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The Peter Principles (Ch. 7) – Wren not zen, a Ray of darkness and Frank malaise sets over Orioles

Posted on 23 June 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 7 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend who loves the team.)

 

7. Wren was not Zen: A Ray of darkness and a Frank malaise casts franchise adrift

 

“He called me and told me the pitching coach should be the manager’s prerogative. We tried his prerogative. It didn’t work. I don’t think he ever got over that.”

 – Peter Angelos (re: Davey Johnson) in  December 1997

 

WHEN THE DAVEY JOHNSON VS. Peter Angelos divorce letters finally hit The Washington Post – after two weeks of “he said, he said” – the newspaper literally just published the two faxes next to each other and let the fans and sportswriters read between the lines – the children, in this case the fans, were left behind in the nasty public divorce.

Angelos and Johnson simply let the peanut gallery and sportswriters pick a side after the split. And, now, just four years after buying the Orioles and seeking his fourth manager, Angelos was beginning to lose his initial honeymoon popularity and Johnson would be become a martyr to the team’s fan base for years to come.

Davey Johnson had his own demons entering the relationship and had a well-established, anti-establishment, competitive arrogance that he brought into every room. But, most folks around the 1986 New York Mets’ magical World Series run would tell you that the manager whose nickname was “Dumb Dumb” was actually always the smartest guy in the room. And Peter G. Angelos was developing a well-earned reputation as a supreme meddler, an intimidating life force and a bad guy to work for in Major League Baseball. He was making the antics of George Steinbrenner circa 1978 look like a sick, reprised role in Baltimore.

In the spring of 1998, with Johnson still unemployed after walking away from a $750,000 job and the third year of his

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 4) – The Dumb Dumb error begins in Baltimore

Posted on 09 June 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 4 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 2 is available here.

Chapter 3 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

Chapter 13 is available here.

 

4. The Dumb Dumb error begins in Baltimore

 

“I don’t think any boss, anybody in charge should ever criticize subordinates publicly. That is even in this business here that Frank Sliwka operates [at The Barn in Carney]. If he has a problem with one of the employees I think he should take them in the back room quietly and tell should tell him or her what he objects to. I don’t think anyone should publicly chastise an employee. When you’re a boss you keep that kind of thing to yourself. And that’s what I said to Davey Johnson. And I’ll repeat it again and I’ve told him that since then. He’s a great manager. He’s a great guy. I love him like a brother and we get along fine. Except I’ve said to him, “If you have to criticize someone, you take him in your office, shut the door and let it be between you and the player.”

 – Peter G. Angelos on WWLG Budweiser Sports Forum

March 1997

THERE COULD BE NO ENCORE for an act and a night as emotionally charged as the Cal Ripken 2131 night at Camden Yards in September 1995. Once again, there was no postseason baseball in Baltimore for the 12th consecutive year and Angelos, aided by the immortal Iron Man streak and the intense, family-like local passion for baseball, had enough revenue coming into the franchise to afford any baseball player he wanted in the marketplace. The club was swimming in money vs. its MLB foes. Plus, given his pro-player stance in the contentious labor dispute, many believed the Orioles would be a haven for free agents who wanted to sign with an owner who saw their side and wanted to win and put the best team on the field.

Looking ahead to the 1996 season, Peter G. Angelos was obsessed with one thing: bringing a World Series to Orioles fans.

Immediately following the 1995 campaign, Angelos fired manager Phil Regan and “accepted the resignation” of Roland Hemond, who was actually forced out, along with Frank Robinson, who was glad to leave the Orioles at that point and wound up working for commissioner Bud Selig in the MLB office.

