"One of the reasons people are wealthy is they're competitive," he said. "Peter remains competitive. He's created this empire and, granted, there's a lot he has to do. But he's not going to let one side of it crumble.

"Owners get over the 'wow, wow' factor, usually. Peter knows the game. He knows what to do. It's just a lot harder than people realize."

In late September 1993, before his purchase of the team was even approved by the MLB owners, Angelos told The Sun that he didn't foresee ever wanting to sell the team and that if he did, he would not sell to an out-of-town group.

That could be a reason, Galatioto acknowledges, for Angelos to attempt to orchestrate a sale on his own. But there's no longer any danger the Orioles would skip town — the specter of which seemed to weigh heavily on fans when Angelos stepped in — because of Camden Yards' success and the revenue produced by MASN.

What would it mean for the fans?

To Angelos, the Orioles are a passion but also a business.

Fans need only to consider how their favorite sports teams make them feel. They're not privy to the intracacies of running the operation, and probably wouldn't want to think purely rationally about sports, even if they could.

Evans, the lifelong Baltimorean (he attended Calvert Hall and Villa Julie), believes a sale would immediately stoke new optimism — and willingness to spend money — in fans. He yearns for the leadership of a former player who has said in the past that he would consider being part of a future ownership group.

"I guarantee you if a new group buys it, and that group includes Cal Ripken, Camden Yards sells out for the next three months," he said. "Same players, same team. Nothing's changed, but the fans would care again."

Tony Pente said the fans he speaks to — his site, orioleshangout.com, gets 50,000 unique visitors per month — have never been so demoralized.

"There's no sympathy for Peter Angelos anymore," he said. "There's no one giving him any benefit of the doubt. And that hasn't always been the case. Most people remember how they felt when he bought the team."

Attendance numbers reflect, at the very least, an ambivalence toward the team. The Orioles led baseball in attendance for four consecutive years starting in 1995, peaking at 3,711,132 in 1997, the last time the team made the playoffs or had a winning record. Last year, 1,755,461 fans entered Oriole Park. That ranked 26th in baseball, according to ESPN; the Orioles' average of just under 22,000 per game meant they filled just 48.6 percent of the stadium. Only the Toronto Blue Jays used a smaller percentage of seats.

Ed Kapinos, a 34-year-old from Rosedale, worries that his two sons, ages 2 and 2 months, won't ever understand why their father cares so much about the Orioles.

"What I did as a kid was go down to 33rd Street and watch the Orioles," he said. "But now, it just seems like we'd have more fun at a minor league game in Aberdeen. It's more of a family atmosphere, it's cheaper and you're not wondering whether the owner even cares about the fans or the product on the field."

Galatioto believes the Orioles have probably already lost a number of fans, in part because the Nationals have shown an inclination to spend money on players to complement the two most exciting prospects in baseball, pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper.

"You suck for 10 years, you've lost a generation," he said. "There's too much else for them to root for, to fall for in that time."

Barring a drastic turnaround under Dan Duquette — Jim's cousin, and the eighth man Angelos has employed in the task of rebuilding the Orioles — it seems that the story of Angelos, the kid from Highlandtown who made a fortune and rescued his hometown ballclub, will be forever smudged.

But maybe Angelos knew that would be the case.

Speaking of Eli Jacobs, the man he bought the team from, Angelos once said: "He made a lot of contributions to the Orioles, but, like in politics, you don't get much credit when you go out."

An audience with the owner