The Orioles have called this “The Next Chapter.” As David Rubenstein takes control of Baltimore’s franchise, his story has the feeling of a hero’s journey.

Here comes a billionaire with a history of civic-minded giving, a native son who views owning the local baseball team as “an obligation to pay back the country and also pay back Baltimore for my good fortune,” he told The Banner’s Andy Kostka.

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That’s a narrative Orioles fans want to hear. After many lean seasons under the Angelos family, the baseball team’s recent success feels sustainable thanks to the management of the Mike Elias-led front office. Moving on from John Angelos, who bristled last summer at the rising costs of having a competitive team, feels like a ripe opportunity for shaking up how this team does business.

It’s a tempting story, but it’s up to Rubenstein to play the role. Peter Angelos was once lauded as a savior simply for buying the team before falling out of favor, something I’ve mulled over a lot since the patriarch of the Angelos family died Saturday.

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Rubenstein has bought a franchise on the rise, with the executive of the year and the manager of the year in his employ, a handful of former No. 1 prospects delivering on their promise and Jackson Holliday expected to deliver on his this season. The new owner has access to $600 million in state-funded bonds to renovate an aging, yet still beloved, ballpark, and a three-year window to settle the development rights on properties around Camden Yards (no small task).

But Rubenstein must walk a tightrope, lest he tumble onto the pitchforks.

Rubenstein must be dynamic, changing a franchise that, for all its good fortune of the last few years, still is falling well short of the World Series. But he can’t be overindulgent in his impulses, as Peter Angelos was in the late ’90s, chasing off the brain trust that had helped the Orioles succeed in 1996 and 1997.

He has to be willing to spend. After years of belt-tightening, it would be welcome to see the owner find ways to add moderate free agents and shell out for long-term contracts for young, homegrown stars. But he can’t be so frivolous to lock up the payroll for years — after all, the Orioles are still paying Chris Davis.

As he told The Banner, he must support Elias. It makes sense given that the 41-year-old general manager has led the development of the best farm system in baseball and an AL East champion. But it would also be inspiring to see the Orioles’ front office take risks and operate with urgency, which it has been largely unwilling to do up until now.

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Rubenstein must show fans he cares about not just a good baseball team but an enjoyable, affordable experience. John Angelos stirred angst last summer when he forecasted passing the cost of rising player salaries directly to the fans. Part of the renovation of Camden Yards will undoubtedly include more luxury seating options (as has become the trend in stadiums and arenas) but it would be refreshing and reassuring to see those updates kept within the financial reach of working-class people. Rubenstein may be fabulously wealthy now, but a postal worker’s son can undoubtedly appreciate why affordability should remain a core value of the Orioles.

It has been easy to crusade in like a hero for a franchise that felt as if it could use change at the top. It will be substantially trickier to keep that goodwill as Rubenstein tries to guide the franchise into a more promising age. Even if he threads these needles, it’s no guarantee that the Orioles will be hosting championship parades in Baltimore — baseball is too volatile, and success often skews toward larger payrolls.

If Rubenstein’s mission is what he claims — to pay back Baltimore for his good fortune — this is what it takes. He’s helped restore the Washington Monument and fund museums. This could be his latest civic refurbishment.

In the end, the Orioles and their fans may not need a hero. They just need an owner to help spruce up the place, making it a little better for generations of Baltimoreans to come.

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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