Hot stove league reaches courtroom

There was a pause toward the end of yesterday’s pre-trial hearing in Parkton residents’ lawsuit alleging groundwater contamination from a neighborhood gas station.

Judge J. Norris Byrnes broke the silence with a comment.

“I want to know if we signed a .400 hitter or a long reliever,” he said.

The comment was timely for two reasons.

First, the residents are represented by Peter Angelos, also known as the owner of the Baltimore Orioles. The judge’s comment was directed toward H. Russell Smouse, who was sitting in the courtroom gallery. Smouse is the Orioles’ general counsel.

Second, baseball executives and personnel have converged on Indianapolis this week for the annual Winter Meetings, the official start of the off-season wheeling and dealing commonly referred to as the Hot Stove league.

As the lawyers in the courtroom smiled, Smouse replied.

“We’re hoping to sign you,” he told Byrnes.

The judge chuckled. He is retired and specially assigned to the Parkton case.

“I am a long reliever,” Byrnes said.

@Peter_Angelos is now @UnPeterAngelos

schmeterpangelos_bigger.jpgThe Twitterverse is abuzz today with the news that the microblogging service has removed tweeter @Peter_Angelos. As I wrote in April, the person using the name of the personal injury mogul and Orioles owner was obviously not Angelos himself, but he did deliver some funny parody.

It shortly became clear that @Peter_Angelos isn’t really dead, though. He’s now known as @UnPeterAngelos. The same photo used for @Peter_Angelos is used for the new account, with the addition of a black bar over the eyes. The profile for the new account contains the sentence, “Disclaimer: This is a fake account, stupid.”

I conducted an e-mail interview with the guy behind @UnPeterAngelos this afternoon. He (yes, he confirmed that much) said he didn’t want to do a phone interview because he’s still debating whether he wants to “come out” as the man behind the tweets.

He said that he got an e-mail from Twitter telling him that someone had complained about the account. The Twitter folks let him keep all his followers and his tweet history; they just changed the name to @NotPeterAngelos (which he then changed to @UnPeterAngelos) and took down the photo (which he doctored and reposted). He writes:

From the beginning, I tried to keep the persona as absurd as possible to ensure that there was no confusion.  And every major news organization that caught wind of the account was quick to identify it as parody.  Unfortunately, I think this was less a situation of confusion and more an instance of someone personally disliking the satire.  For the record, I’m a fan of Peter Angelos.  I think he’s been unfairly maligned by folks who have no clue how the baseball business works.  He’s been a stalwart supporter in the community and a guy who’s shown a genuine love for the game – even if he’s not always right.

I don’t begrudge Twitter.  They have to cover their behinds, especially now that they’ve come under greater scrutiny.  And if they ever expect to monetize and actually profit from their service one day (tee-hee), they have to make sure to stay on the up-and-up at all times.

So for the foreseeable future the owner who’s number one in our tweets (even if he’s number one on SI’s list of worst owners) will live on as @UnPeterAngelos.

@UnPeterAngelos said he doesn’t think Angelos himself was the complainer:

The guy is rich and influential, and he didn’t get that way by wasting his time trolling time-sucks like Twitter and chasing down smart-assed chumps like me.  Besides, compared to some of the brutal, awful stuff I’ve seen printed about Peter Angelos, this Twitter account borders on flattery.  If I had to guess, I’d say it’s someone in the organization who’s looking to impress the brass by proactively “protecting” Angelos’s reputation.

Readers, do you agree with @UnPeterAngelos’ guess about the complainer?

Poor Peter Angelos

Everyone’s feeling the recession, including Peter Angelos.

Press Box points out that Forbes left the Orioles owner and personal injury-law mogul off its World’s Billionaires list last month and its Baseball’s Billionaires list last week. The magazine put Angelos’ net worth at around $1.2 billion last September but now estimates that he has since lost at least 30 percent of his net worth, “despite the Orioles’ value staying flat at $250 million this year.”

No word yet from Angelos’ satirical Twitter alter ego, @Peter_Angelos, on how the drop in net worth is affecting his lifestyle.

The return of Steve Bailey

The Sun’s Maryland Politics blog is speculating today that Steve Bailey might be gearing up for a political race. City/state editor Andy Green bases this idea on a letter to the editor the ertswhile Baltimore County deputy state’s attorney penned, in which he takes Baltimore County executive Jim Smith to task for spending and taxing too much.

Bailey, a Republican, ran to replace longtime state’s attorney Sandy O’Connor in 2006, when O’Connor retired. Bailey was the heir apparent, but he lost to Democrat Scott Shellenberger, who had been an assistant state’s attorney and then a trial lawyer for Peter Angelos. Shellenberger, who had Jim Smith’s political support, Angelos’ monetary support and a favorable political climate for Democrats that year, beat Bailey 54 percent to 46 percent.

Green wonders if Bailey wants to challenge Smith, a former Baltimore County Circuit Court judge and second-term county executive, in 2010. The Republicans have so far not made much noise about who they will run against Smith, he noted. “[N]obody’s raising much money or making many waves,” Green wrote.

