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January 21, 2009

Reader comment: O's spring backward

Today's featured comment comes from Section 34, who isn't surprised the Orioles are still trying to finalize a spring training deal after all these years:

Section's take: Here's an area in which Peter Angelos has nobody to blame but himself. In fact, I'd like to see a Sun story detailing the Orioles' long, fruitless search for a spring-training facility. Why, when other teams are able to make deals all the time, are the Orioles still training in a facility the Yankees abandoned that's distant from almost every other team training in Florida?

My suspicion is that Angelos thinks he's such a hot-shot that he keeps making demands until the Florida town in question says, "Forget it." But I'd like to see a well-researched story on the topic.

My reply: Wouldn't take a lot of research. Back when Florida and Arizona were building facilities for everyone in the 1990s, the pre-Angelos Orioles backed away from a project in Naples because they couldn't find anyone to pay for the land in exchange for naming rights.

Since then, the O's have had a couple of opportunities that were eventually co-opted by other teams. The Orioles turned down half of that beautiful Jupiter complex and missed out on the Disney complex in Orlando because they wanted to get something in Fort Lauderdale. Then, when Fort Lauderdale started to look like it wouldn't be the best option, they spent a couple of years negotiating with West Palm Beach. That didn't work out, so they resumed with Fort Lauderdale, but ran into trouble when the FAA wouldn't commit to cheap rent forever.

In each case, the priorities were all wrong. It was always about where the team's minority owners had waterfront homes or where the fans might be most likely to visit. The last thing anybody seemed to care about was the best competitive interests of the team, which explains how the minor league camp has been a 2 1/2-hour drive from the major league camp all these years.

Now, they have three possibilities and two of the cities involved are already sick of negotiating with them. For 19 years, they've asked for too much or been too indecisive or just have been incompetent. So they end up with hand-me-downs from the Yankees and now maybe the Red Sox.

The bottom line, in my opinion: The aforementioned misplaced priorities and an ownership structure that makes it almost impossible to make a major deal because Peter Angelos and his sons are afraid somebody, somehow might take advantage of them, so they always have to make the deal too one-sided in their own direction to get an agreement. Maybe this time will finally be different.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 11:50 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Today's featured comment


Pete said: For 19 years, they've asked for too much or been too indecisive or just have been incompetent. So they end up with hand-me-downs from the Yankees and now maybe the Red Sox.

The bottom line, in my opinion: The aforementioned misplaced priorities and an ownership structure that makes it almost impossible to make a major deal because Peter Angelos and his sons are afraid somebody, somehow might take advantage of them, so they always have to make the deal too one-sided in their own direction to get an agreement.

My take: Hmmmm ... I'm having difficulting determining if you were talking about the fruitless search for finding a new Spring Training home or the fruitless search for getting any top tier free agents (other than Miggy) to take our Confederate money during the Angelos Era.


my wife thinks i am sick in the head because i constantly check your blog. thanks for keeping us fans updated. i REALLY appreciate all the effort. in this dead of winter and with the ravens done for the year no oriole matter is too small to report.

Pete's reply: I fear your wife is probably right, but keep coming back anyway.

The Orioles minor league headquarters are located in Sarasota. Why don't they move spring training to Sarasota, or a surrounding area? (Bradenton/St Pete/Tampa).

Pete's reply: That's one of the options. The Reds are moving out and the Orioles can move right in next year.

What a shock: the Orioles can't get a decent major league spring training facility because of Peter Angelos' penchant for driving a hard bargain.

But maybe I'm too impatient: I'm sure in another decade or two the right deal will fall into his lap.

Its not really bad that the places are hand-me-downs. As long as necessary renovations are made and the colors are switched to orange and black, then I think things are fine. To expect the team to build a brand new complex on land they would likely have to purchase or lease/rent from the city, especially in this economy, is just plain dumb.

The best possible thing to be done is to renovate an existing complex where multiple teams are within drivable distance and get the best deal possible. Angelos and sons want more than just the best possible deal, because none of the owners, majority or minority, want to shell out tons of money for renovations. And saying that the city would benefit greatly from the jobs created is just a hoax, because the renovation staff would be from out of town most likely, and how many people does it take to run a few concession stands and keep up the fields. I mean, they dont keep those fields like they do camden yards, so there is no need for a 40 man landscaping team. A couple guys per field would probably be fine. So what, in the long term (and only in the spring) about 15-20 jobs would be created? Maybe 30?

I know this is an issue, and it would certainly be a benefit to have the minor league camp much much closer, but how much of a difference does the spring training facility actually make in terms of wins? The orioles seem always ready to play opening day, it isn't till August I usually lose all hope of a winning season.

