Signing young talent and winning the key to Orioles now and forever | READER COMMENTARY


Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray. What do those three names all have in common? All three are homegrown Baseball Hall of Fame players who spent all, or most of, their careers with the Orioles.

Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Roberto Alomar. What do those three names all have in common? All three are Baseball Hall of Fame players who were hired guns to get the Orioles over the proverbial hump.

Guess which of these two groups generations of Baltimoreans latched onto — to the point that you still see their jerseys at every home game in spite of the fact that it’s been decades since any of these men last donned an Orioles jersey on the field?

That would be the first group. You’re supposed to root for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back, but in real life, that’s not how it works. When we’re kids, we all find that one player (usually the team’s all-star) who we pull for, drop everything we’re doing to watch them at bat or make an amazing play on the field, collect their baseball cards, attempt to get their autograph, etc. For my father, it was Brooks; for me, it was Cal; and for my daughter, it’s currently Ryan Mountcastle. Players put a face on a faceless organization, create an emotional connection to a civic institution and, from a capitalistic perspective, generate revenue for the ball club by creating fans. It’s this level of player that should be retained not only for the betterment of the club on the field, but for the long-term health of the franchise.

With that in mind, the recent comments by John Angelos about being unable to afford to keep the team’s collection of young stars without raising ticket prices are absolutely ludicrous (”Report: John Angelos casts doubt on Orioles’ ability to retain young stars, speaks about Kevin Brown’s discipline,” Aug. 21). Does he not realize that his collection of stars — Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez and Félix Bautista to name a few — are the reason he has a winning product on the field which has put the team in the national spotlight, reignited fan interest and generated profits at the turnstiles and inside the ballpark through increased attendance (up 6,000 per home game, according to ESPN)? A winning product with the same group of star players sparks fandom and commitment to the team in the younger generations which, in turn, yields long-term profits through return trips to the ballpark and through the purchase of merchandise. This isn’t rocket science; it’s basic economics.

It seems that when Angelos and Gov. Wes Moore went on a fact-finding mission to Atlanta earlier this year, he came home with the wrong message. Nobody’s going to want to come to a year-round entertainment venue at the ballpark if the team is consistently lousy. Nobody’s going to want to come if they have no emotional connection to the team because the star players they’ve latched onto are constantly traded away as happens in Oakland or Tampa Bay.

If Angelos wants to increase his profits, here’s another economic lesson — these players are never going to be cheaper than they are today. Follow Atlanta’s lead and lock them up now at a lower cost while they’re still showing flashes but haven’t yet broken through. By following this path, the core is locked in at an affordable price for years to come and you’ll be repaid handsomely through increased fandom. This approach is cheaper than free agency and puts less pressure on being consistently successful in the draft.

Speaking of the draft, the approach that Orioles management took to get to where they are today (by losing) is no longer an option due to outcry from the player’s union. The Orioles are the last team to benefit from the old way of rebuilding a franchise. The chances of having one of the top two draft picks in three out of four consecutive drafts under the new rules is almost impossible. Angelos should take advantage of the opportunity he has before him and lock up these players from the old system as soon as is feasibly possible rather than trading them away after they have experienced some success and rolling the dice in the draft again with diminishing returns.

The point of sports is to win. Winning the league championship should be every team’s ultimate goal. That goal, more often than not, is accomplished by having highly talented and experienced players. Angelos’ goals appear to be more about generating a profit with winning being secondary (or even lower than that). If that is his thought process, then he is in the wrong business. He needs to be willing to spend money to make money (another economic lesson), and that doesn’t appear 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 pastures, so that option to increase his coffers is unavailable to him. Since he doesn’t seem to appreciate the relationship between the team and the city, Angelos or his family should make a move that would be most beneficial to all parties when his father passes away — sell the team as its value has increased by more than a billion dollars (per Forbes magazine) since it was purchased in 1993. A billion dollars divided three ways is quite the windfall and more money than he could possibly ever need.

Selling while the team is winning with recognizable homegrown players would send the asking price even higher which reminds me of a final economic lesson to impart to the Orioles chairman and CEO: Buy low and sell high.

— Bruce Voelker, Cockeysville

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