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The Orioles are in first place in the AL East, which is its usual highly competitive self. They didn’t add like they could have over the offseason, they didn’t go big at the trade deadline in any way, and yet, they’re still in first. The season isn’t over, the roster still might not be as good as it needs to be to make a deep postseason run — which some trade deadline activity that went beyond “we tried” would have helped improve the odds of — but overall, things are looking good in Baltimore.
Except for when it comes to Orioles’ executive John Angelos, the son of owner Peter Angelos who also happens to be in control of both the team and the television network it broadcasts on, MASN. For one, it’s his lack of desire to spend that created a situation in which you could see exactly how the Orioles could have improved further, but did not. And that same lack of desire could very well mean this current run will only last as long as the pre-free agency contracts of their young players like Adley Rutschman. That stuff is more hypothetical, of course, and if the Orioles do manage to win the World Series before that happens, at the least, they managed to rebuild the roster in a way that reset the “years without a championship” counter. Which is no small thing, and not just because it limits some arguments against their behaviors and choices to “well, they could have been even more successful than they were.”
No, more tangible and more happening right this second are Angelos’ other business dealings. Like the lease for their ballpark that expires in five months, and hasn’t been renewed yet because of Angelos, even though it will guarantee the Orioles $600 million with which to renovate the stadium. As Ken Rosenthal explains, the holdup is that Angelos wants to turn the area around the ballpark into a complex like the one the Braves have around Truist Park: businesses and buildings owned by the team, which will generate additional revenue just like they do for the Braves.
As Rosenthal also points out, the land that allowed for the Braves to do that doesn’t even exist around the Orioles’ home, but that isn’t stopping Angelos from wanting it. Denying reality for the vision he wants is kind of Angelos’ deal, though: consider that he’s responsible for suspending play-by-play announcer Kevin Brown, because Brown cites “negative” statistics during O’s broadcasts. Statistics that are included in graphics shown on screen! Former O’s beat writer Dan Connolly wrote all about Angelos’ odd proclivity when it comes to bringing up the past in a negative light for Sportsnaut:
So, when Brown discussed how poor the Orioles had played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., in past years – statistics provided in the daily media notes and used by Brown to add context to the importance of winning that series against the division rival Tampa Bay Rays – it wasn’t the first time Brown had used negative historical data. According to one source, Angelos believed dwelling on the past and not concentrating on the future reflected poorly upon Angelos’ regime.
Want examples? For several years, Orioles broadcasters at times were told not to mention names of former club greats who had left the team. They were not allowed to discuss Manny Machado, Buck Showalter, Brady Anderson or Adam Jones, among others. The point was to keep focus on the present club.
According to multiple sources, ownership was so adamant about that policy that in 2020 MASN broadcasters were told not to mention how the team acquired starting pitchers Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann, since they were returns in the 2018 fire sale that signaled the Orioles full rebuild. MASN didn’t want to call additional attention to the fact they had traded Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kevin Gausman and others to the Atlanta Braves. Just have the fans think that they parachuted down to the Camden Yards mound.
I joked the other day after the Brown suspension was revealed that Angelos was entering “his Vince McMahon era” with this suspension — the longtime WWE chairman and executive is notorious for… well, a lot of things, but I’m going to keep it related to the topic at hand… interfering with every aspect of the operation on every level, and having real weird hangups about what commentary is saying. Finding out that Angelos had a banned names list and that certain words or phrases or eras aren’t allowed to be discussed turns what I said from a joke into an actual reflection of McMahon policies. This is not a comparison you ever want to have, for a number of reasons.
What the Orioles are doing now isn’t all that impressive without the additional context of what they did before. They’re in first place, which is something, sure, but someone is always in first place. The AL Central has a first place team every season, whether they deserve to or not. No, the Orioles being in first place in 2023, in August, matters because of where they were in August in 2021, and 2020, and back a few years more. Their current standing matters because Manny Machado was traded all the way back in 2018, during a rock bottom season in which the O’s finished 61 games back of the Red Sox. What the Orioles are doing now matters because they haven’t won the World Series since 1983 — that’s 40 years ago, in Cal Ripken Jr.’s second full campaign, when he was all of 22 years old and his playing in all 162 games meant nothing more than that.
This context adds to the story, just like the Yankees’ season doesn’t seem that bad on the surface unless you’re aware that everyone who doesn’t work for the team could see it coming as clearly as they could see the solutions to avoid it. Leaving out the Orioles’ past, recent or otherwise, isn’t just an attempt to control the narrative around the team, it’s also making that narrative weaker. And it’s not as if the only way Orioles fans can learn about the team is through MASN broadcasts, either, so this is nothing more than Angelos’ own vain, weird desire to own everything Orioles.
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