October 4 is an auspicious day for Baltimore Orioles fans.
In 1993, the Baltimore Orioles changed hands as the American League approved the team sale to current owner Peter Angelos.
Before Angelos owned the team, the Orioles belonged to a group of investors that included Eli Jacobs, Larry Lucchino, and Sargent and Bobby Shriver. Their brief period of ownership began on December 5, 1988 after they purchased the team for $70 million from the estate of Edward Bennett Williams.
Jacob owned the majority of the team, and five years later was forced to sell it when he had to file for bankruptcy in March of 1993. Angelos and his investment group bought the team in an auction for $173 million in August of that year. It took a few more months before the sale was made official by the AL.
It may have been meaningful that Jacobs was a lifelong Red Sox fan who purchased the Orioles while he was busy acquiring a range of businesses in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. His office was in Manhattan. He was not an active owner, and put the day-to-day work in the hands of Lucchino who worked as president of team under Bennett Williams, too.
Before the Orioles went to Angelos, they were almost sold to another Baltimore outsider: Bill DeWitt, Jr, a Cincinnati oil tycoon who was friends with George W. Bush and was a part owner of the Texas Rangers. DeWitt’s father once owned the St. Louis Browns. So, DeWitt was an MLB insider, but a Baltimore outsider.
This troubled Angelos. But, he knew the Orioles were in Baltimore for at least 30 years after signing the lease on the field at Camden Yards. But, Angelos needed to outbid the outsiders, and he did. Angelos’s original bid on the team was $148.1 million, but after a bidding war, he ended up paying more than anyone else had ever paid for a baseball team: $173 million.
Now, the team is valued at $1.4 billion, according to Forbes.
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The auspicious quality of October 4 involves the idea that Angelos did “rescue” the team from outside owners. But, most fans would argue that Angelos has not been an ideal owner.
Many mistakes have been made with the team since he took over in 1993. Take the Chris Davis contract, and the way the Orioles slowly disbanded the 2014 team by not paying fan favorites like Nick Markakis, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Adam Jones.
Under Angelos’s leadership, seats in Camden Yards have become some of the easiest and cheapest to buy as fan attendance has steadily dropped since 2014. In 2019, Camden Yards looked an awful lot like other notoriously empty stadiums like The Trop, Marlins Park, and Guaranteed Rate Field.
An empty stadium is a sign of weak ownership, as the owners are the ones who direct the focus of the team. Fans come to see top players and the Orioles ownership has not invested in what fans want, focusing instead on reducing the payroll to a fraction of what other teams pay.
While Angelos is still the majority owner of the team, he does not have much involvement with the team. At age 91, his health has forced him to cede control to his family. Back in 2019, Rob Manfred asked who was in control of the team, but an announcement still hasn’t been made leaving fans wondering about the future of the team.
While the Angelos family might not be the best ownership team in baseball, sometimes staying with the status quo is better than not. Just as the fans of the Detroit Tigers who once had the most generous team-loving owner on the planet: Mike Ilitch, and are now stuck with his cheap son, Chris.