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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Monday, September 04, 2023

The Other Mr. Splash

Orioles owner John Angelos is throwing cold water on the fans’ spirits.

Orioles owner John Angelos dousing the fans with his nonsense

Without question, this has been a magical season for the Baltimore Orioles and Birdland. One year removed from a major turnaround last year (83 wins) that effectively ended the rebuild, this season the O’s sit atop the American League. And that includes you—Astros, Blue Jays and Yankees.

They are currently on pace to win 101 games when just two years ago, their record was 52-110. Most betting experts prior to the 2023 season had projected the O’s to win 75 games or thereabouts—a regression from 2022. But that didn’t happen. Experts are not always experts.

The team, the fans, and both the national and local media are all abuzz surrounding this astonishing success. Even Gerry Sandusky, the sports anchor on WBAL-TV, has allowed Orioles news to share the time slot with the Ravens happenings that always used to dominate.

Attendance, though not great, has improved. An increasing number of fans root on the team in the road ballparks, no longer fearful of being mocked by the home crowd. There is a lot of well-deserved and long overdue swagger among the O’s faithful.

Nearly everyone seems excited in Birdland and for good reason. Besides the superb and consistent record in which they have not been swept in a series dating back to before the arrival of catching phenom and all-star Adley Rutschman, and in this season the Birds only lost four games in a row once, the team is showcasing its exciting and highly touted young prospects.

Budding superstar Gunnar Henderson, the favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year trophy; Grayson Rodriguez, a hard-throwing pitcher with electric stuff; slick fielding and potentially strong bat Jordan Westburg; southpaw prospect DL Hall; and the emergence of other pitching talent, such as Yennier Cano, Dean Kremer and Kyle Braddish have all made key contributions.

And when you add the likes of Ryan O’Hearn, James McCann, Adam Frazier, Kyle Gibson, Danny Coulombe, Jacob Webb, Shinataro Fujinami  and Aaron Hicks that the O’s picked up as well as mainstays Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, Ramón Urías, Cionel Pérez and Anthony Santander, the team is jellin’ with off-the-charts chemistry and solid ability. The only on-field downer this season has been the potentially serious injury to super closer Félix Bautista.

Yes, everyone is excited except one key person: the team’s owner John P. Angelos. I could be wrong, but I have never heard or read where Angelos openly rooted the team on or praised the on-field performances given their success. Last season, with the dramatic turnaround, he called them overachievers. This year, crickets.

The O’s instituted a “Bird Bath” section in left center field at Oriole Park whereby a fellow dubbed Mr. Splash, using a hose, sprays the O’s fans seated there with water on every Oriole extra base hit or run scored.  Just as Mr. Splash soaks the jubilant fans, Angelos douses Birdland with cold water seemingly every time he speaks.

In Spring Training, Angelos, who is always crying poverty, promised to open the team’s books to the media. That never happened. My guess is that with the second lowest payroll among the Major League teams, the Orioles are more profitable than he wants to let on. After all, major league owners receive approximately $100 million from TV and other revenue sources every year before a single ticket is sold.

Then there was the astoundingly tone deaf escapade involving broadcaster Kevin Brown. It was reported that the popular Brown had been suspended following his comparing the team’s successful performance this year at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg with the futility of previous seasons. That didn’t sit well with Angelos who reportedly took offense at Brown’s mentioning the factual numbers, which, by the way, Brown read from a graphic on the MASN broadcast, since Angelos believed people would see him as cheap in those lean years.

The real Mr. Splash
The blowback was rapid and intense. Angelos managed to turn himself into the laughingstock of the baseball world, and Brown was reinstated eventually under fierce pressure. Angelos couldn’t figure out how this suspension took place.

While that was going on, Anglos has been dithering with the Maryland Stadium Authority on a new lease at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It is due to expire at the end of this year. Maryland Governor Wes Moore has been involved with the negotiations, but no signing has taken place. Angelos had pledged a new deal by the all-star break. But just like his offer to be transparent about the team’s finances, this was another broken promise. Mindful of what happened to the Colts sneaking out of Baltimore forty years ago, Orioles fans are understandably skittish.

If that wasn’t enough, Angelos said in a New York Times interview that this small market team cannot afford to sign the young studs to long-term deals unless ticket prices (already high) would go up dramatically.

As part of the negotiations with the MSA, Angelos wants to model the surrounding area of Camden Yards after The Battery outside Atlanta’s Truist Field with its shops, restaurants and bars. It’s a noble idea but logistically challenging. Truist Field is in a suburban area; Camden Yards is in an urban district with not much available land.

If Angelos wants the Orioles to emulate the Braves, he should follow their example of extending the contracts of their young stars: Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Matt Olson (right after trading for him), Ozzie Albies, Sean Murphy (also immediately after a trade), Spencer Strider, and Michael Harris III. That’s an all-star team right there.

I am suspicious that deep down Angelos does not want the Orioles to succeed on the field, only on the balance sheet. He never gave words of encouragement as the team grabbed first place and has held it thus far. The more team success, the more pressure he would face to open the checkbook and sign the young studs long-term.

Angelos doesn’t appear to be onboard the Birdland Express. He just throws cold water on the fans’ spirits and the good vibes the team created. They will prevail on the field, however, not because of him but in spite of him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more he needs to sell the team and get out of baseball where he dose not belong