If timing is everything, Orioles CEO John Angelos didn’t get the memo.
Somehow, he found a way to turn one of the most uplifting weekends in recent Orioles history into another opportunity for Baltimore sports fanatics to dredge up the horrible memory of the day all those years ago that the beloved NFL Colts were dragged out of town by villainous owner Bob Irsay.
OK, maybe that was just the typical social media reaction every time Angelos stumbles into the headlines, but he really didn’t have to remind the rejuvenated Orioles fan base that the O’s are a small market team and – in not so many words – they’re going to see super rookie Gunnar Henderson and/or newly minted superstar Adley Rutschman in pinstripes sometime in the late 2020s.
We kind of knew that already. It’s sort of like when your doctor reminds you every time you see him that you’ve got Type-2 diabetes even though you’ve been poking your fingers with that little needle machine every day for the past five years. TMI … yeah, probably … but you get my drift.
So, what was the point of that, or the decision by someone in the organization (wink, wink) to suspend popular broadcaster Kevin Brown allegedly for repeating some already well-documented negative historical facts that accentuated the lofty place the Orioles now occupy in the toughest division in Major League Baseball.
Oriole fans have come by their skepticism about the Angelos family ownership honestly, so those who are spouting doom and gloom can be forgiven for wondering if some of the disturbing comments in that New York Times interview are an indication that Angelos might actually be planning to do the thing he said would not happen as long as Fort McHenry is standing guard over the Inner Harbor.
I don’t see the Orioles leaving Baltimore, but the team may be trying to leverage that long-standing civic angst at a time when the focus should be entirely on this feel-good season. I mean, even though I don’t believe Major League Baseball would allow the O’s to move out of one of the most revered major professional sports venues in the world, I have to ask the same question that fans are asking on the internet: What the hell is this guy thinking?
Clearly, Angelos has one agenda that – if realized – could lead to the redevelopment of the stadium complex and the revitalization of the Inner Harbor area, but that is where he truly is playing a dangerous game with the future of the Orioles’ franchise hanging in the balance.
The Orioles continue to let the clock run as the team’s stadium lease nears its December 31st drop dead date, hoping that the Maryland Stadium Authority warms to the idea of augmenting the team’s half-share of the $1.2 billion stadium improvement fund that the state legislature approved last year.
He also has been pursuing the rights to the three parking lots between Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium, though he has to know that the Orioles and Ravens contractual relationship with the MSA has always included a parity clause. Presumably, if he gets another $300 million, the Ravens also would be entitled to the same amount. And if he were to secure the rights to the shared parking lots, the Ravens would have to be compensated or do that part of the deal in partnership with the O’s.
So far, the MSA has shown little interest in attaching those proposals to a new long-term lease, and the state is right not to do so. The $1.2 billion already allotted is extremely generous, and while it will come from bonds paid for with lottery funds, that’s still money that could be used for other state-wide priorities.
Angelos seems to have new governor Wes Moore on his side, judging by their joint trip to the Atlanta area to scout out the Truist Park redevelopment that helped shape the Orioles’ vision for Camden Yards, but there is growing dissatisfaction in the legislature with the slow progress of the lease negotiations.
And all this at a time when Moore has warned the legislature that the state spending has to be more “disciplined” going forward.
A dangerous game, indeed.