To be honest, I was unaware of the phrase “born on third base” until this week. It is a slightly derogatory term, the baseball equivalent of “born with a silver spoon in your mouth” and is usually directed at the sons of baseball club owners. This week, two such sons proved that, no matter how much money you may have or how much privilege you enjoy, you’re not immune to acting like a complete (insert your favourite expletive).
Let’s start with the Baltimore Orioles. Off the field, the franchise is one in disarray. Peter Angelos, the 93-year-old majority owner, has been incapacitated for several years due to poor health, and the club is under the guidance of Chairman and CEO, John Angelos. However, last year, John’s brother, Louis commenced legal action to wrestle control of the franchise, claiming:
“John intends to maintain absolute control over the Orioles – to manage, to sell or, if he chooses, to move to Tennessee – without having to answer to anyone.”
Fueling speculation is the hesitancy to address the lease at Camden Yards which expires at the end of the 2023 season. The Orioles have the option to extend the lease by five years, but the deadline to exercise this option is the start of February.
After five straight losing seasons, including 115, 110, and 108-loss campaigns, the O’s returned to winning ways in 2022, going 83-79. Their enviable farm system is finally producing results with players like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson debuting, and the game’s top pitching prospect, Grayson Rodriguez, imminently arriving at The Show.
Given the amount of money the franchise has saved over the tanking years, and the low level of their current payroll – Kyle Gibson is the highest-paid player on the roster – it was expected that the Orioles would invest during the offseason to capitalise on this window of contention.
Instead of acquiring one of the elite free-agent infielders (Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts or Dansby Swanson), they signed Adam Frazier. Instead of bringing a bonafide ace (Carlos Rodón, Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander) to anchor their rotation, they signed Kyle Gibson. And instead of getting one of the trio of proven closers (Edwin Díaz, Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen), they secured the services of Mychal Givens.
Fans and onlookers alike are flummoxed by the lack of action from the Baltimore Orioles’ front office and the continual confusion over their future. So, when John Angelos made a rare appearance at a media-invited event, answers or explanations were expected.
However, in a bizarre outburst, Angelos castigated veteran O’s beat writer, Dan Connolly, for asking impertinent questions about the future of the franchise, especially on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Angelos habitually avoids the media, so it was haphazard thinking by him to complain about an only-to-be-expected question. And I don’t know much about Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but it feels distasteful to use Dr King’s memory as a reason to avoid scrutiny.
You can read the transcript of the interview here, but you have to love this exchange:
Angelos: I find that to be highly inappropriate, and I think that your focus is completely out of touch… My family owns over 70% of the Orioles. You want to write that down?
Connolly: I know that. Keep going.
Angelos: Well, that’s funny you do. I don’t think most people know that, actually.
Connolly: Well, I get paid to cover your team, but go ahead.
And slightly later,
Connolly: OK, well let me just respond very quickly.
Angelos: No, no, I don’t want you to respond. I’m not going to entertain those questions on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Connolly: Which is the day that you set up for us to talk to you. This is the second time that we have spoken to you in four years.
Angelos: Let’s take another question. No, I’m not going to let you ask any more questions because it’s highly inappropriate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati…
A similar ham-fisted situation occurred in Cincinnati. You will remember last year that Reds president and chief operating officer, Phil Castellini, made obnoxious statements including, “Where you gonna go?” to fans demoralised about the fire sale of talent from Cincinnati. The son of the majority owner, Bob Castellini, inferred that Cincinnati locals might as well shut up as they had no option of another team to support and if they weren’t careful, the owners “would pick it up and move somewhere else.”
The Reds endured an embarrassing start of just three wins in their first 25 games last season, and the fans did find somewhere else to go as attendance at Great American Ball Park was down by one million spectators in 2022 compared to the pre-Castellini days.
This week, Castellini junior managed his annual demonstration of a detachment from reality. To a group of committed Reds fans, Castellini commented that the franchise operated like a “non profit [organisation]”, which feels ill-judged, especially considering the franchise is worth more than six times the $270 million his father paid in 2006, and they have halved their payroll since 2020.
Oh, and they are guaranteed $100 million even before selling one ticket,
Castellini’s comment, of course, was taken out of context, but even if he meant that the club doesn’t make an operating profit – which no one knows as the accounts are not revealed – it was a stupid thing for a multi-millionaire to say, and somewhat insulting to true non-profit organisations.
Despite the record-breaking value of MLB, Castellini bemoaned it as a business “in crisis” due to the financial differences between the clubs and “joked” that even though the Reds had a great farm system, they would lose all of their talented youngsters to richer teams, and that in reality, the Reds had “no chance” of competing. To be honest, it felt like he had just watched Moneyball for the first time.
On The Athletic Baseball Show, Ken Rosenthal was aggravated by Castellini’s comment. During his rant about whether MLB can do anything to enforce a change of ownership, Rosenthal said, “The answer unfortunately is nothing. Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t take the team away from Bob Castellini and his son Phil … you can’t take away a team for stupidity.”
Cincinnati Reds have only enjoyed four seasons with over 80 wins in the 17 years of Castellini ownership. Oh, and I learnt new word this week… failson.