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The Orioles, Lost On The Field--And Now Off, Too

That Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos has presided over the decline and fall of a great sports franchise has been crystal clear for years now. The passionate but stubborn owner has prevented his baseball people from making deals that might have improved his ballclub. He tried to sabotage the birth and success of Washington's baseball franchise. And he has managed to alienate what used to be one of sports' most loyal and devoted fan bases.

But now Angelos has topped himself, breaking with the rest of the sport by seeking to undermine the authority and impact of former Sen. George Mitchell's report on the widespread use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs by Major League players.

Angelos backed up his attack on the Mitchell report--"the Orioles caution observers to resist the temptation to accept collective judgments based upon unsubstantiated allegations," a team statement said--with incendiary comments to the New York Times: Angelos said he had problems with "the substance of the report, the method of execution."

Ever the courtroom advocate, Angelos has confused his career as a ferocious defense lawyer with his responsibility as a team owner to rein in wayward athletes, send a moral message to fans and their kids, and play his part as leader of an important community institution.

To be sure, Angelos had more than the average owner's share of headaches from the Mitchell report. With popular second baseman Brian Roberts atop the list, the Orioles faced the embarrassing reality of having a whopping 19 current or former players on Mitchell's roster of people who used or obtained steroids and other banned substances.

Contrast Angelos' Clintonian parsing of the language and methods Mitchell used with the words of Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten, who made it clear to his team's fans that the Nats are "disappointed" that new catcher Paul LoDuca and several ex-Nats were named in the report. Far from criticizing the sport's investigation of the steroids scandal, Kasten is now urging his players to cooperate with the commissioner or others who might pursue the report's findings.

Do the Nats have less to lose in the steroids matter than the Orioles? Well, yes, if you look at it in the most mercenary and narrow way possible. There are far more ex-O's than ex-Nats in the report. But in the longer view, both teams should have the same motives: To win back the trust of fans, to clean up the game's reputation and reality, and to send the message to their scouts, coaches and executives that the era of winking at drug use is over.

The punditsphere is chockablock with apologias for steroid and hormone use these days: Oh, it's not so bad, some columnists and talk show hosts say. After all, everyone (or at least half of players, according to some reports) does it. Or they ask why steroid use in baseball is any worse than the gross breeding and grooming of 350-pound linebackers or the obscene worldwide hunt for talented and very tall children who might someday become pro basketball players.

The simple answer, of course, is that while athletes will always be tempted to train themselves to the nth degree or experiment with any exercise regimen that might improve their performance, this scandal is about illegal steroid use. It's one thing to abuse your body legally, something else entirely to break the law in the effort to beat the other team or set a personal record. And it's not just the breaking of the law that matters here, but rather the powerful message that's sent when pros cheat. Ask any scholastic or out-of-school youth coach and you'll get the same testimony: What the pros do has a huge impact on what teenagers do. That's not the sanctimonious claim that some observers are now dismissing. Rather, it's the plain, painful truth.

When a good lawyer and bad team owner like Peter Angelos forgets what his job requires of him, he is not only hurting his own business, he's undermining the credibility and authority of his sport--and that hurts people far beyond any stadium.

By Marc Fisher |  December 19, 2007; 7:33 AM ET
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Comments

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"He tried to sabotage the birth and success of Washington's baseball franchise."

Marc, he *has* sabotaged the success of the franchise by taking the TV rights away. Remember not being able to being able watch them for the first two seasons? I do. It was Angelo$' fault.

Posted by: WFY | December 19, 2007 8:32 AM

Angeols, Snyder, these two men must have alot of skeletons in the closet, and must have alot of bad karma. Until they get rid of the teams they own they are doomed and jinxed. Angelos bought the Orioles and must have thought he bought a car, "I'm gonna drive this thing into the ground". Snyder thought he could buy a championship, when that didnt work he thought if I just bring back "Joe". These men may be Captains of Industry or whatever, but they have both demonstrated through actions that they have no clue how to run a Sports Franchise. Please Lord give these two dummies the wisdom to SELL!!!!

Posted by: Jeff | December 19, 2007 8:45 AM

There are no good lawyers. The world would be a better place if there weren't any. Shakespeare was right. Snyder had his da's money and advisors once they either died or left him he has floundered and not done well. Snyder is one of the worst owners ever in professional sports. But Deadskin fans have hope the rumors are the Snyder's are getting divorced and the franchise must be sold!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 19, 2007 8:52 AM

You may have reasons to dislike him but you are wrong on this issue.
It is not right to slam a player solely on hearsay testimony no matter how hot or trendy the issue and desire to "get someone".
Start now in seeking rules but lose this unreal pure as the driven snow concept.
Stopping criminal activity and drug use yes, but stop the witch hunt.
Angelos is right on the money here.

