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Orioles' dysfunction is Cardinals' success

The St. Louis Cardinals are playing in their third World Series in eight years. It's not a big stretch to say the Baltimore Orioles -- and their dysfunction -- deserve some of the credit.

St. Louis has enjoyed its winning run under the direction of owner Bill DeWitt Jr., who purchased the Cardinals in 1995.

That same winter, Tony La Russa left Oakland to take the managing job in St. Louis.

If Orioles owner Peter Angelos had not been his heavy-handed self, though, DeWitt would have been running the baseball operation in Baltimore as one of its owners and La Russa could have been the Orioles' manager.

Angelos and DeWitt once were partners in the Orioles' ownership. But DeWitt learned he might as well have been buying a ticket at Camden Yards for all the influence he had over the organization.

When Orioles owner Eli Jacobs, struggling financially, put the Orioles up for sale, he agreed to sell the team to DeWitt and then team president Larry Lucchino for about $140 million.

But Jacobs had to file for bankruptcy, and that resulted in the Orioles being put up for bid in bankruptcy court.

DeWitt and Angelos were set to bid against each other and two other bidders -- including art dealer Jeffrey Loria, now the owner of the Florida Marlins -- but DeWitt and Angelos became partners the morning of the bankruptcy auction and won the bidding at a record $173 million.

The next day DeWitt told reporters he would be the franchise's point man for baseball decisions.

"I think the concept is that I would represent the ownership in baseball decisions," he said. "I would expect to advise the ownership on baseball matters and make recommendations on significant trades, player development -- the whole spectrum of what is involved baseball-wise.

"I think the decisions normally made by the owner, they would look to me on those."

DeWitt soon found out Angelos had other plans, and he quickly disappeared from the picture, bowing out of the ownership group a year later.

He got another chance, this time with the Cardinals, and his direction has led the organization to success. Meanwhile, the franchise he left behind has been buried in failure.

One of the first things DeWitt did was hire La Russa to be his manager -- beating out Angelos, his former partner.

La Russa was the manager Angelos wanted to replace Phil Regan after a losing 1995 season. But according to La Russa, the Orioles reached out to him about the job before they had fired Regan.

"I didn't like the way they did business," La Russa later said about the opportunity to manage in Baltimore.

The way the Baltimore Orioles do business has worked out just fine for the St. Louis Cardinals.

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