BALTIMORE — In recent weeks, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has made it clear that the franchise is beginning to rebuild. The team has already dealt Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, and Jonathan Schoop. Even though the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline already passed, the Orioles can still move players this month if they clear waivers. On the field, the next few years will be rough for the Orioles, but the hope is that the team can return to its competitive form in the early 2020’s.
In the last three weeks, the Orioles announced the returns of two team legends who will assist the ball-club in their quest to rebuild. On July 15, it was revealed that Brooks Robinson, who won 16 Gold Gloves with the O’s in 22 seasons, will come on as a special adviser. 10 days later, fellow Orioles legend – three-time Silver Slugger recipient Eddie Murray – showed up in town and revealed that he’s also coming back to Baltimore to serve as a special adviser, specifically to ‘Executive Vice President’ John Angelos.
Murray and Robinson will both serve the front office as special advisers, but their roles will differ. Robinson, 81, is 19 years older than Murray, so obviously his workload won’t be as heavy. Robinson and Murray both outlined their responsibilities during aired interviews on MASN.
“I’ll be doing some things to try to promote this club and get people to this stadium,” Robinson said. “It’s a beautiful ballpark, and the Orioles have always tried to get people in and get people into the community.” “I might go to Spring Training, I might do a fantasy camp, I might do a session with the players [at FanFest] that they have here in January. So that’s really my job.”
“I’m not going to say it’s broke, but it’s pretty close,” said Murray. “They’re not playing very well, but hopefully [I] can come in here and maybe add something. We’ll see what I’m capable of doing.” … “[John] was letting me know that there’s definitely going to be a change made here. They said this is their chance to shine, and they would really like to get this down here on this field turned around.”
Over the last few months its become clear that much of the power held by Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos is shifting to his two sons, John and Louis. Peter celebrated his 89th birthday on July 4 and it’s only fair to assume that he will not hold his post as majority owner much longer. Although John has worked for his father as the Orioles’ Executive VP since 1999, Peter has been, for the most part, calling the shots. No official announcement about a torch being passed from Peter to the kids has been made. However, it appears that John and Louis are taking over their father’s duties fairly quickly.
Both Robinson and Murray have been out of the game for a while, but they sure do know what it takes to win. Between both Orioles Hall-Of-Famers, the duo appeared in nine playoff runs, won three World Series Championships, and played on 26 teams that finished with winning records out of 36 combined seasons. They’ve seen first-hand what it takes to build a competitive, winning ball-club and do it consistently.
From the perspective of John Angelos, perhaps the Orioles’ Executive VP (if that’s still his current title) feels that bringing back player legends to advise team operations would not only give him an accredited voice to guide him, but it would also allow the Orioles to make amends with former players who were isolated by his father.
It’s no secret that Peter Angelos severed multiple relationships with long-time Orioles players and coaches. There was the infamous battle between Angelos and former manager Davey Johnson that led to Johnson’s resignation following the 1997 season in which Johnson’s Orioles fell to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship series. Johnson and Angelos never got along. Johnson’s slow downfall to resigning began when he ordered then-second baseman Roberto Alomar to to pay a $10,500 fine for not showing up to a team dinner and skipping an exhibition game during the All-Star Break. Johnson wanted the money to go towards a fundraiser that his wife was involved in, but Alomar paid the fine to a different charity after being told by the players’ union that Johnson’s orders could be classified as a ‘conflict of interest’. Angelos used this ammo on top of his already existing disdain towards Johnson to force the Orioles’ Hall-of-Famer into resignation.
Johnson actually resigned the same day that he won the AL Manager of the Year award. He had led the O’s to three straight playoff appearances and two trips to the ALCS. After Johnson resigned, the team endured 14 straight losing seasons. His presence was dearly missed.
Aside from Johnson, another detriment to Peter was his disregard for great players and team legends, including Robinson himself. According to a 2001 article in The Washington Post, Peter made promises he couldn’t keep, telling former players like Brooks and Frank Robinson that he would schedule meetings with them, but never returned their calls. The lack of communication between Angelos and famous Orioles caused many of those players to stay away from the team, especially when the team constantly lost.
Perhaps the most underlying problem with Peter is the fact that the successful law firm he launched in 1961 presumably takes up a large chunk of his time. That’s understandable, but it doesn’t create an excuse to not pay an equal amount of attention to a professional baseball team under your name.
Former Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail described Peter as ‘a lawyer who happens to run a baseball team‘, giving the impression that the firm always has been his first priority. During his reign of owning the Orioles, Peter has gotten involved in several team decisions that would normally be made by the general manager without interference from ownership. If the law firm was truly the first thing on his agenda, you have to wonder how much thought Peter actually put into each decision before putting his foot down.
The tactics of Peter Angelos have corrupted the once-great Orioles organization. Because the Angelos family, to date, almost never addresses fans or the media, bringing the dirty laundry to surface takes some digging. Aside from first-hand accounts from former players and managers who have worked under Angelos in the past, there’s not much to go off of. It’s one of those cases where you simply say “the proof is in the pudding”.
Even though the reign of Peter Angelos hasn’t been easy for the Orioles or the city of Baltimore, the early moves of John Angelos show that there’s some hope. Letting kids below the age of nine in for free was apparently the first big decision made by John, and now the credit for bringing back Robinson and Murray is going to him. If that’s the case, there’s certainly reason to being optimistic about the future of the Orioles, specifically ownership.
Murray and Robinson can’t offer anything on the field, and they won’t even be around full-time. Robinson’s age makes a part-time schedule best for him, and Murray lives on the west coast. But, from a baseball perspective, it’s a great move by John Angelos to have these two men in his ear as he begins to take over the ownership reigns from his father. There’s going to be a lot of pressure placed on John. Reaching out for advisement was not only a great move, but it will bring multiple heads together to try to get this franchise turned around as soon as possible.
Nothing is promised and the rebuild of the Orioles will take some time. With John now at the helm with former Orioles greats assisting him, there is going to be some sound baseball decisions made. Under Peter Angelos, this seemed to not be possible.
Image Credit: Baltimore Business News