Pete's reply: I think it makes a difference in August because the manager didn't get to see the guys he's calling up when they were in spring camp.

Peter, It is easy to understand the thinking of the Angelos familly in how they negeotiate. It stems from a trial lawyers mentallity. In trial work, there is a winner and a loser. In other forms of law you find a way where both sides feel that they have won. In business you always want to be able to have the next deal after you finish this deal with a party. So what the hey, maybe you let the other guy get the last dollar if that helps you with him in your next deal. That is how a business person looks at life. A trial attorney looks at winning this deal at all costs, leaving no one to survive but themselves.

Proof in point is the difference in how the Ravens are managed and how the Orioles are managed. The Ravens ownership has a business background and the Orioles have an owner with a legal background. The Ravens won five games, last year. The owner ate a relatively new contract with his coach. The O's ownership would have spent the next 3 years negeotiating with the coach on termination terms.

Thank God Truman was President during WWII, if Angelos would have been President, he would still be deciding in 2009 on whether or not to drop the bomb.

Good post Peter. It was interesting, but not surprising, to hear that the owners' summer homes played into choosing a location. The Angelos foibles and lack of negotiation skills have always been obvious. I never thought about the fact that other minorities owners may be meddling for a location so they could easily take their families and friends out to see the club. Let's see if these guys can put the club's interests first. The daily realities of the Warehouse must really frustrate a professional like Andy MacPhail.

I also liked your recent article on giving Andy MacPhail a chance, as he's the only hope we fans have. You said the fans have earned the right to be skeptical. Andy MacPhail seems to be the one thread of sanity in the place. We're pinning our hopes on one employee who could be gone at a moment's notice on some whim of the ownership. As much as I buy into MacPhail, and his work to date, I just keep thinking this is temporary. It's damn hard to give the Angelos clan any benefit of the doubt.

Anyhow, thanks for shining a little bit of a spotlight on the Warehouse. I'm sure it doesn't endear you to them. The way I see it, the only (admittedly small) chance for change is to expose just how bad it is. In my mind, these types of stories can only help as they might make the front office brass realize we all understand the incompetence. What's there to lose? The O's are already at the bottom.

That's telling it like it is. Thanks for the insightful information. The fans had to sense that that was the real story or we would have been set by now. I'm sure some of that has spilled over in baseball deals in the past, and this tells us why we are facing out 12th straight losing season. Does the man have no pride?

Can't help to think of the old definition for insanity, "when you keep doing the same ole' thing, over and over, expecting different results".

I think we have a very good offensive and defensive line up going into Spring Training. I just hope the young pitchers can come together and meet their potential, the Japanese pitcher's talents transfer to the MLB, and that Guthrie can continue on his outstanding pitching. You win ball games with great pitching and defense.

Q: How many lawyers does it take to screw up a baseball team?

A: One.

Congrats Pete.... one of your best offerings. Keep it up.

Everybody has been complaining about eleven consecutive losing seasons, but the truth is that the team has basically been bad ever since the last World Series in 1983. They had the surprising season in 1989, a couple of OK years in the early 1990s, and the good teams during the Pat Gillick/Davy Johnson years. Truthfully, losing has become an Oriole tradition and a September collapse as inevitable as the falling autumn leaves.

Nothing but a complete paradigm shift to totally re-organize the entire structure of the team will do the job, like what Paul Richards did back in the 1950s. The lousy product on the field is the direct result of a terrible off-the -field organization.

I am not going to take the easy route and blame Peter Angelos. What the original Orioles ownership back in the 1950s did was start with the behind the scenes guys, scouting, and training the players that you have.

What the owndership in the 1950s did was hire the top notch baseball people they could find and let them do their job.

The foundation for the championship teams of the 1960s and 1970s were established with Paul Richards.

If you get that straight, then the results will eventually show up on the field, such as the Orioles becoming the dynasty for nearly 20 years.

Andy McPhail is today's Paul Richards, and he needs another 5 to 7 years to get it turned around with the priorities and personnel in the right places. The results will start to show up on the field by 2012, if Angelos leaves him alone and he is given a free hand.

Getting a good spring training facility is only one example of the lack of vision by the front office, and being "penny wise and pound foolish."
It is one more thing that needs to be repaired by a front office that had clearly lost their way.

Pete, in my honest opinion, the O's not being able to secure a long term deal for a spring training home in Florida, is the biggest mark on P.A.'s ownership of the team. It's a joke that this is still going on. I would think that he wouldn't want hand me downs from the Yanks and Sox, but I am 100% wrong.

