A week after publicly questioning the team's direction and its offensive approach, Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis met with principal owner Peter Angelos Thursday afternoon to air those concerns.
The meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half at a Little Italy restaurant, was requested by Markakis, who during his eight years in the organization hadn't had an extensive conversation with the owner.
"I wanted to give him my input and tell him the things I thought we lacked and needed, and what we needed to change," said Markakis, 26, the team's highest-paid player and the second-longest-tenured member of the club behind injured second baseman Brian Roberts.
"He was completely open to anything. He was listening, and he was a lot easier to talk to than I anticipated. You know me, sometimes you'll have a better conversation with the wall than talking to me. But it went a lot better and it was a lot smoother than I thought it was going to go. If I can strike up a conversation and talk to a guy like him who owns the team, I think it is a good situation."
It is believed that Angelos had not met with a player since May 2006, when he discussed a contract extension with then-third baseman Melvin Mora.
Angelos did meet several of the team's current players last season when he stopped by the clubhouse before the Orioles' Opening Day game against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards.
Angelos didn't want to get into the particulars of the conversation, but he said he appreciated that Markakis took the initiative and he enjoyed listening to some of the outfielder's ideas.
"He's an exceptional young man, first-rate all the way," Angelos said. "Baltimore is lucky to have him and his fine young family."
Markakis, whose wife, Christina, gave birth to the couple's second child late last month, said he also wanted to send the message to Angelos that he was committed to the city and the club and serious about becoming a team leader.
"I love it here. This is the team that drafted me; this is the team that has given me a lot of opportunities in life. I've been here through the tough times, and I'm not going anywhere," Markakis said. "We're going to fight through this, and I want to be part of it. Once we turn things around and end this losing, this will be a great baseball city again. We have great fans. When you put it all together and start winning, this is one of the best places in baseball to play. It's just tough right now. We're going through the tough times, and I definitely want to be here for the good times."
Markakis, who signed a six-year, $66.1million deal with the club in January 2009, said he told Angelos that the younger players on the club need to be supported by more productive veterans.
"I want to see this organization going the right way," said Markakis, who is hitting .300 with three homers and 23 RBIs this season. "As players and as an organization, I think we owe it to fans and the people that are here to make that next step to show that we are willing and we do want to compete. We know we're in the toughest division in baseball; we know what we are up against. Right now, our backs are against the wall. All our top prospects in the minor leagues are here. I think it's unfair to put them in that situation where they feel like they have to go out there and do too much, and I think it's showing for them, myself and the rest of the guys. We need to address that and go from there."
Angelos has declined to comment publicly on the state of the team, which entered Thursday with a major league-worst 19-52 record and is on pace to challenge the 1962 New York Mets club that dropped 120 games for the most losses all time.
However, according to sources, Angelos was concerned after he saw Markakis' comments in a Baltimore Sun article last week that included the outfielder saying: "At this point, yeah, where are we going? I know we have a lot of injured guys, we're in the toughest division in baseball and we're a last-place team. But at this point, it's mind-boggling." Some in the organization took it almost as a cry for help from a player who rarely shows emotion.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail knew that Markakis and Angelos had met and called it a "good thing."
MacPhail met with Roberts and Markakis while the team was in St. Petersburg, Fla., to play the Tampa Bay Rays in the final road series of the 2009 season.
"Frankly, I wish Peter spent more time around the team," MacPhail said. "I think it's a good idea. I know Peter likes Nick, and I'm sure he was moved by his comments last week."
Markakis, who has been urged by teammates to take more of a leadership role, said his critical comments last week and Thursday's meeting were necessary steps.
"I thought it was the right time," Markakis said. "I thought it was needed. I wanted him to know where we stand and what's going on. The impression that I got was he was willing to listen and he's open to comments and suggestions. He's a lot smarter guy, baseballwise, than most people think. He wants to do well. He wants to win. I think he knows what it takes, and hopefully we can get that done."
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