Notes: John Angelos interview, stadium grifting

John Angelos speaking to the media is always a treat, because he’s oblivious, and some notes on things I’ve been up to, as well.

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John Angelos doesn’t do so well with the media. He lacks the savvy needed to actually convince people of his schemes, but he thinks he’s got things under control, so he feels like he’s in a position to speak relatively freely on things like the Orioles and their spending or not spending, how the ballpark lease situation with Baltimore and the state of Maryland is going, and so on. But he always just comes off looking delusional and overconfident, and like he isn’t aware that he’s giving away the game. His recent interview at the New York Times with Tyler Kepner is a wonderful example.

Over at Baseball Prospectus, Rob Mains already covered much of what was dishonest and/or just plain wrong from the interview. Angelos wasn’t just stretching economic theory with some of his responses, but seemingly coming up with an entirely different way of looking at economics — and not a correct way, either, just one he felt furthered his argument for the importance of the Orioles to Baltimore, i.e. the reason that he should be able to get what he wants from the city and state in order to receive $600 million earmarked for ballpark improvements. Angelos wants more than “just” over half-a-billion in public funds he doesn’t have to pay back so long as they’re used to improve Camden Yards: he also wants to build a mini real-estate empire around the ballpark, in land that is unavailable to him, that he also wants to receive for free. That way, the Orioles can, from his point of view, finally make the money they need in order to maybe retain some of their current exciting young core well into the future, or bring in the pieces that will help them compete more in the present.

The Orioles already make a profit, and said profit is only going to rise the more watchable and successful they are. The profit is at its highest point, though, if they can get by without investing any more money into the team than they have to in order to be competitive, so that’s the way they operate. This is why they’re so quiet in the offseason and at the trade deadline, why general manager Mike Elias is already becoming a master of the post-deadline “We tried” leak: not spending is the goal, and it’s not because there isn’t money to spend. It’s because Angelos would prefer not to, and now he’s coming out publicly to point out that it’s because the Orioles simply cannot compete with the big spenders. You know, like those financial juggernauts in massive media markets like San Diego. (Sure, the Padres aren’t having the best season, but an off year doesn’t mean their efforts are wasted or a mistake: those long-term deals have more years on ‘em, and so does this core.)

Anyway, it’s worth reading that interview, as while Kepner doesn’t go in too hard on Angelos, he instead allows him to speak at length in ways that should be self-evident to readers of this newsletter as damning. Maybe a general audience might not see all the problems in what Angelos is saying, but hey, that’s what pieces like Mains’ are there for, too.


As for my own take on the recent subsidized stadium discussions and threats to move around the league, I covered all of that for Baseball Prospectus myself, with an eye toward figuring out just what’s driving teams like the Orioles, Royals, Brewers, and White Sox to come out like they have of late, joining the A’s and Rays in this particular scuffle. I’ve got a few different ideas about why there’s this sudden influx of teams making demands for bigger and bigger pieces of the public’s pie, so I did some thinking out loud in article form, and am pretty sure about the conclusion I ended up at, too.

Not to give it away, because obviously I think you should read it, but we’re talking about exceptionally greedy individuals used to getting what they want, who are happy to strong-arm their way into it if necessary. And at a time when the landscape for things like broadcasting and even the shape of the league itself might be changing in the near future, too. John Angelos might be embarrassing, and Jerry Reinsdorf, well, we’re used to his deal by now. But there are going to be more and more owners coming out and demanding they get what they believe is theirs, what they believe is necessary (or at least are saying is necessary), especially as more of them find success attempting to hold cities, counties, states, whatever hostage in order to get more public funds and more public land. So that’s something to look forward to.


Something to actually instead of sarcastically look forward to is a project I’m spearheading along with No Cartridge’s Trevor Strunk. DOOM at 30: The Unauthorized and Unofficial Guide to Thirty Years of Ultra-Violence is a digital book on the legendary video game franchise that the two of us hope to launch late this year or very early next year, and it’ll be put together by the two of us as well as a team of very talented individuals on both the writing and art side. We’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund what we need in order to pay these folks for their work, so please, if you have an interest in the video game franchise Doom, or just want to support us, you can back the project for as little as $1, which will also get you a copy should the project be funded in full. There are reward tiers as well, for those who want to contribute more, including but not limited to someone paying for the right to tell us a feature they want to be included in the thing.

Trevor and I are hoping to build something of a small, boutique publisher that will allow for projects like this one to exist, as well as other digital zines and books for authors who might not be able to get their project off the ground within the current system. We want to be facilitators not just for a bigger group project like this one, but for smaller projects, too, that help create space to work within an industry that keeps downsizing and leaving too many folks without a place to show off what they know.

With that in mind, the goal of this publisher isn’t to be able to pocket money and profit off of the work of others: everyone, including Trevor and I, will be paid for the work we do on the books themselves, and at the same rates as anyone else involved in the project. Authors and artists will retain rights to their work, any profits from future sales will be divided among everyone in perpetuity instead of into a company bank account… we know how it is out there, and don’t want to perpetuate existing structural problems. So, again, if you have an interest in Doom or just want to help get some independent media off the ground, you can do so for as little as a buck. And if you want to back us with more, by all means, and tell your friends, too! With certain segments of social media winding down the way they have, word of mouth means even more than usual.

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