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

July 03, 2018 | Nestor Aparicio

Baltimore. That was his motivation and reason to give him the kind of early reception befitting a hero. But under no circumstances is he to be considered an expert, the last word on player trades or how the manager manages.”

Steadman, who watched the Colts come and go from Baltimore and had chronicled sports in Baltimore for half a century, continued on the necessities of ownership:

What does it take, you ask, to be a good owner? It’s such a simple question. High school geometry is much tougher. The rules of the road for being a responsible, respected owner, regardless of the game or the shape of the ball, is to stay out of the way, let the general manager make decisions, the manager manage and the players play. There’s nothing difficult about that. What does an owner do? The job description, in the successful owner’s handbook, is so basic it’s elementary. All they should do is come to the games, entertain relatives and friends, smile at the fans as they come through the gates and refrain from speaking critically about the front office or the operation on the field.

In 1994, Peter Angelos just wanted to win and be a hero.

And, now, he found himself in the middle of a multi-million dollar mess and he was new to the party.

Insiders say he knew very little about just how deep-seated the hatred was between the union and owners. When he bought the team 12 months earlier it literally never entered into the conversation with the other investors or bankers. But Angelos was about to find out that he was helpless to stop a work stoppage that ended a season where the Orioles were in prime position to be in the postseason for the first time in 11 years and wrecked the finances and profits of the team in its first season under the new ownership.

The Sun reported that a season-ending strike would saddle the Orioles with an operating loss of $5.1 million. The Orioles had projected a $7.9 million operating profit in 1994 even with $12 million in new payroll so it brought the full economic impact of a work stoppage on the team to $13 million. Angelos had borrowed $90 million to obtain the Orioles and had a serious debt load that was also a factor in the 1994 and every budget moving forward.

The team had to refund two months worth of sold out games but, of course, player salaries were by the far the biggest line item expense and they no longer needed to be paid. Angelos vowed to keep all other team employees at full salary.

For baseball fans, MLB players, owners and everyone in the industry who depended on the sport to feed their families, it was a virtual bloodletting. But Angelos, who liked to fight, was unbowed. He liked to battle. From the time he put on boxing gloves in Highlandtown in the 1940s, he was a puncher and he would waste no time bringing those jabs into the MLB battlefield in his first year of ownership with the Orioles.

Angelos was in an awkward position during this fight because it was more like an old WWF “Battle Royal” with many combatants fighting with factions in their own camp on both sides of what amounted to a battle between billionaires and millionaires over money coming from the mortified, angry and disillusioned customers in the fan base. Essentially, this was the owners best and last chance to get cost certainty and a salary cap in Major League Baseball. This would insure more parity amongst the teams and a better product on the field where matchups and payrolls wouldn’t be so lopsided between big market, big revenue teams and the smaller market teams that were helpless to buy pricey free agents, who by their definition were the best players in the sport.

So, on the owners’ side, there were some who were personally financially sound enough to weather a protracted battle and others who were already teetering on bankruptcy, like Eli Jacobs was a year earlier when the junk bonds from the 1980s wound up earning their names. Some owners needed a salary cap, others preferred that the sport remain status quo because they were comfortable and profitable. One thing all of the owners wanted to do was contain costs on