Angelos the answer man

The Baltimore Sun

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Orioles owner Peter Angelos emerged from the club's spring training offices moments before yesterday's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox and told a group of waiting reporters that he was there to watch a game and not to make statements.

Then, for the next 15 minutes, Angelos candidly and, at times, playfully answered a barrage of pointed questions ranging from baseball's economics to his reasoning for vetoing a trade involving second baseman Brian Roberts to his own future involvement with the franchise he has run since 1993.

"I would like to give our fans a winner," said Angelos, 77, who hadn't attended a spring training game since 2004. "That doesn't mean upon that happening that I would then sell the team. I have no real interest in selling the team."

Wearing a suit coat but no tie, the billionaire class-action attorney seemed relaxed in the Florida sunshine, joking that he didn't want to talk about eventually passing the team to his sons, Louis and John, because that "requires something terrible happening."

Angelos, however, reiterated his interest in overseeing the completion of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the Orioles' regional sports broadcasting arm, which should allow the club to extend payroll beyond the current mid-$80 million mark.

"I'd like to see how the [Orioles and MASN] function together, particularly in the generation of revenue, which will enable us to put on, as I said, an even more competitive team than we did this year and the following year," Angelos said. "That's the goal."

If it's accomplished and the franchise breaks out of its record losing streak, which is at nine seasons, Angelos said the peripheral negativity will fade.

"I really want to take away all that criticism you guys are able to lob," Angelos said with a smile. "It's my way of getting even."

Angelos said the verbal beatings he has received during his tenure from the media and the club's fan base is tiresome.

"Of course, it bothers you. No one likes to be criticized, but you have to deal with it," Angelos said. "I am the managing partner, so I have to take the heat. And I make the decisions, so I should take the heat."

What rankles him the most are accusations he doesn't care about winning. The results may not mirror the intent, but the passion is there, he said.

"Whether it's a baseball game or a courtroom challenge or so on, I think we all share that drive," he said. "We all want to win. For anyone to suggest that I ... don't want to win in any particular context is really unfair and certainly incorrect."

Club vice president Jim Duquette also disputed that line of criticism.

"It's so ridiculous that you don't even want to give it any credibility. He wouldn't own the ballclub if he didn't care about winning or losing," Duquette said. "We've got to do a better job of selecting players. He's always provided us with enough money. It's just about selecting players."

Angelos also addressed reports he has vetoed potential moves by his front office, including a December deal that would have sent the popular Roberts and pitching prospect Hayden Penn to the Atlanta Braves for second baseman Marcus Giles and first baseman Adam LaRoche.

"Every deal ... is always presented to the person who is the managing partner, whether it's the signing of a super athlete at a great expense or even a mid-level athlete that has to pass by the managing partner for financial reasons," Angelos said. "Occasionally, as I review proposals like that, I also take into consideration what I believe to be the value of a player to a team from the standpoint of the psychology of the team."

Roberts, who was drafted by the Orioles in 1999 and last week signed a two-year, $14.3 million extension that keeps him with the club through 2009, has an exceedingly high value in those terms, according to Angelos.

"I just thought that Brian should stay an Oriole, not that the front office didn't think so, [but] they were looking at it from a standpoint of improving the ballclub," Angelos said of the vetoed trade. "And they may have been totally right. I looked on it as the retention of a player that came through our system and who is of such great value to the club for all the things he does out there with the public and in the hospitals and so on.

"This is a special kind of player, just like Cal Ripken was for the Orioles, the kind of player you want to keep as part of the organization. And so there's an area where one might say that I have interfered, but I felt impelled to do that from the standpoint of keeping a player that I thought was critical to be part of the Orioles team."

Other subjects covered by Angelos:

Steroids. He said he doesn't believe there is a disturbing link between his club and performance-enhancing drugs, because, with the exception of Rafael Palmeiro's failed test in 2005, the other names mentioned have been speculative. "Facts are what people should rely on and until such time as there are hard facts ... we have to assume that none of them are involved."

Salary cap. Despite his pro-labor background, he supports a league-wide salary cap. Given the new five-year labor agreement, he knows a payroll ceiling won't happen soon, but "inevitably it will come because it has to come to protect the viability of the game."

Sam Perlozzo. Angelos said the Orioles' second-year manager continues to improve and is "a great guy and a great manager."

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