We just sang for our supper. But John Angelos wants us to clear our throats for an encore.

The mystery that has hung over Baltimore like a dark cloud for most of this year is coming into sharper focus. The reason the Orioles have not signed a long-term lease at Camden Yards is that Angelos, the managing partner and CEO of the team, wants a bigger bag.

Apparently the $600 million in public bonds the franchise would get once it signs a new lease is not enough. Angelos wants to expand his empire beyond the bounds of the ballpark.

Reporting from The Banner’s staff has found a number of mind-numbing revelations. Angelos has asked for $300 million in additional public funds and looked into how he can acquire development rights on adjacent properties in addition to a long-term lease, which he insists on calling a “partnership.” Even though these development rights would line his own pockets, he doesn’t seem to want to pay for them. Someone — it remains unclear who, exactly — commissioned surveys to see if a “revitalization” project dubbed “Camden Crossing” would be appetizing to neighborhoods around the ballpark, publicly airing the concept of an expensive public project before bothering to show anyone a blueprint.

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A screengrab from an Orioles video shows Gov. Wes Moore, left, standing next to Orioles CEO John Angelos at Truist Park in Atlanta.
A screen grab from an Orioles video shows Gov. Wes Moore (left) next to Orioles CEO John Angelos at Truist Park in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Baltimore Orioles PR)

Maryland’s state leaders have played a role in entertaining these fantastical ambitions. Gov. Wes Moore went down to Atlanta’s Truist Park to tour The Battery alongside Angelos, who touted it as “the best example of what’s possible.” But even then it was obvious that what the Braves built 10 miles outside of the city on sparsely developed acreage — The Battery contains more than 2 million square feet of space, and the team paid more than $400 million to build it — couldn’t be replicated in downtown Baltimore.

The picture of Angelos that emerges is of a man who can’t articulate fully what would satisfy him enough to sign the long-term deal he’s promised many times will get done. Though he’s claimed he’s not a developer, he’s certainly looking at adding developments to his portfolio. Though he claims he is a native son of Baltimore who wants to see the city and state thrive, he’s determined to extract as many pennies as he can from public coffers.

The unifying theme of this dizzying flurry of moves: Angelos just wants more.

Before picking up a stone and taking aim, I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. If I’m being extra empathetic, I see a son who is trying to fill the shoes of his father, Peter Angelos, who (for better or worse) is a figure of great scale. I see that John doesn’t seem to know exactly how to fulfill his lofty aims for the city, which probably contributes to the slow pace of discussions. I see a history of head-butting between the Orioles and their Maryland Stadium Authority landlords that has not always spilled out into public view but has made finding common ground difficult.

But, at a certain point, empathy wanes for a billionaire who, to put it frankly, is holding his fans hostage to an ill-defined list of demands.

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Here’s the problem: The people of Maryland have already paid up. It’s not just the $600 million, though that is a tidy sum.

The Orioles are only given equity by their true lifeblood: the fans.

It’s the same people who have bought tickets since 1954, shucking their way through peanut shells and slaking their thirst in beer. It’s the people who have bought cable packages (for a less-than-stellar regional broadcast), and hundreds of variations of team-branded hats and baseball gloves, and who have invested — almost as important as their hard-earned dollars — their hope.

The Angelos family wants more money? Considering that Peter paid $173 million in 1993 for a franchise that would now sell for several billion dollars, maybe they should consider that investment its own reward.

The Orioles might argue that the parity clause that mandates there be equal financial distributions to them and the Ravens actually drives inequity because they put on roughly 10 times as many games as the football team but get the same payout.

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If they’re upset at perceived unequal treatment to the Ravens, I invite them to admire the two Lombardi Trophies that sit in the football team’s display case since it came to Baltimore. In the same span that the Orioles have made five playoff appearances, the Ravens have made 14. While they may have fewer overall events, they’ve added a few championship parades to the city calendar. And they’re here, at minimum, for another 15 years, because they’ve signed the paperwork.

