Anderson to a 3-year, $10.25-million deal, retained designated hitter Harold Baines for $1.8 million and signed three other marginal free agents – relief pitcher Mark Eichhorn, utility infielder Rene Gonzales and outfielder Henry Cotto.
The team had been just a ½ game out of first place in late August 1993 and all the pundits knew the Orioles just needed a little more talent. Angelos made sure that happened in his first six months, which was music to the ears of any Orioles fan who had watched free agency ravage the once thought to be “small market” franchise.
After years of buying players on the cheap since the triple debacle free agent splash of Fred Lynn, Lee Lacy and Don Aase in 1986, the Orioles were never big spenders in the marketplace. Teams in New York, Los Angelos and Chicago always had more money, even in the days before stadia, sponsorships and ancillary revenue skyrocketed in the industry. Just on revenue from tickets alone, the big markets were the most likely spenders on the best players in the marketplace. The ceiling always seemed to be set by George Steinbrenner and the Yankees and every year from 1976 on it seemed to propel forward with numbers too big for Baltimore to match.
Now, armed with big profits and a big budget fueled by 3.8 million people coming to Camden Yards, the Orioles were the big bully on the block buying players and fortifying an already pretty solid group.
In Baltimore circa 1994, the emerging core of the team was Ripken, Mike Mussina, Ben McDonald and the annual “prospect of the year,” in this case it was Jeffrey Hammonds, who was a first-round draft choice projected as the next coming of Willie Mays.
There were several alarming points regarding Angelos’ move to spend like a large market team now that the Orioles were drawing were filling Camden Yards for virtually all 81 home game. While it was his ego, drive and wallet trying to win over the fans of the team as the new face and leader, he seemed unconcerned about the state of Major League Baseball heading into a labor negotiation. His partners, who had been through the various wars, were furious with his spending spree because the rest of the owners were crying poverty heading into a fierce labor negotiation. While Selig and the rest of the Lords were trying to force a salary cap down the throats of the MLBPA, Angelos drove the Orioles payroll from $28 million to more than $40 million in less than eight weeks.
And if spending like a drunken sailor wasn’t offensive enough to his partners, Angelos grandstanded in the media. “We’ll do what we need to do,” Angelos told The Sun. “I mean, we’d like to stay within certain parameters at this point, but we’re not going to be restricted by arbitrary limitations. If we can take an extra step to make the Orioles as competitive as possible, we’re not going to back off and say, ‘We have a budget and we have to stick to it.’ That’s what was happening to the club before, but it’s not our intent to shrink from those opportunities.”
In late 1993, the Orioles were in the race but instead of picking up Rickey Henderson or Fred McGriff, the Eli Jacobs bankruptcy budget bought a broken down, 37-year old Lonnie Smith, who hit .208 in September as the team wilted and the Blue Jays once again danced into October.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Angelos said at the time. “You had a club in the race [in 1993], but management didn’t respond. The fans deserved more.”
So, Angelos told his inherited general manager, Roland Hemond, to spend and get the best ballplayers in the marketplace. And he did. “He said he wanted to bring a championship to Baltimore, and he’s backed it up,” Hemond said in the spring of 1994. “I mean, it was the ideal time to make moves because we were relatively close. We were adding to a foundation and not rebuilding.”
As the team hit the field in 1994 as a loaded entity with fresh faces to go along with the stalwarts from the Ripken crew, the franchise was earning unparalleled support from every angle. The NFL had just turned Baltimore down for an expansion franchise in November 1993 in favor of Charlotte and Jacksonville, and Angelos owned what appeared to be the only game in