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Angelos Family Drama Means More Bad News for O’s Fans

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Yesterday, Orioles fans learned of a bombshell story that is sure to the future of the team. Via The Baltimore Banner’s Justin Fenton & Tim Prudente, we heard that Lou Angelos has filed a lawsuit against his brother, John Angelos, as they fight for control over the team.  Lou claims John is making all decisions by himself and that Lou doesn’t have any say in things and that is apparently not how dad, Peter Angelos, wanted it.

A lot of this will be battled out in court and more likely, behind the scenes and we will never truly know the full story. What we will know is what the impact will be and we have an idea of what it has already been.

Let’s go back to the trade deadline of 2018. At that deadline, the Orioles offloaded most of their top players, including Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman. Most people look at those trades and lament the poor returns. The reality is, the returns weren’t that bad when you consider how handcuffed former GM Dan Duquette was. First of all, in the cases of Machado and Britton, they were rental players and you are only going to get so much for those guys. Also, Britton had been hurt and his production had been up and down that year.

The trade that really hurt was the Gausman trade. The Orioles definitely should have gotten more for him and the “biggest prize,” the international money, largely went unused. The bigger issue with those trades wasn’t what Baltimore got back, it was why they were made and what the team prioritized. It is/was obvious that the Orioles valued saving money over the return. They could have paid some of Manny’s existing contract to get a better offer. They didn’t need to package Darren O’Day and his contract with Gausman. At this point, John and Lou had taken over control and this was the first real glimpse of what was to come.

Enter Mike Elias. Orioles fans were, rightfully, excited about the Elias hire. He came from Houston via St Louis, two great franchises, and had an extensive scouting background and knew how to build an organization. He was paid the highest salary ever for a first-time GM and he was allowed to surround himself with the right people, including Sig Mejdal. It seemed like this was his ship to run and it seemed like the “new Angelos” owners would be an upgrade.

Since then, we have seen the team dedicate itself to getting involved in the International scene. They are building a complex in the Dominican Republic, they have spent on international talent at a rate we have never seen in Baltimore and their overall presence down that has greatly increased.

They have also brought in a lot of technology and innovation into the organization to help with development and to give them more ways to evaluate and judge talent. All of this was greatly needed and we should all be happy that John Angelos was willing to do these things because his father never was.

However, that is where the “good” ends. I have been saying this for a while but all of that stuff is, let’s face it, cheap, at least relatively speaking. The cost of a complex, more scouts, signing international players, better technology, etc….that is all chump change in the grand scheme of things.  It may cost $10-15M to build that DR complex. That is the area of what the O’s are paying Jordan Lyles, who let’s face it, isn’t that good. Spending eight or so million dollars on several international lottery tickets is, again, not a big deal.

It’s certainly necessary and it was needed after years of neglect, but what is truly necessary is an ownership group committed to doing that AND spending on the big-league roster. The Orioles have never had both and for all the fans who thought this coming offseason was the year we would see them really spend, this should put that to bed.

I was working for the Orioles in the early 2000s, prior to the Nationals coming to DC. I worked in the ticket office, mainly dealing in the sales department and at that time, the team was terrified of DC getting a team. The loss of fans is real and the team knew it back then.  This isn’t some made up thing that the Orioles were saying to cry poor us.

Since they stood to lose several hundred thousand fans, the Orioles and MLB came to an agreement that they would share a Regional Sports Network (RSN) and that the Orioles would be the controlling team in that. MASN was formed and its now turned into a legal battle, as the Nats want their own thing. While I can understand the Nationals’ position, the bottom line is that the Orioles are correct. This is what the agreement was and they were greatly damaged by the team going to DC and wanted compensation for it.

The problem with this, of course, is that this allows John Angelos an excuse to not spend. It wasn’t long ago when the Orioles had nine-figure payrolls, but the MASN situation has become even more unclear since then and it is another thing John can use as a crutch to not do anything with the MLB roster. Again, he will spend on the foundational stuff, which is important, but that’s chump change. He can make it look like he is trying while collecting the revenue sharing money from the other teams.

What does all of this mean for the Orioles long term? Well, first of all, I think we can stop talking about the whole “moving to Nashville” thing.  I know this was mentioned in the lawsuit and some fans have been worried about it but that’s not happening.  John may want it to happen and him trying to push his wife’s country music career is real.  He cares more about that than he does about his baseball team from my understanding. That said, the team isn’t moving.

I have been saying this for a while now and have gotten a lot of push back by O’s fans but this goes back to the idea that rebuilding is a farce. It is a made up thing that the team is using to steal money. The Orioles brought in Elias, a guy who has been through this, who could sell this to the fans. They keep giving you the appearance of long-term contention because they are “building up the foundation” and are choosing to spend the money in the budget this way.

When in reality, that money should be there anyway, as it is with almost every team. You want to tank for a year or two to get things jump started? I am all for that. But at this point, we should be trying to win. Grayson should have been up a while ago. Adley should have been here last year. Gunnar Henderson could be pulling a Machado in 2012 this year if the team was contending. But no, the Orioles again chose to suck this year and it wasn’t because it was part of the larger plan. It’s because they want to steal more money.

The likely outcome is the team is sold. This is something O’s fans have wanted for years and, according to the lawsuit, there was an agreed upon price in 2020 and John said no. That tells us there are at least some people willing to buy the team and, let’s face it, there are probably others as well (and no, Kevin Plank isn’t buying the team because he has no interest in doing so). The thing holding this up is inheritance tax which, to be fair to the Angelos family, is a B.S. tax. The idea that you pay taxes all your life, build something to leave for generations and then get taxed on it again after you die is complete nonsense. I understand them wanting to wait for Peter to pass on to avoid this.

The question I have though is, will this lawsuit force a sale by MLB? MLB certainly wants the Angelos family out of the way (for many reasons) and this is not a story they want to be discussed nationally – and it will be. They stepped in and made Frank McCourt sell the Dodgers and they certainly could do it here. This is obviously the best case scenario for Orioles fans, as getting rid of the Angelos family, who have largely driven this franchise into the ground since they have been here, would be the best thing that could happen. While it’s true that the next owner could be worse, I will take my chances that it will be an upgrade.  Outside of Donald Sterling, it doesn’t get much worse.

And, of course, the people who really get screwed here (other than the fans) are the O’s players and Brandon Hyde. The team isn’t likely to surround them with the players needed for this team to be a true contender and while the talent that Elias has helped build is strong and there are a lot of reasons for hope, the reality is that without bringing in significant outside help, it’s unlikely this team can contend. Maybe they can do it on a shoestring budget a la the Tampa Bay Rays, but that’s not easy. We have top prospects like Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson, DL Hall, et al…and it’s very possible Baltimore will be wasting the early years of their MLB careers because of this garbage.

This story is just going to get bigger and we are just getting started. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here in the short term and if this is something that can quickly get resolved.

If this drags out, it could mean a lot more losing in Baltimore for years to come.

Coby Mayo
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