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Peter Angelos remains a powerful paradox

At 81, the Orioles owner is busy adding to his complicated legacy

October 02, 2010|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

MacPhail says Angelos never had to assure him that he would not meddle, because the pair — familiar from serving together on panels dealing with leaguewide issues — had similar views on the division of responsibility between management and ownership. MacPhail says he can't speak to Angelos' past interactions with baseball executives but says he has always believed the owner should have final say on major trades, signings, hires and business moves such as the selection of a new spring training site. Management, he says, should deal with roster moves, scouting assignments and the other daily minutiae of running a club.

"We had an understanding, and he has more than lived up to it," says MacPhail who added that Angelos has generally been more hands-off than his previous bosses in Minnesota and Chicago.

After reviewing the club for three months at the end of the 2007 season, MacPhail told Angelos that a new approach was needed — greater investment in the farm system and patient cultivation of young talent, even in the face of poor on-field performance. Angelos agreed, he says, and has demonstrated no loss of faith in the approach.

When short-term buys, such as first baseman Garrett Atkins, have gone badly, MacPhail hasn't heard rebukes from Angelos. "He has never called me and said, 'Why the hell did you do that?'" he says.

"We are operating differently today," MacPhail says. "We took a turn. … He's given us a lot of room. Sometimes, we've had to explain that if we want to win, we need to step back a bit to get there. And he's kept to that as an article of faith with management."

Fans have expressed frustration that the MASN revenue has not led to bigger spending on players, but that's not entirely true, MacPhail says. The Orioles have invested heavily in the draft, made a $140 million offer to first baseman Mark Teixeira (who chose the Yankees instead) and picked up more players than planned in the offseason, he says. MacPhail adds that he, not Angelos, has been reluctant to spend big on free agents when the club's young talent is still congealing.

"All those things that I've thought were most important, he has been willing to spend on," MacPhail says. "We just needed to get the foundation together."

At $81.6 million, the Orioles ranked 17th in the league in payroll in 2010, about $80 million behind the Red Sox and $125 million behind the Yankees. It's a far cry from the late 1990s, when the club briefly held the all-time record for payroll. But MacPhail predicts that MASN will help the Orioles compete with Boston and New York for players when the time is right.

A busy year

Despite maintaining a low public profile, Angelos has been a key player this year in a number of dramas related to the Orioles.

He has supervised the club's day-to-day business dealings more closely than he has for most of his tenure as owner, filling a vacuum left when his son, John, took a step back from his work with the club. In recent years, John Angelos played a major role in launching MASN and overseeing the business operations of the team. He maintains his titles with the club and network but has been less involved with operations this year, according to sources familiar with the business. The sources could not say why John Angelos has been less involved, and he declined an interview request.

Peter Angelos has met weekly with Janet Marie Smith to discuss the $31 million rehabilitation of the spring training complex in Sarasota. He has opined on everything from the color of the stadium's stucco facade to the need for more elevators to accommodate Florida's elderly.

"I'm stunned by how much he does," says Smith, one of the key minds behind the design of Camden Yards who returned to the Orioles after eight years with the Red Sox. "He's always willing to hear the short story and the long story and nine times out of 10, he accepts my recommendations."

In April, with his team playing horribly, Angelos broke his usual silence to rebut a FoxSports.com report that he had decided not to hire Cal Ripken Jr. for a baseball position. Ripken subsequently said that he and Angelos meet and/or speak up to three times a week to discuss his possible role with the franchise.

"They have a good relationship," says Ripken spokesman John Maroon. "When the team is in a state of flux and they have dinner, it's natural for speculation to start flying. But when nothing happens, it doesn't mean it's because there's a problem."

When outfielder Nick Markakis expressed concern over the Orioles' direction in June, Angelos, who rarely interacts with players, invited him to lunch at Della Notte in Little Italy. Markakis came away impressed at Angelos' command of so many arenas. "He knows a lot more than what people think," the outfielder says. "He's a sharp tool. … He cares. He cares as much as we do."

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