On the field, the 2023 Baltimore Orioles have been a great story. They are incredibly fun, chock full of exciting, young talent, and sport the best record in the American League at 77-47. It's a shame that ownership gets in the way, and that's now happened for a second time in less than a month. The first was suspending a broadcaster for reading facts ( ), and now, managing partner John Angelos is already setting low expectations for the future.
In a New York Times article, Angelos cried poor, essentially, and seemed to indicate that Orioles fans shouldn't get their hopes up on retaining their young stars long-term. Some of the lowlights are in quotes:
- "The hardest thing to do in sports is be a small-market team in baseball and be competitive, because everything is stacked against you -- everything."
- "We're going to have to raise prices here -- dramatically." By way of reminder, ideal prices, economically, are set by demand. Saying something like we need more money, so let's raise prices is a misunderstanding of Economics 101. Fortunately, Angelos elaborated, so he could educate us on how hard it'll be to own a good baseball team with good players in Baltimore.
- "Let's say we sat down and showed you the financials for the Orioles. You will quickly see that when people talk about giving this player $200 million, that player $150 million, we would be so financially underwater that you'd have to raise the prices massively. Now, are people going to come and pay that? I don't know if we're at the limit, to your point. I don't know if we're in equilibrium elasticity, supply and demand. Maybe we are. But really that's just one team. What I'm really trying to think about is macro." Can we start at the beginning there? Please show us the financials. Please! One of the biggest issues when it comes to discussing economics in baseball is that no ownership groups will open their books and show us the math. It's an educated guessing game, but they want us to take their word for it and it simply isn't believable that so many teams are losing money at the rate they claim to be. Otherwise they'd put their teams up for sale. The rest of that quote is just him throwing around terms to try and act smart. He fails, since he essentially admits he doesn't know if they are charging the correct prices while also saying they'd have to raise them to pay for good players.
I say this every single time an owner whines about the "market" and how they don't make enough money: Sell the team. Please. Sell the team. There will be buyers. The Marlins sold for $1.2 billion. The Royals sold for around $1 billion. John Angelos' father, Peter, bought the Orioles for $173 million in 1993. John Angelos and his family could make an utter fortune by selling the Orioles right now.
Now, 94-year-old Peter Angelos owns the team and perhaps he's not allowing a sale. Maybe John really does want to sell. Maybe he will once he's allowed to make that decision. If not, I have a simple message: If it's so difficult to own the team and make everything work, why not just sell the team, make a windfall and rid yourself of the headache? It seems like there's an easy answer and that would be that he's not telling us the whole truth. If he wants to dispute this notion, he can show us the financials, as he mentioned above. My prediction? He won't sell, even when he's allowed to do so. He'll just keep the team, keep making money and cry poor, when convenient, publicly.
Remember, Angelos back in January said he'd show the Orioles' financials to the media and then in late March -- after saying he's "as transparent as transparent can be" -- refused to do so.
The players in question, right now, are catcher Adley Rutschman, infielder Gunnar Henderson and likely starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez, possibly extending to the likes of Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser, eventually.
Rutschman is the big one. He's already a superstar. He's set to hit free agency after the 2027 season. Henderson also looks like a star and he won't hit free agency until after the 2028 season. Rodriguez had a rough go early, but since returning from the minors he has a 3.03 ERA in six starts. Assuming he's in the majors to stay, he likely hits free agency after 2028.
Unless something changes, it sounds like Angelos isn't planning on doing anything but letting those players walk when they hit free agency -- or maybe they'll be traded with one or two years of control left. There have been no reports of the team reaching out to these players to talk extension. Generally speaking, when it's this early in the career of promising players, the contracts end up being team friendly, too.
It's also worth pointing out the Orioles recently stripped player payroll to absolute bare bones. In 2019, they ranked 27th in payroll. They were dead last in 2020, 28th in 2021, 29th in 2022 and even sit 29th this season. During the extreme rebuild with these low player payrolls, the team was atrocious. They were historically bad with a 47-115 record in 2018, lost 108 games in 2019 and then 110 in 2021. To put the fan base through that and then whine about finances once the team is finally good again is pretty poor form.
The entire situation is frustrating. Unfortunately, there's no Orioles game Monday to distract from this nonsense. They do play Tuesday, however, against the Blue Jays in a nice AL East matchup. Let's watch that and try to forget that John Angelos opened his mouth. Again.