In defense of Peter Angelos

May 13, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Baseball’s version of Larry Mondello took another jab from Eddie Haskell yesterday when SI.Com named Orioles owner Peter Angelos the worst owner in MLB.

As soon as the piece was published, I was flooded with e-mails and calls from folks wondering what I thought about the ranking.  Most, if not all, assumed I’d be doubled over in laughter after reading SI.Com’s ranking of the O’s boss.

What do I think? 

I think SI.Com did a very poor job of explaining exactly WHY they think Angelos is a bad owner — or, in this case, the worst owner in the major leagues.

Everyone knows that Angelos hasn’t been a model-of-brilliance since assuming ownership of the franchise in August of 1993.  I don’t think he’s a good owner.  I think everyone who has listened to me or read my work at knows what I think about the Angelos ownership tenure and the current state of the O’s franchise.

By nearly every account, you’d have to label his 16-year stewardship a disappointment, given that his team has made two playoff appearances in that time and hasn’t put together a winning campaign since 1997.   Throw in the meager attendance over the last few years and it’s easy to see that Baltimore’s baseball franchise is struggling.

Fair’s fair.  Peter Angelos hasn’t been a very good owner.

But is he the worst owner in all of major league baseball?

I don’t know. 

SI.Com thinks they know, but their piece was missing some key ingredients. 

It smelled (read) of a witch hunt, in the same way people in Baltimore bash the Steinbrenner family for how “bad” they’ve been while owning the Yankees.  Yeah, those Yankees, the ones that have been to the playoffs 13 of the last 14 years.

If only we were so lucky in Baltimore to have an ownership group that was that “bad”, eh?

So, my official analysis of the SI.Com ranking of Angelos is that they did a very poor job of actually explaining how and why they selected the Baltimore owner. 

Now, there could be an argument that Angelos is in charge of baseball’s worst FRANCHISE, but that wasn’t what SI.Com was ranking yesterday. 

When you inherit an organization that was gift-wrapped a mansion, a legendary Hall of Fame player and a city foaming at the mouth for successful summer baseball, you have to be willing to take a beating when you oversee the dismantling of that product.

The Orioles decline, however, has plenty of people’s fingerprints on it besides those of Peter Angelos.

Granted, Angelos is the boss of everyone at The Warehouse, but there are a bunch of folks down there who have contributed to the franchise’s downfall.

When do they start getting blame?  There are real, live, college-degree in hand, human beings who make day-to-day decisions – a lot of them bad – that change the course of the franchise.

Who’s directly responsible for the spring training stadium debacle in which the O’s have been publicly chided for essentially lying to folks in Vero Beach and Ft. Lauderdale?

I’m sure Peter is aware of it all — but there are plenty of other people in The Warehouse who have contributed to that fiasco.

A week ago tonight, the O’s eschewed all common sense and wisdom and started a game against the Twins with six hours of rain in the forecast in an attempt to “get it in” despite the obvious inconvenience it would cause their fans and the potential health-harm to their athletes.  The next day, when people with tickets tried to contact the O’s via their web-site, there was no front page “contact us” link where their (diminishing) fan base could ask about refund policies and actually web-speak to a live human being.

That’s inexcusable.

In today’s cyber-world, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t go on the Orioles web-site and be “speaking” with a representative of the club within at least 30 minutes via e-mail.

That’s NOT Peter Angelos’ fault, but it’s someone’s fault that works for him.  SI.Com didn’t attach those names and faces to their “worst owner” rankings.  They splattered Peter’s face in that column.  Trust me, there are folks at OPACY who deserve to have their names and faces thrown to the masses and embarrassed for their lack of professionalism and business wisdom.

That doesn’t make Peter Angelos a bad owner.  It’s makes his franchise a bad franchise.

By the way, Angelos has also been involved in some “good” as the O’s leader.  He has donated money to keep the Sports Legends Museum afloat, — a non-baseball example that doesn’t get talked about much.  On the field, he has finally given in and put away his quasi-GM hat and now allows Andy MacPhail to run the club’s baseball product.  Three years ago, Angelos kick-started the Middle Atlantic Sports Network and promised to use the new revenue source to beef-up the club’s playing roster via free agency.  And, while that wasn’t exactly the truth, MASN has been a valuable asset to the O’s in the form of promotions and game advertising.  Now, if they’ll just use “our money” to buy some good baseball players, all will be right with the world.

So, Angelos has done some good.  Unfortunately, there are still more negative stories than good stories…even today.

I received two e-mails last week from fans who attended an early-season Yankees home game and were not aware of the Thursday ticket promotion in which you receive a bleacher seat and Boog’s BBQ  sandwich for $15.  They purchased tickets to the NY home game ($23…a “premium” game) but did not receive their sandwich voucher, so the next day – having become aware of the promotion when folks around them were stuffing themselves in the 3rd inning – they contacted the team about the mix-up.  Guess what they got?  The same thing I’ve been getting for the last two years.  It’s called: The Run-Around.   Here, you have people who actually purchased nearly $100 of tickets and the team was going to haggle with them over four sandwiches. 

These are the incidents that cause the club to lose fans.  Disgruntled people – particularly in this economy – just don’t come back.

I highly doubt Peter Angelos is aware of the Boog’s Sandwich-Snafu, but someone in his organization is responsible for that promotion and the team has done a very poor job of executing it and an equally poor job of customer relations when there’s a breakdown.

It took the club the better part of 16 years to rightfully insert the word “BALTIMORE” on the team’s road jersey.  In fact, in 1995, it was Angelos himself who removed “the B word” from the team’s official logo because they were chasing all of that white collar money down in DC and Northern Virginia.  So, for that, you can blame Peter Angelos.  His disregard of Baltimore was a major mistake…one that the club is still feeling in 2009.

There are countless other examples of poor public relations and customer care at the ballpark but I don’t think Angelos (Peter, that is) is in charge of those missteps. 

That said, some of the snobbery produced by the stuffed suits at The Warehouse are reasons WHY Peter Angelos was raked over the coals by SI.Com yesterday. 

He has people in place who are, simply put, hurting his chances for success with their poor business accumen and people skills. 

I don’t even think SI.Com knows about that stuff.

A lot of people in Baltimore, do, though.