The Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played in an empty stadium Wednesday for no good reason.
An MLB game with no spectators was unprecedented. It also was totally unnecessary and easily avoidable. A simple solution stared the O’s in the face, an obvious remedy that would’ve accommodated fans who wished to escape the civic unrest roiling Baltimore.
Many of those same fans could’ve returned for the Orioles’ games this weekend against Tampa Bay. But that series was moved to Tropicana Field, nearly 1,000 miles away from Charm City.
Meanwhile, perfectly fine Nationals Park sits perfectly empty, a mere 40 miles south of Camden Yards.
If the O’s really cared about their fans and citizens, really wanted to offer some temporary relief through the distraction of a ballgame, the team would’ve played the White Sox and the Rays in Washington.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, in Baltimore Monday on a previously-scheduled trip, spoke to reporters after violent protests led officials to postpone the series-opener and eventually Tuesday’s game. He suggested the O’s homestand might continue in other venues and he didn’t rule out Nationals Park, which will remain dark through the weekend.
“We’re looking at every possible alternative in terms of completing the schedule in a timely way and making sure the games are played in a secured situation that’s safe for the fans,” he told reporters Monday night. “We’re going to look at every alternative at this point.”
But they didn’t choose the one under their nose.
Instead of playing nice and working with the Nats for a change, the O’s let the teams’ ongoing legal dispute get in the way. The Baltimore Sun reported that Nationals Park was considered for the relocated games but the Nats weren’t approached. The Washington Post reported that the Nats didn’t offer and MLB didn’t try to force the issue.
That’s a shame.
The Orioles should’ve put aside their differences with the Nationals. Co-owners of the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the teams are fighting over how to divide revenue and they’re nearly $300 million apart. A trial in New York Supreme Court is scheduled for May 18.
Fans don’t have a monetary stake in the battle. But they paid a price anyway.
Life as they knew it already had turned upside following Freddie Gray’s death and the subsequent violence. Logistical hoops were inevitable once games were postponed and re-scheduled. Whether make-up dates took place in Washington or Tampa Bay, many O’s fans would have to pass and exchange their tickets.
But four games down the road would’ve been a lot more considerate than one with no admittance and another three off the Gulf of Mexico.
The O’s are losing home gates either way, so bragging about a disinterest in the financial impact is irrelevant.
“I’ve been in all the talks and everything’s been about the city of Baltimore and the safety of our fans,” manager Buck Showalter told the Sun. “It’s not about money. It’s not about a baseball season. That doesn’t come up. It’s just about those two things and that’s what we’re trying to solve here.”
Apparently, any solution that didn’t involve the Nats would do. The O’s must’ve abhorred the thought of Washington looking good, reaping any benefit or coming off as a savior.
“At the end of the day, most of the import was given to what was best for the city and state officials and for the police departments,” O’s spokesman Greg Bader told The Post. “Ultimately, the other parties understood the extraordinary circumstances here, and we did whatever we could to potentially ease the burden on all involved.”
Every objective could’ve been accomplished through the use of Nationals Park. But the O’s didn’t stop at showing disdain for their fans.
The team forced its players to suffer unnecessarily as well.
They had to play at an unusual hour Wednesday. They had to prepare and pack for a short-notice road trip, instead of being home for the weekend as scheduled.
If the team had been thoughtful enough – and big enough – it would’ve asked the Nats for help. Orioles players could’ve had a near-normal routine for Wednesday’s game (aside from a longer commute to the ballpark). They could’ve slept in the comfort of their own beds this weekend and played in front of cheering fans who zipped down the BW Parkway for a welcome respite from the situation in Baltimore.
All of that was possible and readily available. But the O’s opted for one empty stadium and three “home” games in Florida.
With Wednesday’s game, the Orioles set a precedent .
And they might’ve set another one for stubborn pride.