If there is a revolt within the ranks of baseball ownership that leads to a softening of management's hard-line bargaining position, it probably won't start in Baltimore.
The baseball strike has entered its seventh day and the discomfort level may be higher in the Orioles' front office than anywhere else. But it seems unlikely that owner Peter Angelos has been around long enough to hold significant influence with the number of large- and middle-market teams necessary to alter the course of the negotiations.
Not that he has made any attempt to do so.
Angelos has been one of the most vocal critics of the management bargaining strategy that led to the players strike, but he says that he has made no behind-the-scenes attempt to alter the internal power structure of the sport. To the contrary, he probably is interacting with his fellow owners less than before.
"Right now, I think I'm getting the silent treatment," Angelos said. "I think that's because I'm the new guy. I encountered the same kind of thing when I was on the City Council. The old-timers would say, 'What do you know? You just got here.' "
That may be true. Angelos is baseball's newest owner. He acquired the Orioles for a record $173 million in a bankruptcy auction a year ago and took control of the team last October. He is short on baseball experience -- and has proved that on occasion -- but he is a successful lawyer who takes the same approach to the experience question that renegade politician Ross Perot did during the 1992 presidential campaign.
Perot, when questioned about his experience in government, conceded that it was true, he had no experience running up a $4 trillion national debt. Angelos could make the same kind of claim at the baseball management level, because he never has been in a position to identify with the economic problems of some of his fellow owners.
"Still, the newness argument has some validity in a sense," Angelos said. "There are some guys who have been around for a long time. They feel you should -- how should I put it? -- pay your dues."
Angelos is paying some heavy dues right now. He'll lose about $1 million in revenue for every home game lost and a prorated portion of the season's local broadcast revenue. The only other teams with as much to lose are the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays.
"Obviously, nobody wants to lose money," Angelos said. "This was going to be a banner year for the Orioles. Maybe not from a standpoint of profits, because we weren't going to match the profits this team made in 1993, but we were going to draw 3.8 million this year. So obviously, there is a feeling of disappointment."
The club was going to have about $8 million in operating profit if the season had gone uninterrupted. It would end up with a $5 million operating loss if the strike wipes out the rest of the season. That isn't exactly what Angelos had in mind when he bid well above market value to return the Orioles to local ownership.
Nevertheless, he has remained publicly supportive of the goals of the Player Relations Committee, even as he postulates alternative solutions to the labor dispute.
The Orioles do not have much to gain from a revenue-based salary cap, since they are one of the teams that would pay dearly.
Angelos enjoys the free-agent hunt and has the money to shop freely during the off-season. He enjoys making money, too, but that apparently was not the motivation behind his acquiring the team.
Though he is taking no active role in the labor dispute, Angelos might become more prominent if the owners eventually back away from the salary cap. He has proposed a different revenue-sharing arrangement that would encourage small-market communities to build new stadiums in the hope of emulating the success of new parks such as Camden Yards and Cleveland's Jacobs Field. It just might make sense.
BASEBALL STRIKE DAY 7
News of the day
No collective bargaining session is scheduled for today, but federal mediators may meet separately with union and management representatives to discuss the stalled negotiations.
The Montreal Expos announced that 35 employees put on vacation this week will be laid off when their vacations end. The New York Yankees said that more than half their staff of 100 had been sent on vacation.
Fourteen games were canceled yesterday. The total number missed is 74.
"Their union is strong, and I can understand why they don't want to give up the gains they've made." -- Pro tennis player Pam Shriver, who also is a minority owner of the Orioles.
Today in the minors
* Albany-Colonie at Bowie, 7:05 p.m.
* Frederick at Wilmington, 7:05 p.m.