in 1996," he said. "We intend to go the rest of the way."
The team already was committed to pay about $3 million into the revenue pool under the old revenue-sharing system, so the estimated $4.8 million figure for 1996 will not have a dramatic impact on the profitability of the franchise. The Orioles already are locked into a payroll of $47 million, so the club wasn't expected to reap the kind of profits that rolled in during the final years of Eli Jacobs' tenure as club owner, but the team's economic outlook remains bright.
"We don't project the real profits in '96," Angelos said, "but I think there is enough of a cushion to deal with any additional obligation."
Of course, that isn't the end of the equation. The two-year interim revenue-sharing agreement if approved by the players union would be phased in at only a 60 percent level this year, so the Orioles' obligation could be as much as $8 million in 1997, based on current revenues.
The Orioles would not be the biggest contributor under the new plan. The New York Yankees rate that distinction with a projected contribution of about $5.9 million in 1996 and nearly $10 million in 1997.
Those numbers would be reduced by the superstation contributions and could be further reduced by proceeds from a 2.5 percent payroll tax that has been proposed by ownership as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.
"This is not the final word on what the final revenue distribution is going to be," Angelos said. "It could cost the Orioles and the other big-market clubs more. Nobody likes to shed resources to other entities, but this is our national game and we need to do things that might be different than you'd normally want to do. The Orioles are prepared to do their share."
Pub Date: 3/23/96