Making Peace With Peter Angelos
A few years ago that notion would have seemed unfathomable. The Orioles have reeled off 11 straight losing seasons and appear headed for a 12th. Frustration grew so high among fans in the Charm City in 2006 that almost 1,000 fans walked out of Camden Yards in late September of that season.
Baltimore was once a proud baseball town. Earl Weaver. Brooks Robinson. Cal Ripken Jr. Jim Palmer. We all know the names. But that glory has faded over the last decade as the team has become an afterthought in the loaded AL East.
Given that his reign as Orioles owner has coincided with one of the darkest periods in the franchise's history on the field, it probably isn't much of a surprise that Sports Illustrated recently named him the worst owner in baseball.
Only that designation earned the ire of former Oriole center fielder Brady Anderson, who defended his former employer in the Baltimore Sun Tuesday for, among other reasons, his commitment to winning, his maintenance of Oriole Park, still one of the best ballparks in the game, and his compassion for the players and fans.
Still, Anderson collected over $41 million worth of paychecks from 1993, when Angelos bought the team, to 2001, his last season in Baltimore, so his words might ring a little hollow.
If someone gave me that much money, I might be inclined to write a nice letter or two in their defense too.
The primary criticism leveled against Angelos is that he is a "meddler," that he fostered instability with the team over the last decade by running through a series of managers and front office executives, allowing for little continuity.
It's probably been true in the past, but it hardly seems like it is anymore.
Since Andy MacPhail took over as general manager in June 2007, he's been allowed to run the team without interference. All Angelos has done in that time is allow his GM the freedom to trade the team's best pitcher – Erik Bedard – in a deal that has changed the direction of the franchise (Adam Jones, George Sherrill and elite pitching prospect Chris Tillman came over in the swap).
He has opened up his checkbook in back-to-back years in the draft to sign elite first-round picks Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz. And this past offseason he signed Baltimore mainstays Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis to long-term extensions.
Perhaps he's learned from past mistakes, or perhaps he finally has someone in charge of baseball operations that he can trust. Either way, the Orioles are in a very good spot. They have an impressive offensive nucleus and if a few of their pitching prospects pan out, they can make some noise even in such a tough division.
Even if all that weren't true, it's hard to see Angelos as more meddlesome than Astros owner Drayton McLane or more negligent of his fans than Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
He's hardly perfect, but he seems willing to change – both the way he runs his team and the direction in which it is headed.
Flexibility and introspection certainly don't seem like character traits of the worst owner in the major leagues.