There was little question that last night’s Orioles game would have to be canceled. As Baltimore’s protests edged into violence and fire, commissioner Rob Manfred, already at Camden Yards for a previously scheduled meeting, met with team, stadium, and city officials, and made the call: baseball wasn’t possible. It remains to be seen how the Orioles plan to get in the rest of this homestand, considering their next four games will run up against a newly enacted citywide curfew.
Update: Tonight’s game has been postponed, with no makeup date announced.
The chaos never quite made it to the Inner Harbor last night, though it was heading that way, and in attempts to clear the streets, officials closed some subway stops. Shuttling fans in and out of a ballgame would have been unfeasible, never mind slightly ghoulish, as not far north, residents’ clashes with cops after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody resulted in dozens of arrests and injuries.
“We feel like we made the decision that would provide us the greatest possible security in terms of protecting the fans, players, the umpires, everybody involved in the game,” Manfred said.
Above all, MLB wanted to avoid situations like Saturday, when protestors fought with fans outside the ballpark before the game, and fans were asked to stay inside the stadium until the game ended.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter declined to get into the weeds, but allowed that it’s been hard for his players to talk about anything else.
“I don’t want to lessen it all so I’m very cautious about even talking about it. There’s so many things that go on that you get challenged with, obviously this is a different level. There’s not a lot of experience with it. So you try to take each moment as it comes and I know there were a lot of calls to some guys’ families about making sure they knew what was going on from a safety standpoint. But guys are watching it. They are all aware of what’s going on.”
If postponing last night’s game was an easy decision, figuring out what to do next is a tough one. The National Guard is fanning out across Baltimore this morning, and history has shown that’s about as likely to inflame passions as it is to quell them. A 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew goes into effect tonight and will last for a week, making night games impossible. Yet the Orioles have two more games against the White Sox scheduled for tonight and tomorrow night, and a weekend series with the Rays. Something will have to give.
Yesterday, Rob Manfred speculated about moving the Orioles’ home games to the vacant Nationals Park, as Washington is on a road trip this week. But according to the Baltimore Sun’s sources, the Orioles are dead-set on playing these games in Baltimore. Because of the curfew, that would require moving tonight’s game—and Wednesday’s, and Friday’s, and Saturday’s—to the afternoon to make sure fans are out and home by the time the city shuts down.
“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 security situation that’s safe for the fans,” Manfred said. “We’re going to look at every alternative at this point.”
A decision on today’s game, especially if it involves moving up first pitch, will have to be made and announced very soon. But as COO John Angelos so perfectly pointed out, there are bigger problems.