Angelos was clearly running every aspect of the Baltimore Orioles at this point and was quite brazen in the media regarding his daily involvement. He bragged that he had enough time to run a law firm that was netting more than $15 million per year in personal income for him at the time and a MLB team on the side. Now with all of the “baseball people” gone except for his self-appointed farm director Syd Thrift, Angelos needed a new manager and a new general manager. He had already developed quite a reputation in the insulated, incestuous world of baseball men and lifers. He had owned the team for less than 24 months and had already pissed off every one of his 27 MLB partners, upstaged Cal Ripken on the biggest night of his life on national television and chased off two managers and a total of five baseball men: Roland Hemond, Frank Robinson, Doug Melvin, Johnny Oates and Phil Regan. Together they spanned three generations of baseball and touched virtually everyone in the industry with their true stories of an owner who called a manager into his office and demanded – among other things – which third basemen would be in the lineup on any given night.

A year earlier Davey Johnson, a former Orioles second baseman and World Series champion as manager of the 1986 New York Mets, was interviewed by Angelos and his internal committee that included Joe Foss and team lawyer Russell Smouse, but they instead selected Phil Regan, who they thought would be a hot commodity the previous year and whom never was given much of a chance under Angelos.

Johnson, who had a storied reputation for being snarky, cunning and anti-authority, took a shot at Angelos 12 months earlier when he didn’t get the job: “I heard they wanted an experienced manager and a proven winner. That’s why I interviewed for the job. But I guess that’s not what they wanted, right?” he told the media when he was clearly disappointed that he wasn’t selected in October 1994.

Now, after a disastrous year on the field in 1995 under Regan, Johnson’s name surfaced again and Angelos wasted no time in complementing the decorated yet difficult managerial prospect stating, “His baseball knowledge is impressive, and his strong background with the Orioles came through.” Johnson, meanwhile backtracked from any contentiousness in an effort to get the job: “I enjoyed meeting Peter,” he said. “You read stories about the Big Bad Wolf, but he was really nice.”

On October 30, 1995, Johnson was named manager of the Baltimore Orioles, the club’s third skipper in just 18 months under the Angelos regime. “This is a move in the direction of producing a winner,” Angelos said. “We are committed to building a winner in Baltimore, and Davey is a vital part of that effort. He has a winning attitude. He’s a very down-to-earth, forthright baseball professional with an extensive knowledge, and his record clearly establishes that.”

Was Johnson still sore about being passed over the previous year? “I do have a lot of pride, but I don’t have a big ego,” Johnson said. “Maybe I was hoping they’d offer the job so I could say no, but I discarded that idea in about two seconds because Baltimore represents my baseball roots. I thought it was a good fit a year ago, and I still do.”

Angelos allowed Syd Thrift to represent the Orioles at the MLB meetings in Arizona while he remained in Baltimore to interview a bevy of candidates to be the next general manager. Kevin Malone, a former Montreal Expos general manager, and Joe Klein, who had local roots and had been the GM of the Detroit Tigers, were considered to be the front runners but much like with every baseball decision made by Angelos, time wasn’t considered a pressing concern.

And despite most legitimate general managers wanting the opportunity to hire a field manager, Angelos did it backwards. The new manager, Davey Johnson was sent off to the MLB winter meetings along the farm director, Syd Thrift. Both were encouraged by Peter Angelos to recruit an appropriate general manager and working partner that would bring the Baltimore Orioles a World Series title.

In Phoenix, Johnson tracked down former Toronto general manager Pat Gillick, who was his old minor league teammate from

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 2): The error of tyranny at Camden Yards

Posted on 30 March 2014 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 2 of future book “The Peter Principles” that I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia. I have released the first three chapters of the book, which chronicles the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. I think you’ll find much of this already-reported information to be illuminating.)

Chapter 1 is available here.

Chapter 3 is available here.

Chapter 12 is available here.

 

2. A Tyrant Is Born

 

“Our fan support is beyond words. If we had enough seats, we’d surpass every other club. Our expenditures were long overdue in light of the fan support and rather meager compared to the expenditures of other clubs over the years. We felt we had some catching up to do, that the previous ownership had not done all it could to repay the fans, to give them what they deserve. We’re going to operate major league baseball in Maryland in a different way. We’re committed to making the club as competitive as possible, and that’s what we’re doing.”

