Back in June, it was reported by Tim Prudente and Justin Fenton of The Baltimore Banner that the Angelos family was battling over the Orioles franchise. Peter Angelos, now 93, was the lead investor of a group that purchased the club in 1993 and has been at the helm since. However, he collapsed in October of 2017 due to the failure of his aortic valve and then established a trust with his wife and two sons as trustees.
The reporting in June provided details of a lawsuit coming from Louis Angelos, one of Peter’s two sons, alleging that John, the other son, had seized control of the team with the intention of selling and perhaps relocating the team to Tennessee. Shortly after those allegations came to light, John released a statement refuting them.
Prudente has released a new piece at the Baltimore Banner this week with further reporting on the matter, looking at court documents from the ongoing legal dispute. According to the attorneys of Georgia Angelos, the wife of Peter and mother of John and Louis, she wanted to create some space between the family and the team. Peter had a reputation as a very hands-on owner, which led to attention that the family wanted to move away from. “After years of bad press that Peter micromanaged baseball operations at the Orioles, Georgia wanted to create distance between her family and the ‘baseball side’ of the organization,” Georgia’s attorneys wrote in court documents. “John similarly abhorred any management structure other than an organizational pyramid with full delegation of authority to a staff of trained professionals and executives, headed by a General Manager responsible for all day-to-day decision making.”
Her attorneys go on to argue that general manager Mike Elias, hired in late 2018, was aggressively pursued by the Giants but instead agreed to come to Baltimore on the condition that he would report to John only because John would give Elias the freedom to handle the baseball decision without interference. “This understanding was crucial to Elias’s decision to come to the Orioles — a club long plagued by anti-organizational culture — so much so that John, with Georgia’s approval, codified these delegated rights in Elias’s employment contract,” Georgia’s attorneys wrote.
The documents go on to allege that Louis was not happy with this turn of events and demanded to be in charge of baseball operations, repeatedly contacting Elias about which baseball players the team might sign. The behaviour of Louis caused him to be excluded from a new board for the team that his mother created in August of 2020, which featured John as chairman and CEO.
The dismissal of Brady Anderson, who had been serving as vice president of baseball operations, also comes up in the court documents. Georgia’s attorneys alleged that Louis was friends with Anderson and unilaterally raised Anderson’s salary from $300K to $900K in 2018. However, when Elias was brought in, he tried to steer the club to a greater analytical approach that didn’t align with Anderson’s style. Louis insisted on keeping Anderson around, with Elias agreeing to a compromise where Anderson was moved to a position as an outside consultant with lower pay. “While Anderson agreed, he felt slighted, a sentiment he could not hide and which eventually led to his termination,” Georgia’s attorneys write. Anderson departed the Orioles organization in 2019.
This is an ongoing legal matter where the allegations haven’t been substantiated in court and an attorney for Louis declined to provide comment for the report. Interested readers are encouraged to read both reports, though more information is likely to be revealed as the legal process plays out.
Regardless of how it came to be in the boardrooms of the front office, the Elias-led Orioles are a reality that is starting to show encouraging signs at the big league level for the first time. After losing at least 108 games in each of the past three full seasons, the O’s are much better here in 2022. Their 73-65 record is the best they’ve had in quite some time and has kept them in the playoff race down the stretch, just four games out of a Wild Card spot with just over three weeks remaining. That big step forward is at least partly due to the club’s 2019 draft, which was Baltimore’s first with Elias at the helm.
Elias recently spoke with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic about that draft, which saw the club scoop up catcher Adley Rutschman, infielder Gunnar Henderson and outfielder Kyle Stowers, all three of whom are already in the majors. Despite the pressure of having the number one overall selection, it seems Elias and the club didn’t have much doubt about using that pick on Rutschman. “He provided for us the best combination of floor and ceiling,” Elias says. “We thought the leadership component would be a separator, which is looking like it could be the case. And I thought it was rare, a once-in-a-decade kind of thing to get an offensive catcher in a draft.”
Even before that draft selection, Rutschman was mentioned as one of the best prospects in the sport. Since then, he continued rocketing up prospect boards, being considered by many to be the top prospect this year. Since ascending to the big leagues, Rutschman has lived up to the hype in a big way. He’s hitting .255/.363/.449 for a wRC+ of 135, production that’s 35% better than the league average hitter but even further beyond the average catcher. He’s also been great on the other side of the ball, with his 16 Defensive Runs Saved second in the league among catchers despite missing the early part of the season, just barely behind Jose Trevino’s 17. Put together, he’s been worth 4.1 wins above replacement on the season, according to FanGraphs. Among all catchers, that trails only J.T. Realmuto and Sean Murphy, who have each played at least 28 more games than Rutschman.
Based on the strong season for the O’s, Elias said last month that the club expects to “significantly escalate the payroll” this winter. It’s hard to know exactly how the club will approach things, given that we don’t have precedent for how Elias will behave under these new conditions. With the team in rebuild mode for his entire tenure up until now, the front office has avoided significant commitments and hasn’t signed a free agent to a multi-year contract since the four-year deal Alex Cobb got in March of 2018, before Elias was hired. That means they have effectively no future commitments on the books and can theoretically go after any free agent they desire. It will be interesting to see how they play their cards, with Rosenthal reporting that their list of targets includes “a top-of-the-rotation starter,” in addition to a backup catcher and an infielder, with the specific position of the infielder depending upon where the multi-positional Henderson settles.
The club will be looking for “quality rather than quantity” on the pitching front, Rosenthal says, which makes sense given that the club already has some intriguing rotation candidates in the fold. Young pitchers like Tyler Wells, Dean Kremer, Austin Voth, Kyle Bradish and Spenser Watkins have all had some promising starts this year, to varying degrees. The club also has reinforcements coming over the horizon, with Grayson Rodriguez considered by many to be one of the top pitching prospects in the sport. John Means could also return to the mix at some point next year, after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April. Given that collection of internal candidates, it would make sense for the O’s to shoot for a single impact starter rather than spreading money around to a handful of less-impactful options. Rosenthal lists Chris Bassitt, Carlos Rodón, Nathan Eovaldi, Jameson Taillon, Corey Kluber and Michael Wacha as some of the available hurlers who would make for logical targets, as the O’s hope to turn the page from perennial basement dwellers to consistent contenders in the AL East.