As season dawns, some fans hope for Angelos to sell the Orioles

If owner Peter Angelos were to cut ties with the team, this is how he could go about it

(Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore…)
March 31, 2012|By Chris Korman, The Baltimore Sun

Scott Evans remembers the soft glow of the small television set, and the way his stepfather tried to calm him and his sister for the benefit of the neighbors in the apartment below.

But who, on this night, was not celebrating?

It was 1983 and the Baltimore Orioles had won the World Series.

Evans, now 34 and a plumber living in Essex, has "always been an Orioles fan."

"I cried the day Cal Ripken retired," he said. "I remember the smell of Memorial Stadium."

But two years ago, Evans grew so frustrated with his favorite team that he logged onto Facebook to start a group he called "O's fans Peter Angelos has to GO."

The Orioles will begin a new season Friday, taking the field at Camden Yards to inaugurate what would become — barring some diversion from a streak that has persisted throughout the 21st century — a 15th straight losing season. On Baltimore's annual baseball holiday, where dreams of pennants and World Series glory once sprung eternal, Evans finds hope in his dream that perhaps someone else will someday own the city's baseball team.

And he is not alone. More than 1,300 people "like" his page for disgruntled fans, and the chatter there centers mostly on finding a way to effect sea change rather than the tweaks needed to the bottom of the lineup. The complaints aired on his board, meanwhile, are echoed at sites across the Internet and in office break rooms and bars throughout the city.

The Orioles, in a statement, said the team is not for sale. Attempts to reach Angelos, through both his law firm and the ballclub, were unsuccessful. Neither of his sons could be reached. John, an executive with the Orioles, and Louis, a lawyer at his father's firm, could inherit the team.

Those who know Angelos and industry observers say there is no indication that the 82-year-old lawyer, who made much of his fortune representing workers exposed to asbestos, has any desire to sell the team. Exploring a sale during the offseason would have been folly, anyway, because one marquee franchise — the Los Angeles Dodgers — was for sale and another — the New York Mets — was in limbo because of financial problems.

A group led by Magic Johnson purchased the Dodgers last week for a record $2.15 billion. The Mets' ownership group agreed in March to a $162 million payment to victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme — an original lawsuit called for payment of $1 billion — and also sold $240 million worth of shares in the team, leaving the organization stable for the foreseeable future.

So with the market potentially reset, Angelos and his fellow owners could be re-evaluating whether to sell. Jim Duquette, who once served as the Orioles' vice president for baseball operations, believes a trickle-down from the sale will be felt.

"To see a team go for that much, that just increases the value of every other team," he said. "Guys who might not have thought of trying to sell will at least give it a look now. Everything is for sale for the right price."

Duquette finds Angelos' inclusion on an owners committee that vetted potential buyers for the Dodgers interesting.

"He knows the process now, and he knows what kinds of potential buyers are out there," said Duquette, who co-hosts a radio show on MLB Network Radio. "Do I know his inclusion wasn't coincidental? I don't. But very few things Peter Angelos does are not by design."

What would happen if Angelos changed his mind?

How a sale would work

Angelos long ago built a reputation for doing things his way.

So Sal Galatioto, a sports banker who has worked with dozens of professional teams and recently brokered the sale of baseball's Chicago Cubs and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, wouldn't be surprised if Angelos tried to orchestrate the deal himself.

"But if he's smart," Galatioto said, "he'd call me. Or one of my competitors."

Galatioto, founder of the New York firm Galatioto Sports Partners, said he has been approached by several buyers who would be interested in the Orioles if they were for sale.

"One call from Peter, and we'd go right to our Rolodex and pull out people we know would like to buy the team," he said. "These are people with the desire, and the money, to write a check right away."

While the Dodgers' sale will have an impact on the market for pro franchises, the sale price has been characterized by many economists as an outlier (most expected the team to sell for about half of what it fetched). Smith College professor of economics Andrew Zimbalist called it "extraordinary and surprising." Mark Rosentraub, a University of Michigan sports management professor, told ESPN it was "the craziest deal ever; it makes no sense."

But in the buying and selling of pro sports teams, the supply doesn't meet demand. Angelos bought the Orioles in 1993 for $173 million — $70 milliion more than had ever been paid for a baseball team.

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