Posted by: Ed Lulie | December 19, 2007 9:01 AM

Ed,

The point is that Angelos is actively trying to undermine an investigation by MLB. He's the only owner doing that. Marc contrasts that to the expressions of disappointment that the Nationals management(and other teams) have issued.

Angelos is shrewd enough to issue a statement as a call 'stop the witch hunt' without attacking the integrity of the report.

Posted by: Kim | December 19, 2007 9:13 AM

Roberts will likely be an ex-Oriole at some point in the next year. He has committed a much bigger sin than simply using steroids, he admitted to using them and in doing so contradicted Angelos' position that the Mitchell Report was full of "unsubstantiated allegations."

Posted by: Balcomore | December 19, 2007 9:27 AM

I really wish that the baseball authorities would heed the recommendations of the Mitchell report with regard to discipline. I would like the Andy Petittes and Brian Roberts to meet with some kind of panel to ask the simple question, what were you thinking? Most of these substances have legitimate therapeutic functions when administered under proper supervision. I think Andy Petitte's explanation rings true, but at the same time I have to wonder, why didn't you just go to a doctor and ask how he could best expedite his recovery? Are you going to tell me that he trusts the opinion of his ex-cop/trainer more than a doctor? It was as if he was experiencing a lot of pain, but rather than go to a doctor went to a guy on the corner to score some Oxycontin.

Posted by: Paul | December 19, 2007 9:31 AM

"There are far more ex-O's than ex-Nats in the report."
Patently unfair comparison- the Nats have existed in their present form since only 2005, while the O's have been around since 1954. Include all the Nat's franchise history (Les Expos) and the list grows significantly.

Anyway, this is all useless- the Mitchell report has been turned into a farce because its conclusions are being ignored in the popular discussion.
Guys who were simply rumored to have been using are listed right next to guys who wrote checks to known drug dealers.
Is Angelos right in criticizing this report? Absolutely.

Posted by: Andy | December 19, 2007 9:40 AM

I kind of understand where Angelos is coming from, because I'd be on all sorts of drugs if my job required me to go to Baltimore everyday.

Posted by: Harm City | December 19, 2007 9:52 AM

"I think Andy Petitte's explanation rings true, but at the same time I have to wonder, why didn't you just go to a doctor and ask how he could best expedite his recovery?"

Because no doctor that wants to keep his medical license is going to prescribe HGH to help him recover from elbow surgery. That's why they all go to dentists, anti-aging clinics and personal trainers.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 19, 2007 10:19 AM

Andy,

I think the entire Expos-Nats list isn't all that big. Maybe another one or two players to the Nats list. The Orioles were more than well represented in that report.....they've finally figured out how to compete with the Yankees on some level.

Posted by: Kim | December 19, 2007 10:20 AM

To the anonymous poster, I wasn't trying to excuse Andy Petitte, but to express my amazement as to how he, and all the others, are ready to entrust their bodies to fitness pseudo-experts. How do you know that a doctor would not have prescribed HGH or something even stronger? How does Andy Petitte know that? When I have heard pro athletes express distrust toward team doctors, the main complaint always seems to be that the doctor wants to rush them back into action without regard for their long-term career/health. So why are they so trusting of the McNamees and Victor Contes of the world?

Posted by: Paul | December 19, 2007 10:47 AM

To be fair to the O's, much of the Mitchell Report is based on the Mets clubhouse guy and he apparently had many links to O's players. It's more than likely that there are other suppliers.

Posted by: dgc | December 19, 2007 10:53 AM

What I thought was weird was that Angelos defended Roberts apparently without even checking with Roberts. What kind of thinking is that? How uncurious can you be? And then to rush into print with it. Weird.

Posted by: Arkymark | December 19, 2007 10:54 AM

Angelos is so out of touch with reality. He thinks Camden Yards is a court room. The only court room of consequence regarding The Mitchell Report is that of public opinion. Baseball fans can see right through Angelos' pathetic attempt to mitigate the damage The Mitchell Report is causing the O's. Angelos is trying to protect his investment (franchise), not his players caught in the scandal. He's shown over the years he doesn't care about O's fans.

And I don't buy for one minute any of Stan Kasten's or Jim Bowden's BS of not knowing LoDuca was going to end up in The Mitchell Report. Either Kasten didn't do his homework before giving LoDuca a $5 million contract or he chose to put his head in the sand and is now lying to Nats fans to cover his tracks. Either way Kasten looks the fool.

The Mitchell Report is out there for people to either believe or disbelieve. Angelos clearly doesn't believe the report because it hurts his investment.

