Angelos Says Plenty

By Thomas Boswell
Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's better to remain silent and be thought a meddlesome nightmare owner than to speak and remove all doubt. Now the Orioles and their fans know the truth. Peter Angelos hasn't changed. His silence in recent years, the claims of his organization that he no longer holds every major decision hostage to his whims, means nothing. He's just gone underground.

The Baltimore owner still vetoes major trades to keep his favorite players in town regardless of the preferences of the men he has running his team. He'll still blow up any deal, free agent signing or draft pick if he feels like it. And he'll do it for any reason that pleases him. For an owner who inherited a great franchise and turned it into a disaster with nine straight losing seasons, no confession is more damaging. All of baseball will read Angelos's latest words and shake its head in pity for the O's.

"I just thought that Brian [Roberts] 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 Sunday, confirming that he nixed an offseason deal for slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche. "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 and in the hospitals and so on.

"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."

It's almost hard to imagine where to start. Did Angelos think he'd be hailed a hero because he saved a popular second baseman from being traded?

For a trial lawyer who is accustomed to speaking extemporaneously and being accountable for every word, this must be a career-worst summation to the jury. In the offseason, team executives Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette were considering a deal to "improve the ballclub." But Angelos squelched it because Roberts is a fan favorite who's great for the Orioles' image?

Roberts has great value to the club "in the hospitals and so on"?

LaRoche hit 32 homers in 492 at-bats last year and, at 27, is just entering his prime. The Orioles have no first baseman. Okay, they have people who own large gloves and can stand near first base. But they don't have a smooth-fielding, left-handed hitting first baseman who, if he got 600 at-bats a year, might be the 40-homer anchor that the Orioles need in the middle of their lineup behind Miguel Tejada.

Roberts is a special player but he's not "just like Cal Ripken." However, that's the sort of bizarre comment you'd expect Angelos to make. He's precise and analytical in business and law, yet he never seems to get anything exactly right in baseball. His view of the game is tilted, warped, just not quite right.

In other words, as brilliant as he is in other fields, his gifts don't translate to baseball. The verdict came in long ago: He doesn't have it. Just because Angelos made a billion dollars and bought a team, that doesn't mean he understands the sport it plays. He's still a baseball dope. That's okay. It's no sin -- if he'd stay out of the kitchen. But he won't. He has to give orders to his chefs.

So when an owner says that blowing up a trade for a possible cleanup hitter is "an area where one might say that I have interfered," you just want to slap your forehead until it's black and blue.

What Angelos refuses to grasp, no matter how many times he is told, is that the issue is not the merit of any particular trade, free agent signing or draft pick. The problem, and it is absolutely central to the Orioles' organizational disaster, is that Baltimore is cursed with a billionaire who is constantly injecting himself at the last minute to reverse decisions that have been made after long labor and best judgments by his baseball people.

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