Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has always met controversy head-on, sits down with PressBox publisher Stan "the Fan" Charles to answer some of the questions his team's fans are asking after the ninth straight losing season. Here are some additional questions and answers from their conversation.
Arbitration, as I understand it, is a means to measure one player versus another. How is that fair that arbitration has aided the skyrocketing of players' salaries when the stats that players have achieved have been, in some cases, artificially produced? In other words, I want to know what you think of the arbitration system as it relates to steroids and whether you think the owners should analyze this as grounds to get rid of arbitration.
But if we did that and if there was a basis to do that, by looking at this steroids picture and studying it, you'd have a strike on your hands. And you know, you can also look at a $14.5 million salary for a pitcher, albeit an excellent pitcher, still $14.5 million has to be supported by fans who come to the games, who may make $50,000 or $60,000 a year and who may have to pay $7-9 for a bottle of beer or $7 for a hot dog and so on. These prices are in many ways indefensible. But they become necessary to fund that kind of salary level.
If we try to do something about that, you're going to have a strike...and I am not advocating that. But sometimes that brings people to their senses and if that occurred, the owners would be attacked mercilessly by the sports writers.
Don't you think the pendulum has swung and the steroids issue is an opportunity for management to regain some sanity in this thing? That some of these statistics that have driven up salaries have been basically based on cheating?
You take a look at Oswalt, for example. He is an excellent pitcher, but I don't see stats there that suggest he in any way was a steroids user. He's a good, solid pitcher in the old baseball tradition. Not a big guy; works real hard, a lot of heart.
I don't think his salary is at that level because he or others were using steroids. It's there because of the shortage of pitchers.
That's pitching...how about offensive players?
Well, I have always said you may have too many teams. Not because there shouldn't be that many teams, but because you may not have [major league] level players to staff that many teams. So, someone who performs well as a position player or as a pitcher, for example, demands an extraordinary salary. When compared to others who are doing poorly, he stands out as being special, when really he is [just] a good [major league] player or pitcher. A shortage can drive up salaries, especially in pitching. The pitching situation is desperate in baseball. So when the Houston Astros paid that much for Oswalt, they were concerned that there were other teams out there. If he didn't do that, they would lose the pitcher. I think that was correct judgment.
What kind of relationship do you have with the investment group you formed more than 13 years ago?
I think good, very good…I don’t know about very good. But, I think it’s a good one.
Do you consult with them on things, or as managing general manager, do you have final say on everything?
I have the final say, it’s true. But, do I consult with them? No, not to any real degree. No, they are what's called limited partners. And technically, legally, the General Partner is supposed to make all the decisions. But, what I do is, do the best I can to protect their investment. And I am certainly pleased in the recent developments with the approval of MASN, because that certainly protects their initial investment and, probably ultimately, will give them a profit they will be pleased with.
Your wife, Georgia, and your brother-in law, Lou, have been, and probably are, bigger baseball fans than you. How much did they have to do with pushing you initially to get involved in this and how involved are they now with the operations of the team?
Well, Lou works in charge of all the ticket operations and does a great job. Georgia is involved in the kinds of operations I referred to with the Ripken Night and Opening Day and so on. They do a great job. They don’t get any credit for it, by the way. I think the way they did the Ripken function, they just did a tremendous job and continue to do so.
What did they have to do with me getting the club? Actually, they weren’t urging me do that at all. I think they were sort of surprised I was getting involved and maybe somewhat apprehensive. They are baseball fans and Georgia and Lou’s father operated that truck that dispenses there and at City College, where they dispensed various foods and sodas to the public. I think they may have been a little apprehensive. Because it’s controversial, if you’re doing what I am doing -- practicing law and you’re doing okay -- you don’t need the negatives.
What do you think of the issue of passing along a franchise in terms of estate planning?
I think the taxes are excessive. I don’t think you should charge anyone 55 percent as a tax upon their death. There are ways to diminish that exposure, which are in a great sense, manipulative. But it’s too high. I am a believer in taxation to cover the needs of the public; I am a Democrat all the way. I think in that area, it’s a tax that really had its origin years ago, and really should be revised. While there should be a tax, I think 55 percent is absolutely outrageous!
I am not trying to get preferential treatment to sports franchise owners, but because of what they mean to a community, is it fair that teams have to change hands because someone passes away? Where the family cannot afford, in the case of the Miami Robbies, to pay the taxes?
That’s true. It’s a terrible situation where a family is heavily involved and then they have to sell it.
The Cooke family had a similar situation. Although, Jack Kent set it up that way a little bit.
He had adequate finances to leave it to his son, but for whatever his reasons, he didn’t. He left most of it to charity, which was inconsistent with the persona he projected to the public. Nobody looked upon him as a great humanitarian, but at the end of his life, he did make a wonderful gift.
I want to shift gears and talk about horse racing in the state of Maryland and why we can’t seem to get a slots deal done. Do you play the blame game?
I think, historically, people of my political persuasion have been opposed to slots. But there is no question that those who have argued and advocated for slots have accurately stated that we are surrounded by slots. I am familiar with the operation in Delaware and I am familiar with West Virginia and now Pennsylvania, with profits going to property tax reduction and purses. We’re right in the middle of that and it seems to me that we’re probably going to have to do the same thing.
Is it desirable? If I had my way, there wouldn’t be any slots in the whole country, racing or not. It’s a regressive form of taxation. Much of the money that is spent is spent by those that can’t afford it. And those are the right arguments against it.
On the other hand, when you’re surrounded by it as we are and you have a racing industry that’s very critical to the economy of Maryland, as well as the retention of the open spaces, there are a lot of good arguments which could be preserved through slots. And the slots are only in the racetracks, and not available at every corner drugstore, restaurant or what have you. That sort of a limited exposure that the public has to them, it seems to me, would be an appropriate idea for the purpose of preserving our racing industry, which historically has been a strong part of Maryland’s history.
Do you think they’ll get something done when this election is over?
Yeah, I do. I think in the next session, once this election for governor, etc., is over. I think it’s going to happen, yes.
Posted September 13, 2006