Posted by: Ex-O's fan - current Nats fan | December 19, 2007 11:45 AM

"There are no good lawyers. The world would be a better place if there weren't any. Shakespeare was right."

Unfortunately you're not a very competent Shakespeare scholar, your reference only reveals your ignorance.

That statement was made in the context of the plotters against the king saying that the only way evil can succeed is if they eliminate the rule of law.

So while you may not like lawyers, Shakespeare is not on your side.

Posted by: fendertweed | December 19, 2007 1:02 PM

I think there is no reason whatsoever to assume that the list of players (present and former) in the Mitchell Report is anywhere close to complete.
Lacking any cooperation from the players, the Mitchell investigators could only follow the strings of evidence of a few sources.
It is safe to assume that there are many times the current close-to-100 people who actually used anabolic steroids and/or Growth Hormone in the last decade.
Comparisons of numbers between teams is thus meaningless. The Orioles had ties to the Mets and the A's, so the lines that began with those teams reached them. Other teams likely had other sources.

Posted by: hf | December 19, 2007 1:16 PM

I agree with the comments made by Senator John McCain about the George Mitchell's integrity and sense of public duty, and like McCain I am inclined to believe what is in the Mitchell report based solely on the reputation of the author. I can't honestly say I have the same pre-disposition to believe anything coming from Peter Angelos.

Posted by: tsw457 | December 19, 2007 1:56 PM

Regardless of whether Angelos or Joe Fan believes all of the details of the report, the general public does. The truth of the matter will forever remain shrouded, but baseball's already been tried and convicted in the courtroom of public opinion and is now wearing a huge scarlet letter. With the exception of possibly the non-Mexican latino population, baseball hasn't been America's Pasttime for at least twenty years. Unless they start bilging like crazy, they will soon be sunk.

Posted by: Leesburger | December 19, 2007 2:39 PM

Well done fendertweed.

Attributing that hatred of lawyers to Shakespeare is done often and it's always wrong.

Lawyers at least generally check the source.

Posted by: Tim from Silver Spring | December 19, 2007 3:18 PM

In your chat today you noted that metro is a hybrid commuter/urban style train. And that costs are directly related to this. You cited a trip from Bridgeport to NY Grand Central as analogous to a metro trip.

Your comparison doesn't hold up. Bridgeport to NYC is 60+ miles; the longest metro route is probably New Carrollton to Vienna at 25 miles.

Just like metro, the NYC urban subway travels some very long distances. A trip from Inwood to Jamaica, Queens is quite long. And somehow they manage to charge just $2 for the ride, day, night, rush or not.

If you want to compare Metro North to something, try MARC or VRE.

Besides all of that, NYC offers get a monthly unlimited subway and local bus pass for $70-some-odd. There are no monthly metro/bus passes available for metro. The closest we have is the unlimited metro weekly for $32.50 and unlimited bus weekly for $11. So, unlimited bus/metro would cost $174 per month. A whopping $100 more than NYC.

Posted by: Melissa | December 20, 2007 5:36 PM

In your chat today you noted that metro is a hybrid commuter/urban style train. And that costs are directly related to this. You cited a trip from Bridgeport to NY Grand Central as analogous to a metro trip.

Your comparison doesn't hold up. Bridgeport to NYC is 60+ miles; the longest metro route is probably New Carrollton to Vienna at 25 miles.

Just like metro, the NYC urban subway travels some very long distances. A trip from Inwood to Jamaica, Queens is quite long. And somehow they manage to charge just $2 for the ride, day, night, rush or not.

If you want to compare Metro North to something, try MARC or VRE.

Besides all of that, NYC offers get a monthly unlimited subway and local bus pass for $70-some-odd. There are no monthly metro/bus passes available for metro. The closest we have is the unlimited metro weekly for $32.50 and unlimited bus weekly for $11. So, unlimited bus/metro would cost $174 per month. A whopping $100 more than NYC.

Posted by: Melissa | December 20, 2007 5:36 PM

One correction to Marc's blog: Angelos was never a defense attorney, he was a plaintiff's lawyer (personal injury lawyer) who made his pile over suits related to asbestos.

He rushed, foolishly, to Brian Roberts' defense because Roberts had become the squeaky clean face of the franchise--the overachieving little guy who became an All Star. I think Angelos, who comes from a working class Greek background in Baltimore, identifies with Roberts. He went so far as to compare Roberts to Cal Ripken a while back, which caused a lot of folks to shake their heads, but which explained why Angelos had vetoed attempts to shop Roberts around after the 2006 season.

Posted by: Jack | December 21, 2007 9:08 AM

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