Angelos silences the voice of the Orioles

November 04, 1996|By Mike Littwin

PETER ANGELOS has fired Jon Miller.

There, I've written it. I still don't believe it. I might as well have written that the Bulls fired Jordan, the Stones fired Jagger, the Vatican dumped the pope. Just so you know, this is the territory Angelos has entered.

Sure, I knew Angelos was not simply the boss from hell or some Steinbrenner-

wannabe who lives only to trample on the lives of his employees. He's always had greater aspirations than to be a character out of a "Dilbert" cartoon.

This is a man -- no, more than a man, a megalomaniac who, like Napoleon, would crown himself if he could find a crown to fit his inflated head -- who is a danger to the community.

He fired Jon Miller, the best announcer in baseball and a local treasure, because, well, he could. And for no better reason than that.

In baseball, they like to say that nobody's bigger than the game. These folks never met Peter "Redwood" Angelos, who thinks he is the game.

And what's so funny -- not that anyone is laughing -- is the only thing Angelos, the self-styled supreme commander, knows about baseball is that he owns a baseball team. Apparently, that's enough.

Once upon a time, that wasn't so bad. If Angelos wanted to second-guess a general manager or humiliate a shortstop, that was between him and his conscience.

But now it's gotten personal. Now, he's gotten in our faces. Now, he's robbed us of the best three hours you can spend with a baseball game. Now, he's made summer into just another season.

As an announcer, Jon Miller is funny, smart, insightful and just damn entertaining. He knows the game. He loves the game. And he brings a rare excitement to a sport that, let's face it, ain't exactly MTV-friendly.

When you turned down the TV to listen to Miller on WBAL-AM, it wasn't an insult to the TV announcers. It was a tribute to Miller. He's that good. He is to announcing what Brooks Robinson was to third base. (Note to Angelos: Brooksie used to play a pretty mean third sack.)

None of that matters to Angelos, who has his own ideas about announcing, and about everything else.

You see, Angelos didn't like Miller because, in Angelos' own words, he didn't "bleed black and orange." In other words, he didn't like that Miller spoke candidly about the game as it played out before him. For example, when Todd Zeile pump-faked the Orioles out of the playoffs, Miller didn't say, "What a nice try, Toddsie."

The Orioles have tried to make it seem that the issue was money, and that Miller wanted too much of it. The issue was not money, but hubris. The issue was all Angelos, who, by the way, as a second-

guesser, makes Miller look like Billy Graham.

It didn't take a genius to predict something like this would happen. The first thing Angelos did when he bought the team was to look into adding seats to Camden Yards. Yeah, change Camden Yards. If Angelos had bought the Venus de Milo, he'd want to add arms.

He thinks he knows better. He always knows better.

He knows how to manage better than his manager, run the team better than his general manager, announce better than the announcer.

This past summer he made himself a local hero when he overruled a few trades late in the season. Never mind that he was running the team as if he were a sports-radio host, Angelos came off as the people's owner.

The truth is a little more complex. The Orioles are a team in need of young talent. The farm system is a wasteland. These are danger signals. The Orioles are a few bad decisions away from mediocrity and with a bloated payroll that can't be fixed.

That's what happened to the Yankees until they caught a break when Steinbrenner was suspended a few years back. That's when the team started to rebuild.

Can't somebody suspend Angelos?

If the man had a whit of intelligence -- and I'm willing to concede he might have one whit, no more -- he would go to Miller and beg his forgiveness.

He'd say: You know me, all mouth and no brain. I didn't mean it. Come back. Please.

OK, I was just kidding. Angelos would no more admit he was wrong than Dole would vote for Clinton.

This is how Angelos sees his role: He wants to be the last one standing. Someone ought to remind him that one should be careful what one wishes for.

Pub Date: 11/04/96

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