Owner: D.C. is lose-lose situation

Two teams in region would hurt each other, Orioles' Angelos says

March 21, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Orioles owner Peter Angelos finds himself in an awkward position these days as the man most opposed to the idea of baseball moving a team to the nation's capital.

When commissioner Bud Selig called the Washington area a prime candidate for relocation, Angelos didn't address the issue for two months.

But Angelos finally broke his silence yesterday, in part of a wide-ranging telephone interview with The Sun, saying he opposes such a move because it would hurt the Orioles - and the Washington-area team, too.

"Two teams," Angelos said, "within the present territory in which the Orioles' fan base lies, would guarantee that you'd probably have two also-rans or two non-competitive teams beginning each season with very little hope of progressing to the playoffs. And certainly, a far lesser chance of either getting into a World Series."

The Orioles have cited an independent study that shows 25 percent of their fan base comes from the Washington area. Factoring in potential losses in TV revenue, Angelos said his franchise would take a 30 percent hit if another team moved into the region.

A major-league team hasn't relocated since the Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season. But in late January, Selig said relocation was an option "in the near future." The Montreal Expos are considered the leading candidates to move, if they aren't contracted instead.

"Would anyone put another baseball club 30 to 35 miles away from the St. Louis Cardinals?" Angelos said. "Would anyone locate another baseball franchise 30 to 35 miles away from the Boston Red Sox? And we can take that right across the country.

"It would have a very negative effect on the franchise already in place in any of those locations - a very detrimental effect."

Selig, through his spokesman, Rich Levin, declined to comment. In January, Selig sent a message to the Orioles by saying he was "very protective of all existing franchises," and Levin said the commissioner's position is unchanged.

Though Angelos hadn't previously addressed Selig's comments, Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss has been expressing the Orioles' opposition to the idea since January.

"We're placed in the very uncomfortable and peculiar position that we don't want a team in D.C., which is the nation's capital," Angelos said from his law offices in Baltimore. "Certainly none of us have negative feelings toward our nation's capital, or its inhabitants.

"The simple economics of baseball say that to put two major-league franchises so close together would detract from each other very substantially and make both of them incapable of generating the revenues necessary to provide competitive teams for their fans."

The Orioles have had four consecutive losing seasons, but Angelos said he expects this year's team to finish at least .500.

The Opening Day payroll will be about $41 million, but Angelos reiterated his plans to increase spending once the current crop of young players matures.

"As long as the Orioles remain a regional team within the territory that is presently our fan base, we will be a competitive team," Angelos said. "And in another year, or hopefully not much longer than that, we'll be right in the thick of the competition every season."

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