As ‘next week’ ends, Orioles CEO John Angelos whiffs on chance to be ‘very transparent’ | ANALYSIS
“Next week” has come and gone, and John Angelos hasn’t sent out an invite.
Whether the Orioles’ CEO and chairman actually meant “next month,” “next year” or “never” when he said reporters could return to Camden Yards to examine the organization’s finances, he gave himself the chance to prove his claims that he’s “very transparent” and came nowhere close to following through.
During a Jan. 16 news conference about the Orioles’ $5 million pledge to the CollegeBound Foundation, Angelos spiritedly declined to answer a question about his and his family’s future with the team, repeatedly pointing to the fact it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day as his reason for not responding. Within his five-minute response, Angelos said he would welcome reporters back to Camden Yards “next week” and answer any questions, offering them the chance to look at the team’s financial situation, an exceptionally rare opportunity when it comes to privately owned teams such as the Orioles.
“I’ve been very outspoken; I’m very transparent,” Angelos said. “In fact, I would invite you and all your colleagues next week — not on Martin Luther King Day — you can come back in this building. You can meet me in this office. I’ll take you down on the third floor, and I’ll show you the financials of the Orioles. I’ll show you the governance of the Orioles. I’ll show you everything you want to know, and I’ll put all your questions [to bed]. But today, on MLK Day, I’m not answering any of those questions.”
On Thursday afternoon, an Orioles spokesperson said there was no update about a possible meeting between John Angelos and reporters this week. Asked whether she or Angelos could provide an on-the-record comment as to why not, the spokesperson declined.
Although Angelos said last week that his family owns 70% of the team, the number of Orioles stakeholders extends beyond them and the rest of the team’s partnership group, especially as the state continues to invest more and more public funds toward incentivizing the team to stay in Baltimore. The question that sparked Angelos’ lecture and offer to return to the ballpark did not directly mention the ongoing legal dispute pitting him and his mother, Georgia, against his brother, Louis, over the assets belonging to his ailing father, Orioles principal owner Peter Angelos. John Angelos briefly spoke with some reporters Thursday as he left Baltimore County Circuit Court following a judge’s ruling that Peter Angelos’ law firm will go into conservatorship, a positive outcome for John Angelos and his mother. When a WJZ reporter asked John Angelos whether media could expect an invitation this week, he laughed.
“I think there will be a lot of good things to talk about the Orioles in the years to come,” he responded. After a follow-up question about the possibility of an invitation, he said: “We’re gonna have a lot of good conversations about the impact of the Orioles on the community, and we’re gonna keep doing the good things we did in 2022, and [executive vice president and general manager] Mike Elias and his team are gonna continue their good work.”
It always seemed like a long shot Angelos would actually bring reporters into the B&O Warehouse and “show you the financials of the Orioles,” given that the only teams who publicize such information are those required to do so because they are publicly owned, such as the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball and the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. But that only adds to the strangeness of Angelos himself, unprompted, presenting it as a possibility.
He did so at a time when there’s particular interest in how the organization is operating beyond his family’s legal battle. The team’s lease with the Maryland Stadium Authority is set to expire at the end of the year, though the Orioles have until Wednesday to exercise a one-time option to extend the agreement by five years. Since first declaring in September 2019 that the Orioles will play in Baltimore “as long as Fort McHenry is standing watch over the Inner Harbor,” he’s reiterated that point on several occasions, including after Louis Angelos’ inciting lawsuit that referenced the possibility his brother could move the team. But the team has yet to formally commit, while the neighboring Ravens agreed this month to a new 15-year lease with five years remaining on their previous one.
Coming off a season in which the Orioles unexpectedly finished as the best American League team to miss the postseason, Elias suggested there would be a “significant” increase in payroll. Baltimore’s projected opening day figure is nearly 50% above last year’s mark but remains the second lowest in the majors, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Of the league’s 30 teams, nine have had a larger increase since the start of last season than Baltimore’s $21 million, with two of them also in the AL East. Pressed about the Orioles’ payroll in December, Elias suggested the team was “over its means” in recent years; Baltimore ranked in the upper half of the league in opening day payroll all but one season from 2012 to 2018 and was the AL’s winningest team across those first five years.
A look at the club’s financial reports might show the veracity of that claim and how much flexibility the team has to add to this year’s projection of about $65 million, nearly $100 million below 2017′s season-opening count. It might also provide insights into the contract lengths for Elias and manager Brandon Hyde; the team’s plans for the $600 million in public funds it would receive from the state to upgrade Camden Yards by agreeing to a long-term lease; and the ongoing dispute between the Orioles and the Washington Nationals over the co-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, of which John Angelos is also the CEO.
Providing that information would be the actual definition of “transparent,” a word that Angelos didn’t deploy to Baltimore media for the first time last week. In November 2018, when he and Louis introduced Elias as the Orioles’ general manager, the brothers were asked whether the news conference was a sign they would have increased visibility with fans and media going forward.
“I characterize this forum as ‘transparent,’” John Angelos said. “I look at this as a conversation that we’re all having. Obviously, it’s occasioned by the very exciting happening of our bringing in Mike to be the new GM of the O’s, so that’s a great reason to sit down and have a conversation, but does that mean that we’ll be more available? We live here. We grew up here. We spent our whole lives here. We’re not going anywhere, so we’ll be available, yes.”
Maybe next week.