By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 19, 2007
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 18 -- When first approached by reporters, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a rare sight at spring training these days, politely said he would not speak.
But 15 minutes later, at the end of a wide-ranging interview with reporters, a cheerful Angelos had said: He would not sell the Orioles anytime soon, the Washington Nationals have cut into his team's profits, he broke up trade talks involving Brian Roberts, he has asked for a salary cap to curb escalating salaries and he has been unfairly criticized by fans and media.
Boosted by the new Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, Angelos also sees a brighter future for the Orioles, who have had nine straight losing seasons.
"The goal was to make up for an anticipated loss in attendance due to the presence of another major league franchise a mere 30 miles away," Angelos said. "In fact it's right adjacent to Howard County and Anne Arundel County and obviously it will draw fans from there and the northern suburbs of Washington and Maryland suburbs. Those counties are part of our franchise's territory.
"We needed to do something dramatic and I'm pleased to say we were able to do that. We expect that revenues generated by way of the sports network will enable us to give the fans an even more competitive team as time goes by."
Angelos, here for an Orioles game for the first time since 2004, arrived at the ballpark at about noon and was shuttled into the executive offices. He spoke with executives Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette, Manager Sam Perlozzo and hitting coach Terry Crowley. He watched the game, a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, in the owner's box adjacent to the dugout. Perlozzo said he hoped Angelos would make himself more visible so players and coaches could get to know him.
"I think the organization presently is well staffed," Angelos said. "I think the leadership of Mike and Jim has been very effective. I think Sam is really emerging as a take-charge manager. It is only his second year and I think the improvement is there."
Angelos, 77, did not dispute that he often has interfered in the dealings of the front office, something for which he's drawn criticism. He cited the recent example of nixing a deal that would have sent second baseman Brian Roberts, along with pitcher Hayden Penn, to the Atlanta Braves for first baseman Adam LaRoche.
"I just thought that Brian should stay an Oriole, not that the front office didn't think so, they were looking at it from a standpoint of improving the ballclub," Angelos said. "And they may have been totally right. I looked on it as the retention of a player that came through our system and who is of such great value to the club for all the things that he does out there with the public. . . . But this is a special kind of player, just like Cal Ripken was for the Orioles. And the kind of player you want to keep as part of the organization. And so there's an area where one might say that I have interfered but I felt impelled to do that from the standpoint of keeping a player that I thought was critical."
Though Angelos said he is stung by criticism, he remains firm on owning the team for the foreseeable future. He said he is unlikely to become a more public figure.
"I would like to give our fans a winner," he said. "That doesn't mean upon that happening that I would then sell the team. I have no real interest in selling the team. And certainly now with the sports network it seems to me, I'd like to see how the two function together, particularly in the generation of revenue which will enable us to put as I said an even more competitive team than we did this year and the following year."
Angelos's biggest concern as an owner could be escalating salaries, for which he has a proposal.
"That is the fundamental problem of teams like the Orioles. Now that there's a team with Washington, we're no longer a regional ballclub, therefore the need for the [regional sports network]. Thankfully, that need was fulfilled. For the teams that are not from large markets that is a serious problem because everyone wants to be competitive. But the key ultimately is how much money do you have to spend? Clearly, we need a cap in baseball just like there is in all the other sports."