BALTIMORE — When I first moved to Baltimore back in 2019, you could sit anywhere you wanted at an Orioles game. Just wave to an usher or ask them politely to sit in their section, and your $15 standing-room ticket magically came with a seat. The first time I ever went to Camden Yards, an usher just pointed me to a better seat. I got the message.
This is, of course, because the Orioles were terrible. They went 54-108. And despite that season only being four years ago, looking back now I see a shocking number of “I remember that guy!” guys on that roster. Immaculate Grid cheat codes that bounced around from team to team and are already out of the league.
This was great for a guy like me, living out of a savings account because I didn’t have a job yet. I got to experience Camden Yards, one of the most beautiful ballparks in all of baseball, from any seat in the house. I would sample different sections, picking up and moving after every inning just because I could.
Now, in 2023, I’m looking at buying seats for a series in seven weeks. All the fans are back because the team is not only good, they’re great.
Those years of tanking yielded high draft picks, which the team turned into Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and the soon-to-be-promoted Jackson Holliday. They let guys from the 2019 team like Cedric Mullins (All-Star, Silver Slugger), Austin Hays (All-Star), and Anthony Santander develop in a low-stakes environment and find their swing. Bargain bin guys like Ryan O’Hearn (designated for assignment by the Royals) and Felix Bautista (a minimum-salary player who has become the best closer in the game) are thriving on this team every day.
They’re going to legitimately compete in October for the first time in a decade.
Naturally, team owner John P. Angelos has taken this golden opportunity to make this year all about him, his reputation, and his wallet.
To begin, it must be stated that John Angelos (56) doesn’t own the Orioles. His father Peter (94) does, having stepped away in recent years due to declining health. In fact, John is a nepotism baby of the worst kind. I can’t seem to find any sort of life or professional accomplishment that John has completed without his father or his father’s money.
He’s the Managing Partner and Acting Owner of the team, controlling a Major League Baseball franchise that was practically gifted to him. You could go as far as to say that he stole it, but that’s a column for another time. Feel free to look it up.
The largest mark he’s made on the Orioles franchise is his tenure running MASN, the Orioles and Nationals telecast network, following the lead of other regional sports networks and doing absolutely nothing of note. It was in that role that he attempted to swindle the Nats to the tune of $100 million from 2012-2016. Courts have yet to decide the payout for money owed from 2017-2021.
It’s in this role that he recently suspended Os play-by-play announcer Kevin Brown for stating a fact; for doing his job and telling the truth about the franchise.
They sucked. They sucked really bad. They embarrassingly sucked. But now they’re good!
“It’s been a minute. The Orioles split a two-gamer with the Rays in June. They had lost their last 15 series here at Tropicana Field. You have to go back to when our now colleague Brad Brach picked up the win in the season finale, June 25, 2017, the last time the Orioles won a series here in St. Pete. Already gone 3-2 at the Trop this year after winning 3 of 18 the previous three years combined. It’s a stark difference, and it’s not a bad Rays team, it’s not like all of a sudden the Rays became slouches in the American League East. They’ve led this division every day but, now, two, and the Orioles are once again back in first place.”
As you can see, in what probably took you three or four re-reads to determine the problem with that quote, Kevin Brown did nothing wrong. Angelos was upset because he “made the team look bad.” The old team. The one with only a handful of leftovers still employed by the team. And he said the team is now good! Which they are!
Kevin Brown didn’t say anything that someone without a television, internet access, or anything resembling long-term memory didn’t already know. But billionaires don’t like it when you make them look bad. Their public persona is all that they have since their personal life is hollow and empty. So he quietly suspended Kevin Brown…indefinitely. That’s right. Forever. Censorship is a go-to for (inherited) rich people. But Orioles fans took notice because they love Brown, which is saying a lot because Brown took over for Gary Thorne, the longtime voice of Orioles broadcasts on MASN (you know his voice if you played MLB 2K from 2009 to 2013). Thorne was fired for asking for more money after working for Angelos for thirteen years. Angelos is worth $2 billion … of his father’s money.
