Back in 2019, when John Angelos reassured fans that the Orioles would remain in Baltimore “as long as Fort McHenry is watching over the harbor,” I had to give him some credit.
It was a great line from a guy who has never been particularly quotable and it did serve to quiet growing speculation that the team would be sold and possibly moved out of town.
Though Angelos has not deviated from that promise, a lot has happened since then. The ballclub has finally returned to respectability, but the MASN lawsuit remains unsettled, an Oriole Park lease extension remains unsigned and the Angelos clan has become embroiled in an unseemly internecine legal battle for control of the team and the rest of the family fortune.
Against this backdrop, the Orioles held a news conference on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to announce a $5 million contribution to the CollegeBound Foundation, a nonprofit that helps deserving Baltimore City students get into college and earn their degrees. It was a nice little story that turned sour when a couple of reporters used a Q&A session with Angelos and Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott to delve into all the uncertainty surrounding the franchise.
Angelos ended up in a very public and fairly heated exchange with Dan Connolly, the Orioles beat writer for The Athletic, who he accused of dishonoring the King holiday with a question that was “not appropriate subject matter for this day.”
Fair enough, but the sports reporters in attendance were given the impression that they would get a rare opportunity to talk to the team’s generally tight-lipped CEO, and – let’s get real – Angelos couldn’t have expected them to throw him only softballs with so much fog shrouding the family and the baseball team.
Yet, he went on to lecture Connolly about the sad fate of so many kids in Baltimore who don’t have a chance, which was faintly reminiscent of his populist post-Freddie Gray Twitter screed in 2015 – the one in which he railed about social injustice and hammered rich industrialists for putting profits before people and sending jobs overseas.
This generous contribution to help needy inner-city students should remind everyone that his Progressive heart is in the right place, but keep in mind that this is the same billionaire’s son who had to approve the laying off and furloughing of 46 Oriole employees at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Business is business, I guess, and again I’ll give Angelos credit for growing into his role as the team’s CEO after a very uneven performance during his earlier incarnations as a club executive. Peter Angelos always envisioned his older son running the baseball team and his younger son Louis running the law firm, but John Angelos had to emerge from his father’s shadow before he could put his stamp on the franchise.
So far, however, he has been either unable or unwilling to provide more clarity with regard to the future of the Orioles, other than to say that they won’t be moving out of town, which is something that he cannot guarantee unless he commits to the family retaining majority ownership of the franchise in perpetuity.
Though he largely sidestepped questions about the future of the franchise on Monday, he claimed that he would be willing to meet with reporters next week and – to prove his commitment to transparency – reveal the team’s financials and answer all of their questions.
Thirty years ago, Peter Angelos said soon after he acquired majority ownership of the club that he considered it to be a public trust and would honor any request to open the books. That never really happened, but years later he did allow me to see some heavily redacted financial information to show the economic harm that would result if a second major league team was moved into the region.
Ultimately, he made the now-disputed MASN deal that allowed Major League Baseball to move the Montreal Expos to Washington.
I’ll be curious to see just how much John Angelos is willing to reveal while he’s involved in high-stakes litigation on two fronts. I’m betting that the club’s lawyers and his personal attorneys will advise strongly against any significant disclosures, but more clarity about the lease situation and the likelihood of a sale would be appreciated.