Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray. What do these three names have in common? All three are resident Baseball Hall of Famers who have spent all or most of their careers with the Orioles.
Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Roberto Alomar. What do these three names have in common? All three are Baseball Hall of Famers hired to help take the Orioles over the proverbial mountain.
Guess which of those two groups has been joined by generations of Baltimoreans — to the point that you still see their jerseys at every home game, even though it’s been decades since either of these men last sported an Orioles jersey on the field wore?
That would be the first group. You’re supposed to care about the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back, but in real life that doesn’t work. As kids we all find a player (usually the team all-star) we prefer, drop everything to watch him bat or have a great game on the field, collect his baseball cards, try to getting an autograph etc. For my father it was Brooks; for me it was Cal; and for my daughter it is currently Ryan Mountcastle. Players give a faceless organization a face, create an emotional connection to a civic institution and, from a capitalist perspective, generate revenue for the ball club by attracting fans. It is this level of player that should be maintained, not only for the club’s improvement on the field, but for the long-term health of the franchise.
Against this background, John Angelos’ recent comments that he cannot afford to keep the team’s collection of young stars without raising ticket prices are absolutely ridiculous (“Report: John Angelos questions Orioles’ ability to retain young stars and speaks out on Kevin Brown’s discipline.” August 21). Doesn’t he realize that with his stars (Adleyrutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez and Félix Bautista to name a few) he has a hit product on the field that has propelled the team into the national spotlight and rekindled fan interest has? and generated profits at the turnstiles and ballpark through increased attendance (around 6,000 per home game according to ESPN)? A successful product featuring the same group of star players inspires fan base and commitment to the team among the younger generations, which in turn translates into long-term profits from round-trip stadium trips and merchandise purchases. This isn’t rocket science; It’s basic economics.
It appears that when Angelos and Gov. Wes Moore went on a fact-finding mission to Atlanta earlier this year, they came home with the wrong message. No one is going to want to come to a ballpark venue all year long if the crew is consistently bad. No one will want to come if they don’t have an emotional connection to the team because the star players he’s made a habit of getting traded away all the time, as happens in Oakland or Tampa Bay.
If Angelos wants to increase his profits, here’s another economic lesson: these players will never be cheaper than they are today. Follow Atlanta’s example and lock them up now at a lower cost while they’re still showing lightning but haven’t broken through yet. By following this path, the core is secured for years to come at an affordable price, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded by the growing fan base. This approach is less expensive than free agency and puts less pressure on being consistently successful in the draft.
Speaking of the draft, the approach Orioles management took to get where it is today (by losing) is no longer an option due to player union outcry. The Orioles are the last team to capitalize on the old-school way of franchise rebuilding. The chances of having one of the top two draft picks in three out of four straight drafts under the new rules are almost non-existent. Angelos should take the opportunity that presents itself and lock these players out of the old system as soon as possible rather than trade them away after they have had some success and roll again in the draft with diminishing returns.
Sport is about winning. Winning the championship should be every team’s ultimate goal. In most cases, this goal is achieved by highly talented and experienced players. Angelos’ goals seem to be more about making a profit, with profit being secondary (or even lower). If that’s his line of thinking, then he’s in the wrong business. He has to be willing to spend money to make money (another economics lesson), and that doesn’t seem to be his method.
Due to Oriole Park at Camden Yard’s iconic status in the sport, Major League Baseball would never allow Angelos to move the team to greener turf, leaving the option to top up his treasury unavailable. Since he doesn’t seem to appreciate the relationship between the team and the city, Angelos or his family should take a move that would be most beneficial to all involved when his father dies – sell the team as its value has increased by more than one Billion dollars (according to Forbes magazine) since purchase in 1993. Splitting it up three ways, $1 billion is quite a godsend and more money than he could ever need.
Selling while the team with recognizable local players is winning would drive up the asking price even more, which reminds me of one final economic lesson I should teach the Chairman and CEO of Orioles: buy low, sell high.
— Bruce Voelker, Cockeysville
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