Brown has since been reinstated, because there’s nothing worse for a billionaire than looking bad, especially after you did something stupid in the process of trying to not look bad. And I can assure you that Brown’s job is safe. Not because I actually know the ins and outs of MASN or Orioles financials (remember when Angelos ruined his big Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration by promising to open the books, which he still hasn’t done?) or what goes on inside the head of a billionaire. No, Brown’s job is safe from now on because nothing will happen to him moving forward without Orioles fans being all over it, making sure he’s happy and healthy and as unbothered by John Angelos as possible.
This would all be bad enough if Angelos wasn’t already making an ass of himself on a daily basis. No, not because he has to ask his housekeeper to make his morning bagels because he hasn’t tried to use a toaster since 1998. But because he still hasn’t placed his signature (on behalf of his father, who owns the team and earned all of John’s money) on the lease for Camden Yards.
The lease expires on December 31st, 2023, just 139 days from this column’s publication. The lease for one of the most beloved cathedrals in the sport. The lease for the place where Cal played 2,131 or Pope John Paul II led Mass for over 50,000 – whichever you find to be a more important religious experience.
Angelos won’t sign because Angelos wants more money. That’s how billionaires (inherited) manage to stay billionaires, I suppose. There’s a certain level of inevitability to those forces of evil.
But Angelos is, dare I say, being a bit greedy about the whole thing. He wants more from the City of Baltimore (as if they haven’t suffered his buffoonery enough by suspending the beloved Kevin Brown). He wants more from the State of Maryland ($300 million – which he won’t get). He wants more from their parking lot neighbors, the Baltimore Ravens. In fact, he wants those parking lots to become land that he can develop, kind of like the land surrounding the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park – which they had to build 10 miles north of the city because there isn’t that kind of space in cities. The problem with John’s desire to earmark that Orioles/Ravens parking lot space for his own tycoonery is the fact that the Ravens are guaranteed those spots for tailgating … which can be found in the lease that the Ravens signed … in January.
Governor Wes Moore and other Maryland officials are inclined to call Angelos’ bluff because … what the hell is he supposed to do? Move out?
The only thing worse than playing 10 miles north of Atlanta would be playing 35 miles up I-95N in the stadium of the High-A Aberdeen Ironbirds while kicking the can down the road on a move to Nashville. Angelos’ wife (who married him for his winning personality) works in Nashville, he owns a house in Nashville, and Nashville is on the MLB shortlist for expansion.
Which he would do without a second thought. You see, John P. Angelos doesn’t care about Baltimore. Not in the way that Baltimore residents like myself care about it. He sees the city in dollars and cents (again, inevitable for an inherited billionaire). He doesn’t see it for the people (those are called fans, they spend money) or the food (those are called concessions, they make money) or the civic pride (that’s called City Connect jerseys, which cost $140 blank or $160 to get your favorite player’s name on the back).
And he definitely doesn’t care about Camden Yards, the place where you saw Eddie Murray hit his 500th home run or Delmon Young hit that bases-clearing pinch-hit double. Or the games where nothing particularly exciting happened, but you got to go with your dad or your daughter or your buddies from school. He doesn’t understand that it’s important to people.
The Orioles website boasts “since the ownership group led by Peter Angelos purchased the team, the Baltimore Orioles have donated more than $10 million to support various organizations in the Orioles’ community.” Angelos (Peter, not John – John didn’t do anything) bought the team thirty years ago. $10 million in 30 years? That’s how much Kyle Gibson is making in 2023 to pitch to a 4.89 ERA.
The Angelos family doesn’t care about Baltimore, no matter how much they try to hide that. They care about money and how they look and how looking good can make them more money and how making more money makes them look good. They will never care about the city or Kevin Brown or you.
Angelos needs to be reminded that what the fans care about is the team, not the owner. How do you support the team without supporting the owner? Well, that’s practically impossible, as buying tickets and watching on MASN and just wearing your hat around town supports Angelos’ wallet in some way. A local’s tax dollars are already in use at Camden Yards. There’s really no way out of it, that’s just the sports world we live in.
So now it’s up to Rob Manfred (gulp) and Gov. Wes Moore (gulp, are you telling me that he wouldn’t love a shiny new OPACY on his CV?) to step in. Until then, don’t let Angelos get away with anything, from Kevin Brown to the elimination of Camden’s patty melts (what the hell is that?). Cheer for the players, boo Angelos every time you see him, and ask a Mets fan if you can borrow their SELL THE TEAM shirts – unless they still want those.