Fairly or not, Peter Angelos is the story again in Baltimore
Dec. 24, 2013
What is the Baltimore Orioles’ identity? That’s what’s been on my mind ever since the Grant Balfour controversy emerged. Looming much larger than the question of who will close games for the local nine in 2014 is the narrative surrounding the Balfour deal, namely that Baltimore is the place where free agent deals go to die when the owner doesn’t like them.
We experienced a brief reprieve for a couple of seasons, but fairly or not, Peter Angelos is the story again.
The Balfour narrative
Much virtual ink has been spilled about the Balfour situation. Three recent articles - all of which include an Angelos angle - stand out for me.
1. Former Orioles beat reporter Ken Rosenthal states that the Balfour situation continues a “troubling pattern” for the Orioles. He identifies the O’s as a team at a crossroads with a meddling owner at risk of alienating free agents.
2. Hall of Fame columnist Peter Gammons suggests that signs were pointing in a positive direction for the Orioles starting in 2012, and could keep moving that way given a core of four players - Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters and Adam Jones - who are as good as any other quartet out there. However, Gammons writes, the undue influence of ownership could make Baltimore “the wrong end of the Beltway.
3. Locally, Camden Depot's Jon Sheperd isn’t biting on the Angelos narrative; he argues instead that the O’s process for reviewing free agent physicals has served them well.
Regardless of where you stand on the owner’s role in killing the Balfour deal - and who really knows aside from those closest to the team - the fact that we’re talking about Peter Angelos so much is a bad thing. That’s exactly what everyone was doing during the Orioles’ 14-season losing streak.
Can a baseball team have a midlife crisis?
The Orioles updated their image in 1998, adopting the “Lifelike Bird." They made flashy, expensive purchases in the form of free agents who gave them the largest payroll in baseball. No other team has topped the Yankees since then. And they nearly destroyed their marriage with the city of Baltimore as they embarked on a dispiriting run of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
Changes in image? Big ticket purchases? A failing marriage? The Orioles experienced a midlife crisis as the franchise reached its mid-40s.
It seemed we were past all that as the O’s embraced their old selves in recent years. They put Baltimore back on the road jerseys. The cartoon bird returned. They unveiled statues at Camden Yards honoring the team's all-time legends. And best of all, playoff baseball returned to Charm City.
Now, the Orioles are turning 60. The team will celebrate the milestone, which marks the St. Louis Browns’ 1954 move to Baltimore, during the 2014 season. By age and by experience, the O's should be beyond their midlife crisis. So what then is their new identity?