During a recent vacation, I binged HBO’s We Own This City, which plays out like an epilogue to The Wire. I could go into the plot points and actor Jon Bernthal’s exquisite performance as corrupt supercop Wayne Jenkins, but all you really need to know, as it pertains to this piece is, god damn, the Orioles were well-represented by the cast.
From Bernthal to Joshua Charles — who I’m convinced was born to play an asshole cop — to Nathan Corbett and supporting actors in between, the hats and tees featuring cursive O’s and the Oriole Bird are seemingly omnipresent. It’s as if residents are still very much attached to the team.
It was honestly strange seeing that much orange and black gear on TV because baseball fans outside of the Baltimore area don’t get to see those pretty uniforms or the even prettier ballpark on national broadcasts. A measly payroll, poor on-field product, and ultra-competitive division will do that to a franchise.
In recent weeks there’s been an inter-family lawsuit between the Angelos brothers over control of the organization and rumors of a possible move to Tennessee. (Those were of course denied.) It’s all very depressing and frustrating knowing that people will show up and show out when a team is good and run like a professional franchise. Sure, fans don’t want to come to Camden Yards to watch the home team serve up meatballs for hours on end. That said, look at the way they support the football team (whose purple and black swag also was a prominent part of We Own This City’s costume design).
The Ravens were ninth in the NFL in attendance during the 2021-22 season and have consistently been in the 11-12 range for the past decade, so forgive me if I’m not on board with this perception that the Orioles are Oakland East. They don’t play in a crumbling football stadium, or in a city that’s being gentrified faster than a Bitcoin boom, or in a division that was easily winnable before the Astros came over from the NL Central.
The AL East is the NFC East of baseball, sans salary cap, and in order to compete you’re either throwing around large sums of cash, or utilizing scouting and blood oaths with Lucifer. If any of the squads in that division should be relocated, it’s the one that plays in a nightclub and tried to split its home games between Tampa and Montreal this year.
Also, when has a shitty product necessitated a relocation? The Angels have been to one postseason during Mike Trout’s career, and they play in arguably the worst stadium in baseball, but, yeah, it’s the O’s that need a change of scenery. I know 2016 was six years and a Manny Machado ago, however, that’s more recent than eight other teams. Seattle, Anaheim, Detroit, Kansas City, the New York Mets, Philly, Pittsburgh, and Texas all haven’t made a postseason since 2016, and that’s including 2020 when half the fucking league qualified.
O’s GM Mike Elias needs to intern with Tampa or Oakland and learn how to create banging dishes on a budget. A little pigs feet here, a little offal there, and voila, here’s a menu that may not earn you a Michelin star, but it will get you some foot traffic. (I would stop at consuming a whole oriole with a napkin draped over your head, though.)
I’m also biased toward small-market organizations with storied histories and teams relocating under shady circumstances. You think Elaine Benes is going to rock a Tennessee Orioles cap at Yankee Stadium? It’d be a shame if Cal Ripken Jr. went the way of Pistol Pete, with youngins asking their parents, who were the New Orleans Jazz?
The city that was traumatized by the Colts leaving shouldn’t have to go through that again. Watch The Wire or We Own This City or read up on the many difficulties the city has faced in the past five to 10 years, and tell me Baltimoreans deserve another kick to the junk. The people of Charm City are a proud, loyal bunch, and taking away their baseball team because it’s one of a handful of franchises that can’t get out of its own way is, as Bernthal says in a passable-to-good Bawlmer accent, fuckin’ bullshit.