—  Peter G. Angelos, as told to Ross Newhan of The Los Angeles Times, March 27, 1994

 

IN THE SPRING OF 1994, on the eve of a work stoppage that would cancel the World Series for the first time in the history of Major League Baseball, a book was published that became a handbook for anyone who wanted to see behind the greasy curtains of the business of baseball. This “tell all” for those who could think beyond what was on the back of a bubble gum card wasn’t penned by legendary Major League Baseball Players’ Association head Marvin Miller, but it certainly came from the somewhat sympathetic perspective of the plight of the players vs. the owners in the annals of the sport’s history in America.

The only problem with any “bias” in it was rooted, much like this Peter Principles series, in nothing but facts. Cold hard facts – all well sourced – that reflect the reality of the business of baseball. It told of the institution of institutionalized racism, classism, elitism, intimidation, coercion and lies amongst a world of wealthy all-white males doing business with an anti-trust exemption in the 21st century.

The 1994 book is called Lords Of The Realm and if you take no other advice from this manifesto about the Baltimore Orioles history under Peter Angelos, pick it up and give it a read. It’s impossible to sum up 75 years of baseball history in a few sentences here but to discuss the history and business of Major League Baseball over the last century would require a bar of soap, some disinfectant, warm water and a towel. Drugs, scandals, cheats, louses, greedy and/or crazy owners, racism, violence, civic shakedowns, and lack of government oversight have plagued baseball through the years. But the marketing machines insist on red, white and blue, the American flag, “God Bless America,” hot dogs and virtuous intentions for your children to idolize from crib to grave. Go watch the Ken Burns PBS series, Baseball, and you’ll see that there’s nothing more important in the universe than the sanctity of baseball history, records, heroes and civic connection to Americana.

According to some people, anyway.

Baseball owners have tried to control their public message for a hundred years and then journalists have come forward to expose all of the dirty laundry of the sport over the century.

By any measure of history, Peter G. Angelos fits right into the old boys club of Major League Baseball owners. Now, more than 20 years into his residency, it’s easy to measure his role in the pantheon of tyrannical, egotistical and iconoclastic baseball owners right up against George Steinbrenner, Charlie Finley, Bill Veeck, Auggie Busch or any of the other “Lords” as John Helyar put it in his book 20 years ago this month.

Peter Angelos bought the best and most valuable franchise in Major League Baseball in August 1993. It was the most expensive franchise in North America. Previous Orioles owner Eli Jacobs had hosted the Queen of England and the President of The United States in his shoddy, mezzanine hut on 33rd Street at Memorial Stadium and he had only controlled the team for less than four years. Owning a Major League Baseball allowed him the opportunity to sit with not only the rich but also the famous, infamous and influential. Angelos was a blue-collar attorney from East Baltimore who hit the legal lottery with an asbestos case that made him wealthy almost overnight. So, if his background portended a man who wanted to not only be rich but also desired to be famous and highly influential in the political space, then Angelos got his eternal wish with the purchase of the Baltimore Orioles.

In 1993, no one had ever heard of Peter Angelos outside of East Baltimore. By early 1994, he made sure that everyone who had ever heard of the Baltimore Orioles had heard his name and saw his image.

It started the day that he bought the team and returned to Baltimore a reigning hero and clearly in charge of the new Orioles ownership group. There were more questions than answers that day with so many prominent names involved and such civic interest in every facet of Angelos’ intentions. Angelos only won one election but this was akin to him giving a victory speech and outlining his platform for the future of the pride and joy of Baltimore – its baseball team.

“I’ll have ultimate authority in all matters, from the smallest things to the major things,” said Angelos, who said his title would be managing partner of the Orioles. “But I don’t brandish that as some kind of club, and I would hope it would never have to be used. I don’t think it will be.”

On August 4, 1993, The Sun reported this:

The baseball side of the Orioles isn’t likely to change dramatically with Mr. Angelos in charge. He said he generally supports the team’s current plan of grooming young players, rather than resorting to signing more expensive free-agent players. And he said that his goal as owner would be to give the fans a competitive team that occasionally brings home the biggest prize.

Winning a World Series “should be the goal for every team,” he said. “But that is not the sole

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