If there seems to be some key information missing concerning the Baltimore Orioles suspension of MASN broadcaster Kevin Brown because, while on-air, he rattled off statistics about their putrid recent past, well, there is.
It’s called context. And a disturbing pattern of behavior by an owner who should be enjoying the Orioles’ renaissance but instead keeps tripping over his golden shoelaces.
This time it’s about John Angelos’ mishandling of MASN broadcaster Kevin Brown, who hasn’t been allowed to broadcast on the Orioles’ regional TV network since July 23 (he did broadcast one series on radio in late July).
Don’t get this confused with John Angelos and his staff’s mishandling of Gary Thorne or Ryan Wagner or several executives he’s fired or even what was supposed to be a mundane news conference in January.
This one is about Brown, 33, who has quickly established himself as one of the better play-by-play broadcasters in baseball. Brown made a mistake a couple of weeks ago by spouting facts to give context, something that apparently irked the Orioles chairman, CEO and eldest silver-spoon son, JohnA, as the kids call him.
A source with a direct knowledge of the situation, however, said that Brown’s dissemination of “negative” facts was something that had stood out previously to Angelos, who also acts as MASN president.
So, when Brown discussed how poor the Orioles had played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., in past years – statistics provided in the daily media notes and used by Brown to add context to the importance of winning that series against the division rival Tampa Bay Rays – it wasn’t the first time Brown had used negative historical data. According to one source, Angelos believed dwelling on the past and not concentrating on the future reflected poorly upon Angelos’ regime.
It’s not debatable that Brown has used negative Orioles stats during previous broadcasts. That, to an extent, is his job as a play-by-play broadcaster: To provide context to a moment, a game, a series, a season.
Kevin Brown telling the full Orioles’ story
The Orioles are on their way to their first postseason appearance since 2016. Under general manager Mike Elias, manager Brandon Hyde and, yes, Angelos, the organization has turned around its fortunes in five years. That is worthy of celebration by MASN and Orioles employees.
But that inspirational story is incomplete without revealing how far they have come. This club lost 108 or more games in three of four seasons from 2018 to 2021. Brown, or any other broadcaster or journalist, can’t tell the full story without all the facts – good, bad, otherwise.
That brings us to another pattern – a truly odd one. Angelos, directly and through a few members of his “senior leadership team,” have stressed to employees that negatives, and even some positives, about this franchise in the past decade or so, should be eliminated from on-air discussion. Just act as if the recent past didn’t exist. Seriously.
Want examples? For several years, Orioles broadcasters at times were told not to mention names of former club greats who had left the team. They were not allowed to discuss Manny Machado, Buck Showalter, Brady Anderson or Adam Jones, among others. The point was to keep focus on the present club.
According to multiple sources, ownership was so adamant about that policy that in 2020 MASN broadcasters were told not to mention how the team acquired starting pitchers Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann, since they were returns in the 2018 fire sale that signaled the Orioles full rebuild. MASN didn’t want to call additional attention to the fact they had traded Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kevin Gausman and others to the Atlanta Braves. Just have the fans think that they parachuted down to the Camden Yards mound.
If MASN employees mentioned the taboo ex-Orioles or former staff, they could be scolded – sometimes harshly – by higher-ups. It wasn’t just a rule for broadcasts. Social media accounts were studied, and Tweets, posts and even likes were pulled if they were deemed either too negative or too appreciative of former Orioles.
The only exception is MASNSports.com stories, which, to some degree, are viewed as independent of MASN’s other media outlets. Using previous stats – even negative ones – to paint a story appears to be acceptable in the print form.
If all this seems mind-spinning and hypocritical, it is. And that brings us to the most disturbing pattern in this sordid tale:
The John Angelos Fear Factor.
Angelos is solely in charge of the Orioles, though his parents, Peter and Georgia, are the majority owners. His father Peter, who bought the team in 1993, is now 94 and incapacitated due to poor health. The Angelos’ other son, Louis, sued his brother and mother in 2022, alleging they conspired to push him out of the family businesses and had squandered millions of his father’s fortune. The suit was settled this February, and although details were not made public, John Angelos remains the unilateral decision maker for the ballclub, and Louis has no active role with the club.
JohnA also is the sole decision-maker with MASN, which is majority owned by the Orioles and broadcasts both Orioles and Washington Nationals games, an agreement brokered by Peter Angelos and Major League Baseball when the Nationals moved into Orioles’ territory in 2005.
Because of his dual role in what was supposed to be separate entities, John Angelos has no checks and balances, besides his hand-picked leadership team created in 2019. One of the lawsuits, for instance, alleges he gave himself a raise as MASN president. One source believes it was in the $3-$5 million range to make up for perceived lost wages.
In the past few years, Angelos has been at the center of some bizarre decision-making, which included being the last MLB franchise in 2022 to send both its radio and TV teams back on the road after the 2020 pandemic, hiding behind “health” concerns when it was clearly economic.
Also in that time, MASN fired its longtime executive producer and later brought him back temporarily as a consultant; parted ways with popular play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne over a contract dispute, but paid his salary in 2020 without allowing him to return to the broadcast booth; and dismissed Wagner, the Camden Yards’ public address announcer, hours before the 2021 home opener because of what was perceived as a series of critical Tweets about the Orioles and, previously, the Baltimore Ravens.
John Angelos’ questionable decisions
Angelos’ unchecked behavior also included a decision earlier this year to reissue a press release of limited scope simply because it initially didn’t have Angelos’ name in the headline.
And, of course, there was his vitriol-spewing refusal to answer my and other reporters’ questions about his intentions with the team and its expiring lease during a news conference he called on Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year to announce the organization’s involvement in a local scholarship program – despite confirmation from the Orioles PR department the night before that Angelos would take questions that day.
Furthermore, Angelos still has not agreed to a lease extension for Camden Yards, despite initially declaring that it would be done by mid-July. He also has not shown the media the club’s financials, something he promised, unprompted, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and later doubled down on, promising a Power Point presentation, in spring training. (Note of clarity: No one ever expected him to show the books; it’s mind-boggling that he would promise such.)
The broken promises, the bullying, the iron-fist declarations of positivity-only-vibes-or-else, it’s all part of the persona Angelos has created – and it fits with the lawsuit that his brother filed against him that painted the Orioles executive as a loose cannon who answers to no one.
The craziest part about all of this is that these Orioles are really good, incredibly entertaining. If he simply stayed out of his own way, Angelos could have a much longer honeymoon with the team’s fans than the short-lived one they experienced with his father.
Instead, he’s ruining what could be a great thing by not completing tasks, by asserting authority where he doesn’t belong, by not spending money on payroll and extensions and by continually coming across as a spoiled rich kid who must get his way without reproach.
Ultimately, this Kevin Brown “negative stats” disaster is just another swing and a miss for Angelos, who apparently is furious that all this became public.
That’s not surprising, though. In his on-again, off-again tenure in Baltimore, John Angelos has whiffed more times than the Orioles’ 2021 lineup, which, incidentally, set a franchise record for most strikeouts in a season.
Dan Connolly is an MLB Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.