Orioles CEO John Angelos isn’t exactly rolling out the welcome mat to the Baltimore beat writing corps.
At a press conference at the B&O Warehouse last week to announce a $5 million commitment to the CollegeBound Foundation, Angelos batted away tough questions about the organization — ones that he hasn’t been available to answer given he hadn’t made a public appearance since February 2022.
Angelos dismissed one question about the Orioles’ lease situation and then went on a lengthy rant about the inappropriateness of asking , among other things, whether the Orioles have a long-term future in Baltimore on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Then, he gave the verbal invitation.
“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,” Angelos said. “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.”
Four days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Angelos made an appearance on 105.7 The Fan, but the talk centered on baseball. Perhaps he’s waiting to answer the bigger questions with the larger press corps.
But “next week” has arrived, and an official invitation hasn’t.
Whether he makes himself available or not we have questions to ask. Here they are:
1. Will the organization renew its lease at Camden Yards?
This was the first question to Angelos last Monday, but he didn’t want to “talk too much between the lines today,” and thought “Dr. King would appreciate that, if we talked about what was going on in the community a little bit more.”
But the answer is pertinent.
A critical deadline is approaching Feb. 1. By then, the Orioles must decide whether to exercise a one-time extension of their lease at Camden Yards for five years. If Angelos opts to let that deadline pass, the lease is set to expire at the end of the year — although a new lease could be negotiated, similarly to how the Ravens agreed to a deal with the Maryland Stadium Authority this month for an additional 15 to 25 years at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Orioles signing a similar extension would go a long way in quelling any fears that the franchise could leave town.
Camden Yards is one of the best ballparks in baseball, even after turning 30 years old last season. A new lease would allow the Orioles to make improvements, though, which leads to the next question.
2. What do the Orioles plan to use the $600 million for at Camden Yards once a lease is agreed?
The Maryland Stadium Authority was granted the ability to issue bonds to both the Ravens and Orioles worth up to $1.2 billion in renovations of M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards. To receive those funds, however, each franchise needed to extend their leases.
The Ravens did their part. Now it’s up to the Orioles.
A copy of the Ravens’ new lease shows the team plans to move the press box to build more suites, build new plazas on the north and south sides of the stadium and add a parking garage. The Orioles could make similar changes, including opening up the sightlines from the concourse. Many newer stadiums have built-in viewing from the concourse so fans can see the action as they walk or buy concessions; Camden Yards’ concourse is closed off.
3. How long is executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias under contract?
The slow build in Baltimore mirrors in many ways what Elias learned as the director of amateur scouting. The Orioles were without a Top 100 prospect in 2016; now they have a league-high eight, including the top-ranked prospect for the second straight season.
It’s a long-haul project Elias signed on for. But Elias and Angelos haven’t disclosed how long Elias’ contract lasts. To this point, the work Elias and the front office around him have done is seemingly working — potential is turning into product.
4. Is the Angelos family exploring a sale of the team, and if so, where does that process stand?
In the lawsuit filing from Georgia Angelos, the 80-year-old wife of owner Peter Angelos, Georgia states that her husband felt the Orioles “should be sold on his death so Georgia could enjoy the great wealth they had amassed together.” Peter’s health has declined since he collapsed in 2017 due to heart trouble. He also suffers from dementia.
The litigation also states Peter believes a sale should be his wife’s decision to make, and it appears she is preparing for the possibility by retaining “Goldman Sachs and Jones Day to provide investment banking and legal services in connection with the sale of the Orioles.”
John Angelos, however, has been considered the “control person” for MLB since 2020. Would he approve of a sale of the family’s portion of the Orioles — which is, he revealed last week, a 70% stake? How much would the Angelos family sell, and would the minority shareholders join?
5. One more time: Do you anticipate a situation in which the Orioles could move?
Angelos reiterated last week that the Orioles aren’t going anywhere.
But in the lawsuit from his brother, Louis, there’s a claim made that John Angelos could look to move the team, perhaps to Nashville. “John intends to maintain absolute control over the Orioles — to manage, to sell, or, if he chooses, to move to Tennessee (where he has a home and where his wife’s career is headquartered) — without having to answer to anyone,” Louis’ attorneys wrote in court documents.
Until a long-term lease is signed, this will be a question floating in the back of Orioles fans’ minds, especially those who remember the Baltimore Colts’ midnight move to Indianapolis.
6. What do you think will happen in the case? Can a settlement be reached or are the sides so far apart the expectation is it to go to trial?
Angelos will likely be unable to comment on this question, but it doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. Family drama has spilled into public view through court documents, beginning with Louis Angelos’ lawsuit against his brother in June.
In those documents, he accuses John of seizing control of the Orioles and the family’s commercial real estate despite their father’s wishes that the sons equally share his wealth. Louis also alleged that John manipulated and intimidated Georgia Angelos into helping him secure control.
The suit between Louis Angelos and his mother and brother has extended to one from Georgia Angelos countersuing Louis Angelos, alleging “financial elder abuse” when Louis Angelos transferred her husband’s law firm to his control.
In court documents, Georgia Angelos asked the courts to reverse the sale and remove Louis from controlling any of his father’s assets. The documents also insist the court fines Louis more than $75,000 under state laws intended to help vulnerable, older adults in Maryland recover money lost to exploitation.
“The only small blessing is that Peter lacks the capacity to understand this betrayal,” the lawsuit reads.
7. Do the Orioles have full support to spend competitively in free agency?
Elias said at the end of the 2022 season that the Orioles were poised to “invest in the major league payroll in a different way than I have done since I’ve been here.” There has been a slight increase in spending, but Baltimore is still projected to have an opening day payroll that ranks 29th in the majors, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
In Angelos’ radio appearance Friday, he said he thinks “we will be able to” return to the top half of the league in spending at some point in the future. “This job stinks with low payrolls, right? I’d love to be sitting in New York with $300 million payrolls,” he continued. The Orioles are expected to have a payroll of $63 million.
The Orioles avoided the large splashes required in the free agent market to compete for high-end starting pitching. Elias still has yet to sign a player for longer than one guaranteed season. At some point, Baltimore will need to supplement its prospect base with external talent, but will ownership support a front office that has managed to reduce spending?
8. Is there a possibility of a settlement between MASN and the Nationals?
For as long as the Nationals have existed, there has been tension with the Orioles.
It began two decades ago, when the Expos prepared for a move to Washington. As part of the move, Major League Baseball promised Nationals broadcasting rights to the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, with the Orioles owning the majority of the network. As a result, any potential sale of the Nationals is complicated by the fact Washington is locked into its deal with MASN (the Nationals will cap out at 33 percent ownership of the network later this decade).
Plus, after an arbitrator ruled in 2019 that MASN owed the Nationals $105 million in unpaid rights fees, the network appealed the decision. That appeal has yet to be heard in the New York Court of Appeals.