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It’s good to keep an eye on potential movements in MLB’s ownership class, since these are the people with the power to make things more tolerable, or, more likely, even worse for the members of the Players Association, or the minor-league players still in a state of nascent, non-union-for-now organizing. With that in mind, let’s check out what’s going on in Baltimore, where one Angelos brother is suing the other Angelos brother, and also their mother:
The two sons of longtime Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos are fighting over the future of the baseball team, their father’s law firm and the family fortune, according to an explosive new lawsuit.
Louis Angelos, 52, of Baltimore County, sued his brother and mother Thursday in Baltimore County Circuit Court. He claims his father intended for the two brothers to control the team equally, but that John, 54, of Nashville, has grabbed power.
“John intends to maintain absolute control over the Orioles — to manage, to sell, or, if he chooses, to move to Tennessee (where he has a home and where his wife’s career is headquartered) — without having to answer to anyone,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit says a top priority of Angelos’ wife Georgia, 80, has been to sell the team, and an advisor went about trying to negotiate a sale in 2020. Louis Angelos says John Angelos nixed the deal. It also claims that John Angelos forced out former star centerfielder and Orioles Hall of Famer Brady Anderson from his front office role, because he “presented a threat.”
“John unilaterally and without consultation ordered General Manager Michael Elias to fire Anderson,” the lawsuit says.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges John “fired long-time employees who would not play ball and surrounded himself with yes-men.”
It’s worth reading the whole story to see just what the fight is over in a more detailed fashion, but for our purposes, there are two major considerations. One: what would moving the team do with the $600 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies for updating Camden Yards, and two, what would the impact of a new owner be?
Luckily, on [extremely Pete Loeffler voice] point number one, Neil deMause has already done his thing and written up said subsidy. In short, there is no agreement yet, not an official one, so the Orioles are, in fact, free to flee to Tennessee if that’s what John Angelos wants to do. He’s saying he doesn’t want to do that, though, as deMause points out, he tied that desire to stay to the still-being-negotiated renovation subsidy, so, you know. There’s still time to make a bunch of people deeply unhappy! Which I guess will happen either way, considering we are talking about a $600 million subsidy being the bright side for Baltimore’s taxpayers, and really, since the NFL’s Ravens are set to receive a similar package, this is $1.2 billion in taxpayer money for renovations. As usual, maybe Congress should move a little bit faster.
As for the potential impact of new ownership, should John Angelos sell the club off in the same way he’s reportedly planning to dismantle his father’s law firm — if you read the reported story on this suit and come away with the idea that John, who failed to pass the bar and wasn’t first pick to run the baseball team, maybe needs to talk to a professional about what is pretty clearly disdain for his successful dad and the decisions he made in life, then I imagine you are reading it correctly — well, things could get worse, sure. But how, exactly? The current O’s regime hired Mike Elias to spend basically as little as possible while the farm system is refilled, which means we’re all looking at their 26-35 record so far in 2022 and going, “wow, they’re doing so much better than usual!”
The Orioles lost 115 games in 2018, another 108 in 2019, and 110 in 2021. That they might only lose 93 games this year is a big step forward, but they’re still wading through shit, you know? Coming into the year, their farm system ranked third according to Baseball Prospectus, so the prospects are there, but there isn’t quite enough there to turn things around solely through the farm, which means you need to trust that the braintrust will acquire the other pieces necessary to leverage that farm system’s growth into a successful big league club, and… well, there’s really no reason to trust that they can do that second part, not yet.
Maybe John Angelos will authorize the necessary spending to get to that point, and the Orioles truly are just an Astros rehash, but the thing that gets lost much of the time when discussing Houston flipping the switch from tanking embarrassment to wild success is that they didn’t just nail the player development portion of things, but also spent heavily on filling holes their prospects could not, and took financial risks in order to get themselves to the finish line. They built a deep pitching staff, then added Justin Verlander to it (and later, Zack Greinke and Gerrit Cole), they identified players like Charlie Morton were capable of being more than they had been to that point… a lot more went into that revitalization than “lose a lot, stockpile picks” and then hitting on those picks. So, the Orioles remain nowhere close, even if they’re closer than they’ve been in years.
Which is to say that you could get someone who is a potential future menace to be the owner, and things might still work out better than they currently have been for the Orioles. It’s not a foregone conclusion by any means, but it’s worth noting. Unlike with some recent ownership rumblings, though, like the ones that resulted in a regime change in Kansas City and for the Mets, there’s really nothing here in terms of potential buyers and their habits to pick up on. All we’ve got is the report that the Orioles have tried to sell in the recent past but had a deal nixed, and that they might still sell, or might move, but probably not. So, Orioles fans should hope Elias is capable of what his former bosses in Houston were, in terms of building out the rest of the roster, and also that whoever is owner, whether it’s John or Lou or John and Lou or someone else entirely, is willing to write the necessary checks.
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