After years of touting the Orioles’ community impact, it would be quite a heel turn from John Angelos to suddenly spurn Baltimore and try to relocate. He belittled reporters earlier this year for attempting to ask about the stadium lease during a rare media availability on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, admonishing: “Dr. King would appreciate that, if we talked about what was going on in the community a little bit more.”

This ignores, of course, that the most impactful thing Angelos can do in this community is simply keep his baseball team here. For many of us, Camden Yards is the place where we go to see a game we love with people we love. It’s a binding element of this region, one of the reasons that kids (like myself) who grew up in the counties say they’re from Baltimore: The city was on the jersey of our favorite ballclub.

For a town that still feels the aching trauma of losing the Colts — neither “Irsay” nor “Mayflower” is a name worth a stack of empty crab shells around here — the fear of relocation keeps us up at night.

For the last two months, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Oakland, where a new ballpark deal fell flat after years of negotiations. As team owner John Fisher successfully rustled up $1.5 billion in public funds in Nevada to finance a new stadium, the people of the Bay Area — who had suffered decades of miserly ownership and underwhelming teams — made their voices heard with a “reverse boycott” and chants of “SELL THE TEAM!” that so deafened the players that pitcher Hogan Harris believed his pitchcom was broken.

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I still feel goosebumps sprouting up my neck when I think of that moment. But equally chilling was MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s apathetic, flippant summation: “It’s great to see what is this year almost an average Major League Baseball crowd in the facility for one night.” Added Manfred: “The community has to provide support. At some point you come to the realization it’s just not going to happen.”

For a town that still feels the aching trauma of losing the Colts — neither “Irsay” nor “Mayflower” is a name worth a stack of empty crab shells around here — the fear of relocation keeps us up at night.

That sparked a realization of my own: Baseball leadership will do nothing on its own to save its historic markets, no matter how deep the roots (the Athletics had been in Oakland since 1968). Manfred and his cronies serve the best interests of their owners, no matter how callous and unfeeling those interests are, whether they’re good for the game or not.

Manfred did say as recently as the All-Star break: “I have every confidence there will be a resolution on that lease issue. They’ll stay in Baltimore.” But how long until the tables turn, and Manfred says the same things of Baltimore that he’s been saying of Oakland?

That’s the sports world we live in. Despite assurances from Angelos and city and state officials that a deal will get done, you cannot believe upbeat talks of progress until a deal is in place. The only words we can trust are the ones written in ink.

So for Baltimore, it comes down to this: Is Angelos the civic leader he says he strives to be? Or is he willing to create a bidding war between Baltimore and other markets who want baseball just to wrench a few more bucks from a region that has given him so much?

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We want baseball to stick around here but, as fans, that’s not all we want. We want the quality of the team to remind us why we keep investing. If that sounds like a lot to ask from an owner, it’s not. That’s what all the money is for — from the city, from the state and directly from our collective wallets. Holding the threat of relocation over us isn’t responsible ownership; it’s a shakedown, pure and simple. If Angelos wants to spur civic revitalization, he can still do that once he locks down the future of Camden Yards, but hinging one deal on the other is a de facto holdout.

A deal that both sides once insisted was close might stray a lot closer to the Dec. 31 deadline than anyone is comfortable with. The Baltimore Sun reported that Angelos floated the idea of a two-year extension to get a long-term deal done, seemingly unaware that every passing day without one adds to the city’s existential dread. A hallmark trait of Angelos through this process has been going slow. The generous might call this being thoughtful. The pragmatists, such as state treasurer Dereck Davis, call this “foot-dragging.”

Whatever Angelos might be waiting for, here’s a notice. We already sang our song. The offer — the same one that enticed the Ravens to sign quickly — is on the table.

Whether he’s a hero or a villain, it’s time for John Angelos to decide.

kyle.goon@thebaltimorebanner.com

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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