Do you think the ex-prosecutor should face down the ex-judge next year?

Is that Peter Angelos tweeting?

I got in this morning after a few days out of the office and saw an e-mail letting me know that @Peter_Angelos was now following me on Twitter. My BS detector went off immediately. (See how quick on the uptake we trained reporters are?) Can you imagine the cantankerous, 79-year-old personal injury mogul and Orioles owner on Twitter?

Sure enough, it’s clearly a fake, but a pretty funny one. The pseudo-Angelos idenitifies himself as an “uber-ambulance chaser” and muses about “refreshing myself with a quick swim in my money vault before heading to Camden Yards. Note to self: wear underpants.” Another gem: “Note to self: place sun on probation. I’m paying good money & I expect that stupid ball of fire to blind Johnny Damon on routine pop-ups.”

If you are wondering, Twitter says it may suspend people who impersonate others on the service if they actually confuse or mislead people into thinking they’re the real deal. Parody, on the other hand, is fair game: “Parody impersonation accounts are allowed to exist. The profile information on a parody account must make it obvious that the profile is fake, or it is subject to removal from Twitter.com.” (HT: Slate, which saw one of its own reporters impersonated on Twitter last week.)

I’m thinking my new friend @Peter_Angelos is in the clear.

Obligatory self-promotional note: You can follow me on Twitter @CarynTamber.

Parking garage paradox?

A neat little story in the latest issue of Style magazine provides some helpful historical context for the ongoing legal dispute between Peter Angelos and the Pittsburgh restoration firm that recently renovated his 2 Charles Center Garage in downtown Baltimore.

(The Style story is not available online. How various media outlets strive to survive in the era of Internet ascendancy and shrinking ad sales is another matter altogether.)

While my story briefly explains why the Graciano Corp. is cross with Angelos — $1.2 million in unpaid bills — the Style piece pays tribute to the domed-and-columned Metropolitan Savings Bank building that was erected on the same plot of earth 101 years ago and demolished to make way for more Charles Center development in 1963.

Style writer Mary K. Zajac concludes her retrospective by quoting the caption of an Evening Sun photo of the razing:

“A public park with underground facilities for about five hundred autos will be built on site in the northeast portion of Charles Center,” the caption reads. Today, the space is occupied by a Super Fresh.

Any irony in a company that prides itself on “Giving a Future to the Past” suing over work it did on an underground parking garage that, in part, replaced an indisputably more historic structure?

BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

Angelos employees backing Biden

USA Today has a story today about Joe Biden’s ties to lawyers who specialize in asbestos litigation and his votes on measures that would affect this area of the law. (Hat tip: WSJ Law Blog.) Here’s the lede (yes, that’s how we spell it in journalism) of the story:

Sen. Joe Biden worked to defeat a bipartisan bill designed to curb asbestos lawsuits at a time his son’s law firm was filing them in Delaware and a former aide was lobbying against the measure, according to public records and interviews. 

The story notes that three of Biden’s largest contributors over his career have been firms specializing in plaintiff-side asbestos work. (The employees or PACs gave, not the firms themselves.)

You can probably see where this is going. The story doesn’t name the firms, but a quick trip to Open Secrets, the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics, shows that one of them — the one that gave the most money, in fact — is the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos. Employees of Angelos’ firm have given Biden $156,250 since 1989, making the firm Biden’s fourth-largest contributor.

As you can imagine, Angelos’ lawyers were also kind to Biden during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president this year. Employees of the firm gave him $50,750, making them his third-largest contributor.

USA Today notes that Barack Obama has touted his vote for 2005’s Class Action Fairness Act “as evidence he was willing to stand up to trial lawyers.” I wonder if that will be enough to keep Angelos’ lawyers from directing a whole mess of money Obama and Biden’s way this fall. I doubt it, especially since, as the story points out, Obama, like Biden, voted against a series of measures that would have limited asbestos litigation.

CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Bisciotti and Angelos: A double standard

First things first. Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti seems to be a great guy. He even returned my phone calls when I covered the sports-business beat at The Sun.

Bisciotti seemed genuinely torn up about firing Coach Brian Billick. But here’s a question: Why haven’t Baltimore’s sports columnists and sports talk show hosts beaten up Bisciotti for “meddling” in the Ravens’ football affairs with the same vengeance that they routinely beat up Peter Angelos with for “meddling” in the Orioles’ baseball affairs?

Is there one iota of difference?

To be clear, I think both Bisciotti and Angelos have every right to “meddle.” They own the teams. You can’t meddle in something that’s your’s.

The reason Bisciotti’s gotten a free pass is that the sports writers also think he’s a great guy. Angelos — well, not so much. (And to be fair, Angelos also always returned my phone calls. We even shared a cab once from Major League Baseball’s New York headquarters to Penn Station.)

But if they think it’s wrong for Angelos to have his hand in baseball decisions, it’s hard for me to imagine why they wouldn’t think it’s wrong for Bisciotti to have his hand in football decisions.

Am I crazy?

ED WALDMAN, Managing Editor/Business

Photo courtesy of scout.com.