Baltimore owner Peter Angelos always has looked like George Steinbrenner on training wheels, which means he can be both a bully and a meddler.
From all reports, Angelos treated Johnny Oates like an errand boy when Oates was managing the Orioles. But now it is Angelos who makes a stand against replacement players in baseball. At a time when his fellow owners are ready to disgrace the game with bar-league players, Angelos looks like a hero. Baseball sure could use one.
Maybe Angelos will fold his hand when the American League tries to fine him $250,000 a game, or suspend him, or threatens to take him to court. There have been reports that the men who now run baseball--led by Clueless Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf, the real godfather of this plan to break the players' union--might even try to confiscate the Orioles, for which Angelos paid about $175 million, although I would like to see them try.
Maybe Angelos makes his stand against scab baseball out of respect for Cal Ripken, Jr., who is intent on breaking Lou Gehrig's hallowed record for consecutive games played. Ripken is probably the most popular player in the Orioles' history, and maybe even the owner is intimidated when he thinks about playing some smarmy part in destroying Ripken's remarkable streak.
Whatever Angelos' reasons, he is right. He is right when he says "so-called replacement players would stigmatize the game." He is right to make this stand, no matter how much he is threatened by bottom-line bums like Selig and Reinsdorf, who don't care what they do to baseball if it makes them more money down the road.
All along, I kept hearing that the other owners would never listen to some blowhard rookie like Angelos, that the veteran owners would never take him seriously. We have veteran owners in New York like Steinbrenner and Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday. They have all disappeared under their desks over the past six months. Not one of them has had the guts to stand up and say what Angelos said this week, that bar-league baseball presented as big-league baseball will be part of an ongoing scandal that is the worst since the Black Sox scandal of 1919.
Steinbrenner, of course, doesn't care about what bar-league baseball would look like in Yankee Stadium. He just wants to start getting the first cut of his $45 million from the Madison Square Garden Network in May. When you ask someone like Steinbrenner to make an ethical stand, he thinks that means go stand next to the cash register.
Steinbrenner seems to think he will get his money if he offers replacement players to MSG as the Yankees. I will tell you this right now: He will have to sue to get his money. When Steinbrenner shows up with his hand out, the people from ITT and Cablevision and from the Garden are going to tell him to get lost, to come back when Don Mattingly is back at first base.
And Angelos says he would rather forfeit games than disgrace baseball by putting the likes of Oil Can Boyd back in uniform.
I love the idea that Angelos might be disciplined because of Rule 6.5 of the American League Constitution, which says the league president can fine or suspend an owner for conduct "not in the best interests of baseball." As if bringing Oil Can Boyd and the Niekro brothers back to pitch \o7 is\f7 in the best interests of baseball. Whatever baseball is anymore.
At a time when no one on the owners' side publicly stands for anything other than union-busting and greed, Angelos stands up and says, "This is wrong."
If Angelos is forced to go along with the other owners, maybe he should do something readers have suggested to me: He should announce he's hiring the Silver Bullets, a women's professional team, to represent the Orioles. Angelos can explain himself this way: If the game is being thrown open to everyone now, that should include qualified women too, if the women are willing to cross a picket line to get their chance inside Camden Yards.
When Clueless Bud Selig tells Angelos women can't play, that it's not in the best interests of baseball, Selig can explain his position to the National Organization for Women. Which will be parked, in full membership, on his doorstep.
We don't need replacement players in baseball, we need replacement owners.