Angelos' baseball instincts once again are off base

December 06, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Sometimes, the Orioles just crack me up. Peter Angelos is believed to have quashed a proposed trade that would have sent Brian Roberts and Hayden Penn to the Atlanta Braves for young slugger Adam LaRoche and infielder Marcus Giles, apparently because Roberts is one of the owner's favorite players.

I can't wait to feel the love a year from now when Angelos puts the Roberts contract negotiations into the deep freeze.

Do I really need to tell anybody that this is an organization teetering on a foundation of mixed messages and cloudy priorities? Probably not, but there was plenty more evidence yesterday between the abortive trade talks with the Braves and another telling story that appeared on the front page of The Sun.

The Orioles are back at odds with the Maryland Stadium Authority over the installation of a new video scoreboard at Oriole Park, and the team might go to arbitration to prevent the authority from purchasing the Mitsubishi DiamondVision screen without club approval.

That might seem reasonable enough, considering the Orioles' stadium lease calls for the team to be consulted on such matters, except that there were three Orioles officials on the committee that unanimously approved the selection.

Don't laugh, because this isn't funny anymore. This is the way Angelos has been doing business for most of the past decade, and he is probably the only person inside or outside his organization who doesn't realize how much his disjointed management style has hurt the team, the fans and every merchant who is trying to make a living in the area around the stadium.

It's not funny anymore, because the sharp drop in attendance is costing more than just some stubborn baseball mogul a few million bucks a year. It's also putting a dent in this city's self-esteem and it's costing jobs for people whose work is connected to the Orioles - which should matter to a guy who likes to cast himself as a champion of the blue-collar crowd.

But Angelos hasn't learned one thing from the collapse of his once-storied franchise. He still cares more about showing who's boss than showing the fans that he actually cares about giving them a decent product. The stadium authority dispute is a perfect example of how he delegates authority and then strips that authority away at the last minute to reinforce his alpha status in the organization.

The result is a franchise that has little credibility at home or around the major leagues, because everyone who does business with the Orioles on just about any level knows that there is only one person who can finalize a deal - and that person is not above withholding a decision on a time-sensitive transaction just because he can.

Reasonable people can disagree upon whether the Orioles should have dealt Roberts and Penn to the Braves, but the guy with the veto power needs to look in the mirror and realize that his team is in tatters and his track record making personnel decisions the past 10 years argues strongly in favor of doing exactly the opposite of what his baseball instincts are telling him right now.

I think it was Albert Einstein who said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," though it wouldn't surprise me if there are a lot of people around the warehouse who mutter the same thing in their sleep. No one is questioning the owner's mental health, of course, but he clearly is not a man for self-reflection.

It's sad, but the organization is in such a state of self-doubt that I wouldn't be surprised if part of the reason for passing up the LaRoche deal is the fact that the Braves are willing to make it. They have been so successful - both on the field and in the player personnel realm - that it would be easy to start playing mind games with yourself and conclude that any player they want is a player you don't want to give up.

There may be a molecule of logic in there, but the Orioles cannot get where they want to go by signing middle relievers and praying for the simultaneous maturation of all their young pitchers. At some point, you've got to have the courage to do something dynamic to get the club in position to compete in the American League East.

Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette obviously realize that, because they have worked tirelessly to fix the bullpen and create a promising opportunity to acquire the kind of young hitter who might be the key to a long-awaited Orioles renaissance.

They know what they need to do.

They just need permission.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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