The Disney complex is gorgeous and what a HUGE mistake it was for the O's not to go there. If you are going to take a hand me down, take Dodgertown, as it's still a beautiful complex, but going to Fort Myers is a terrible idea, as it's awful in every sense of the word.

I think the O's should buy a strip of land on the side of Alligator Alley and set up shop there, as that's about what they deserve in FL, after botching this up, year after year.

I think The O's have a better shot at winning a World Series title before getting a new spring training home in Florida.

A is for AZ, as we have burnt every bridge in FL

If the Ravens can find an offense that scores more than one touchdown per presidential term; if Dr. Richard Kimball can find the one-armed man; if I can find my car keys amongst the pile of pizza crusts and other food remanants otherwise known as my living room, then why in the hell haven't the O's found a spring training facility?

It shouldn't be that hard, guys. You're looking for a couple of ball fields and some shower stalls, not Jimmy Hoffa, although if you wait much longer you might have to settle for a site on a glacier somewhere on Michigan's UP. Lord know what/who you'll find when you start breaking ground there.

if you'd like to read well researched articles on the subject, just search the florida newspapers' web sites

it's a big story down there. seems to me most of the municipalities just don't see the Os as worth the same money as their well-heeled -- some might say over-lavish -- competition

Great story! Why doesn't the Sun do one on it?

Pete's reply: We will.

Hey Pete,

Just saw this article about how Keith Law over as ESPN ranks our farm system as the 10th best. Pretty good, I'd say. Thoughts?

Pete's reply: I don't know if that's accurate, but it's certainly an improvement over where they were a few years ago.

Thanks for the excellent summary and insightful analysis on the spring training situation. I guess this mentality has extended beyond spring training and dragged the organization down in numerous ways.

At least as to baseball operations Mr. MacPhail appears to be a breath of fresh air.

Pete,good topic and good insight.Let me give you an example from a personal side in the lawyer mentality with PAalso known as the puckered .... well,you get my point,many years ago before Pete turned the O's into the laughingstock of baseball,my stepgrandfather found out he had asbestosis,and on the recommenation of a friend went to PA,not to be confused with Pennsylvania.After sitting in on the meeting I advised against it,but his friends opinion at that time carried more weight,obviously.After several years of negotiations,several of these companies made which seemed to us to be fair offers,and we signed papers to that regard,however Pete thought he needed to wheedle more money out of some of these outfits and turned them down,so most of them went bankrupt.My grandfather died before he ever saw a single check,and these same companies are now settling for pennies on the dollar,literally 18 years later,if they're settling at all.Pete sees himself as all knowing and like you said wants every deal so skewed in his favor that nobody else wants to deal with him.Your last remark was maybe this time will be different,mine is when pigs fly.As always,like your blog and thanks for keeping the disgruntled,but still O's fan in me informed.

Pete, I've been trying to get an answer on something and having got one from anybody. What did the O's get in return for the Bradford trade to the Rays. If you could give me an answer I'd appreciate it.

Pete's reply: It's never been announced, but I think they just got a cash payment.

Pete: the Lee County Commission is chomping at the bit to get the O's here in Ft. Myers. They sold their stinking souls to the Devil to get the ("our") Red Sox to stay. I have lived with this drooling, butt kissing Red Sox crowd since they moved here in '93. It is downright sickening. Just to give you an example, we have two MLB teams within 130 miles and the local fish wrapper rarely ever mentions them. All press coverage goes to the Red Sox. The Red Sox threatened to leave and the County promptly reassigned (raised) the hotel bed tax to not only build them a "Little Fenway" but also an entire shopping and lodging complex. All of this during the worst economic meltdown this state has probably ever seen. Let's face it, the O's ain't the Red Sox and would never get that kind of attention from these politicians. They are just afraid that the palace they built for the Sox might be vacant after the Sox move to their new Taj Mahal in 2012.

Disgusting. Mr. Angelos ruined my team. I really hate him for that.

Honest and unbiased, Pete love your blog, my respect for the paper just went way up. Keep up the good work, guess I will have to renew my subscription now.

I can see bashing the Angelos for the poor teams they have fielded and the cost of a beer at the yard but for the spring training place? Most of us will not ever see the place. You all are just looking for something to complain about.


Well, well, well, you finally brought it strong with your comments about the dysfunctional spring training is certanly ABOUT TIME!

Now, why don't you blow those comments out and do a full opinion piece on it that might get some spotlight attention and spark a long overdue change in approach?

Pete's reply: You obviously just started reading me when I started the blog. I've been doing that stuff for years.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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