"I guarantee you if a new group buys it, and that group includes Cal Ripken, Camden Yards sells out for the next three months," he said. "Same players, same team. Nothing's changed, but the fans would care again."
Tony Pente said the fans he speaks to — his site, orioleshangout.com, gets 50,000 unique visitors per month — have never been so demoralized.
"There's no sympathy for Peter Angelos anymore," he said. "There's no one giving him any benefit of the doubt. And that hasn't always been the case. Most people remember how they felt when he bought the team."
Attendance numbers reflect, at the very least, an ambivalence toward the team. The Orioles led baseball in attendance for four consecutive years starting in 1995, peaking at 3,711,132 in 1997, the last time the team made the playoffs or had a winning record. Last year, 1,755,461 fans entered Oriole Park. That ranked 26th in baseball, according to ESPN; the Orioles' average of just under 22,000 per game meant they filled just 48.6 percent of the stadium. Only the Toronto Blue Jays used a smaller percentage of seats.
Ed Kapinos, a 34-year-old from Rosedale, worries that his two sons, ages 2 and 2 months, won't ever understand why their father cares so much about the Orioles.
"What I did as a kid was go down to 33rd Street and watch the Orioles," he said. "But now, it just seems like we'd have more fun at a minor league game in Aberdeen. It's more of a family atmosphere, it's cheaper and you're not wondering whether the owner even cares about the fans or the product on the field."
Galatioto believes the Orioles have probably already lost a number of fans, in part because the Nationals have shown an inclination to spend money on players to complement the two most exciting prospects in baseball, pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper.
"You suck for 10 years, you've lost a generation," he said. "There's too much else for them to root for, to fall for in that time."
Barring a drastic turnaround under Dan Duquette — Jim's cousin, and the eighth man Angelos has employed in the task of rebuilding the Orioles — it seems that the story of Angelos, the kid from Highlandtown who made a fortune and rescued his hometown ballclub, will be forever smudged.
But maybe Angelos knew that would be the case.
Speaking of Eli Jacobs, the man he bought the team from, Angelos once said: "He made a lot of contributions to the Orioles, but, like in politics, you don't get much credit when you go out."
An audience with the owner
Try clapping your hands for 10 or 15 minutes straight. It's not, it turns out, a very comfortable feeling.
Try doing it as loudly as you can. Loudly enough so that you can hear clearly your own part in a stadium — no, a city — erupting in celebration of the quintessential Baltimorean.
But Terry Cook holds few experiences in his life as dear as the time his hands were left red and raw by the 20-minute standing ovation he and 46,271 other people gave Cal Ripken Jr. on Sept. 6, 1995.
"One of the best days of my life," he said. "The sort of feeling you're not sure you'd have."
Cook, 34, grew up in the Baltimore area, attending Loch Raven High School and Towson University. He still has a replica of the Orioles' 1983 World Series ring, given away to fans entering a game the next season. It can be found nestled within his gobs of Orioles paraphernalia. The account manager for a staffing company wears a necklace with an Orioles symbol hanging from the middle.
He was, for many years, a holdout among his friends. Trust Peter Angelos, he'd tell them. Cook easily recites the reasons the Orioles have struggled — revenue disparity compared with big-city teams, bad luck in the amateur player draft and free agency, the rise of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees — and has catalogued the various ways in which Angelos and his front-office people have tried to resurrect the franchise.
Cook's resolve broke when Tony LaCava, one of the top young executives in baseball, opted to keep his job as an assistant in Toronto rather than become the boss in Baltimore.
"Here's a guy with a dream job, and there are only 30 people that can give you that dream job," Cook said. "And he says, 'Nah.' That tells you what baseball people think about this job, this situation, working for Angelos."
The Orioles hired Dan Duquette, who had been out of major league baseball since being fired by the Red Sox in 2002. Any faith Cook had in Duquette — who had been touted for his international contacts and ability to mine talent from far-off places — dissolved when the Orioles botched the signing of South Korean high school pitcher Kim Seong-Min.