Kyle Goon: Although John Angelos is polarizing, our poll shows the Orioles’ turnaround has helped his image

Published 10/5/2023 5:53 p.m. EDT

It’s not the team Kenesha Raeford was born with — it’s the team she chose.

The 29-year-old hails from North Carolina, a state without Major League Baseball. When she moved to South Baltimore, she landed in a Locust Point neighborhood crazy for the Baltimore Orioles. Most of the people in the law firm where she works are Orioles fans. Pretty soon, she became one, too.

So, with the 101-win Orioles in the playoffs and the town clamoring for postseason baseball, to her, it seems that Orioles CEO John Angelos must be doing a good job.

“Just this current season seeing a lot more wins, what they’ve done is something the city has been looking for for quite some time,” she said in a conversation with The Banner. “It just seems like they’re going in a really positive direction.”

Raeford is far from the only Baltimorean who feels that way. In a survey from Goucher College Poll in partnership with The Banner, 37% of respondents said they “approved” or “strongly approved” of the job Angelos is doing. Another 29% of participants said they “disapproved” or “strongly disapproved,” while 35% either said they didn’t know or refused to answer (poll results can add to more than 100% with rounding).

The Banner-Goucher poll contacted 711 registered Baltimore voters by phone last month, and the survey has a 3.7-percentage-point margin of error.

“As long as this deal plays out well, I could be swayed the other way.”

—  Orioles fan Pat Quillan

Unlike many of the officials polled about by the Banner, Angelos does not serve a government role. His stewardship of the Orioles occurs largely behind closed doors, but the most obvious product — the baseball team — is doing well.

People like Duane Price, a 52-year-old who lives in Yale Heights, know there are ongoing negotiations for a long-term lease at Camden Yards, but “I chalk it up as just business.” He sees the Orioles as a positive force in the community, on the field and off.

“I drive by and see them at the events in the city,” he said. “I think they’ve been doing a good job.”

The poll underscores that, as Angelos continues high-level negotiations with Gov. Wes Moore and the state to keep the team at Camden Yards, the Orioles’ winning record and the upbeat feelings the team has created give him some trust with the public.

There is, however, an entrenched, cynical swath of fans who — while recognizing Angelos hired general manager Mike Elias to lead a successful rebuild — are waiting on other kinds of follow-through from the Orioles’ top official.

The poll gauged what readers thought from Sept. 19-23, and the Orioles and state announced a memorandum of understanding to keep the team in place for at least 30 years on Sept. 28 in a splashy scoreboard announcement midway through a game.

Jeffrey Skipper, a 38-year-old die-hard fan who lives in Waverly, said he was unmoved in the time since he first answered the poll. He still strongly disapproves of Angelos, and the entire three-decade Angelos family stewardship. When more details were reported about the MOU, which is not a legally binding agreement, it seemed clear to Skipper that it continued a trend he’s seen over the years: a lack of commitment.

“It is more PR than anything,” Skipper said. “They won’t commit to the city; they won’t commit to the state; they won’t commit to the fans.”

Postseason baseball is welcome, but the high costs of tickets are another point of frustration to fans. When Skipper attended a playoff game a decade ago, he remembers tickets costing $80 for the American League Division Series. When he went through the presale process this year, the best tickets he could find were upper reserve seats with an obstructed view for $250: “I couldn’t justify it,” Skipper said.

Canton resident Pat Quillan, 34, said he, too, couldn’t find affordable tickets. But more of his angst comes from relocation worries. Even if the Orioles strike a deal with the state before the Dec. 31 deadline, he’s wondering if the state will concede development rights in contested parking lots around Camden Yards. “It’s a concern to me sometimes when public property goes to private interests.”

That being said, Quillan is not totally dead set against the Angelos family. Although he “strongly disapproves” of John Angelos at the moment, that could turn around depending on the long-term lease.

“As long as this deal plays out well,” he said, “I could be swayed the other way.”

There is another contingent that simply isn’t all that worried about relocation because it does not seem feasible. Nathaniel Price, 82, has been an Orioles fan since the team was integrating in the 1950s, and he’s been glad to see the team getting back on the right track. Although the Northwood resident was surprised to learn that the long-term agreement the state and the Orioles announced last week was not a binding lease, to him, it just doesn’t seem practical to move the team.

“I just can’t see them moving anywhere, and I don’t know how many places can support a team,” he said. “You look at Tampa Bay, and there wasn’t that many people watching the games there anyway. I can’t see too many cities affording a baseball team.”

Winning could help vault the Orioles, and Angelos by extension, into a much more flattering light. Fans like Skipper add that they’d like to see Angelos increase the third-lowest payroll in baseball, something he told The New York Times in August would require a stiff bump in prices.

“You guys are making money hand over fist. Invest in some players,” Skipper said. “This whole situation doesn’t work if you’re not willing to invest in the product.”

Then again, some see it like Raeford does. She didn’t know she had a baseball-size void in her life until she moved here and got invested in the Orioles.

The path to keeping her support? She just wants the team to keep doing what it has been doing.

“Just keep going down this same path of getting better every year,” she said. “The love they show to the fans, the preseason things they do, coming to the South Baltimore neighborhood where I’m at. ... The Orioles are going places.”

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