Oriole fans will get to know a much different owner - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Oriole fans will get to know a much different owner

(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

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In April 2018, David Rubenstein hosted Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Ripken was presented with the “Great Americans” medal by the Smithsonian, which recognized his “lifetime contributions that embody American ideals and ideas.”

The “Iron Man” then sat for an interview by Rubenstein, who asked earnest questions about Ripken’s experiences in baseball as well as the streak.

Rubenstein didn’t interject his opinion and was a good listener, qualities he displays on the Bloomberg TV show that bears his name.

On that show, Rubenstein mostly interviews wealthy investors and business leaders, like himself, and allows them to fully express their opinions.

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He’s not shy about being in the limelight, which is a good thing because as owner of the Orioles, he’ll be exposed to an enhanced type of scrutiny.

Rubenstein, who is the co-founder and chairman of the Carlyle Group in Washington, is going to own the Orioles. The team announced the sale for $1.725 billion on Wednesday.

Ripken, former NBA great Grant Hill, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, and Michele Kang, majority owner of the Washington Spirit, D.C.’s National Women’s Soccer League team, are also part of the Rubenstein group.

Rubenstein has had a long career in politics, law and investing and has a reported net worth of around $4 billion. He’s had a lifelong passion for baseball and the arts. On Monday, he announced he would resign his post as the Kennedy Center’s chairman. He’ll remain in the job that he’s held for 14 years for another year while the board searches for his successor.

During that year, he’ll begin running the Orioles, once Major League Baseball approves him, which shouldn’t be a problem. He’s given huge sums to the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian, National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress and the National Archives, among others.

As Rubenstein prepares to succeed John Angelos as the control person for the team, there are many questions fans will have for him, and until we hear from him, not many answers.

The majority of fans seemed to be thrilled when learning the news that the Angelos family would be selling the Orioles. In 1993, when the team was run by Eli Jacobs, Peter Angelos bought the team at auction for $173 million, and its sale price more than three decades later is $1.725 billion.

Peter Angelos was regarded as a hero in 1993 because a Baltimorean rescued the team from an underfunded New Yorker. Now, it’s Rubenstein, another Baltimorean, who is looked upon as the savior.

The elder Angelos, now 94, has been ailing for years, and John Angelos has run the team for six years.

His time has been a polarizing one. He allowed a full rebuild of an aging team, and along with his brother, Louis, recruited and hired Mike Elias to overhaul baseball operations.

After shunning the Latin American market for years, the Orioles have a brand-new complex in the Dominican Republic, and catcher/first baseman Samuel Basallo is the 17th highest-ranked prospect in baseball.

Domestically, the Orioles continue to have the top farm system in baseball, and for the third year in a row, have the top prospect in minor league baseball, shortstop Jackson Holliday.

Elias selected catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Gunnar Henderson, last season’s Rookie of the Year, in his first draft 2019, and they were the top prospects in 2022 and 2023.

After suffering through seasons of 108 losses in 2019 and 110 in 2021, manager Brandon Hyde was voted the American League Manager of the Year award last season.

Elias hired Hyde, top analytics lieutenant Sig Mejdal and Koby Perez as head of international scouting. Each has worked out well.

Despite all this success, fans are eager for the Angelos family to depart.

They complain that the team refuses to spend. The Orioles are on target to have the third-lowest payroll in 2024. Elias has yet to sign a major league free agent to a multi-year contract nor extend any of the Orioles young players or young veterans, and there was an unsightly lawsuit between the brothers, which has been settled.

Will the Orioles increase their payroll under Rubenstein? Fans assume that it will and will be disappointed if it doesn’t.

There are so many unknowns.

What’s the future for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network? The Orioles and Nationals have been fighting over rights fees for years, and while the conflict appears to be winding down, the future of regional sports networks isn’t bright.

Will Rubenstein be able to make a deal with the Nationals and perhaps allow cable-cutting fans an opportunity to stream games? Wizards and Capitals fans now can watch their team’s games via streaming instead of subscribing to cable.

Elias had free rein to run his department without interference from John Angelos. Rubenstein would be smart to allow Elias to continue with an enhanced budget.

After an elongated and messy negotiation, the Orioles extended their lease for at least 15 years and have until 2027 to agree with the state on developing the area around the stadium, specifically the Warehouse and Camden Station buildings.

Rubenstein’s thoughts on development of the area and improvements to the ballpark in the new lease will be welcomed.

By all accounts, Rubenstein is a measured and thoughtful man, but he told The Washington Post this week that he’s not all that outgoing even after years of running the Kennedy Center and seeking large donations.

“Maybe I’m less shy than I was, but I’m still not a hail fellow well met, let’s-go-out-and-drink-some-beer kind of guy,” he said.

The guess here is that Rubenstein won’t roam around the park introducing himself to fans. That shouldn’t matter.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has successfully run that franchise for two decades without a high public profile, but because the team has consistently won, his private nature isn’t an issue.

In his statement on Wednesday afternoon, Rubenstein said: “I am grateful to the Angelos family for the opportunity to join the team I have been a fan of my entire life. I look forward to working with all the Orioles owners, players and staff to build upon the incredible success the team has achieved in recent seasons. Our collective goal will be to bring a World Series Trophy back to the City of Baltimore. To the fans I say: we do it for you and can’t do it without you. Thank you for your support.”

If the Orioles win a World Series with Rubenstein as controlling owner, the fans won’t care that he’s not swilling beers with them. He’ll just have to settle for being the most popular man in town.

Note: The Orioles signed left-handed pitcher Andrew Suárez to a minor league contract on Wednesday. Suárez was 7-15 with a 4.96 earned-run average in 69 games with San Francisco and St. Louis in four seasons. In 2018, Suárez was 7-13 with a 4.49 ERA in 29 starts with the Giants. Last season, he had a 7.16 ERA in 13 games with the Cardinals.

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