Baltimore Orioles: Conflict of interest

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Back in February I mentioned in this column that the Baltimore Orioles would be finding themselves in a bit of a quagmire on September 5th. On that Thursday night, the NFL season should open with a prime time game featuring the defending Super Bowl champions. However the O’s are scheduled to play the first game of four against the Chicago White Sox that night at Camden Yards. In that February 6th column, I advocated the Orioles finding some way to alter their schedule so that the Ravens could have their moment in the sun. There’s no doubt that they earned it. However is that really the right thing to do…for the Orioles?

On Monday this turned into a quasi-national debate when the NFL (note: the NFL, not the Ravens) announced that they wouldn’t consider moving the date of the game to Wednesday September 4th due to the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana. Furthermore, they also said that they were considering potentially having to feature the Ravens as the road team in that game if no settlement was reached. Make no mistake about it folks…this is a PR stunt on the part of the NFL. They’re trying to shame the Orioles into relenting on the date so that they can get their way. With all due respect to the Jewish religion, the NFL seemed to have no issue opening on Rosh Hashana last year. Furthermore they routinely play on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day without any regard to Christian beliefs. (For the NFL to throw Rosh Hashana out there as an excuse is in fact borderline disrespectful to Jewish people.) Basically it’s Thursday night, and apparently it’s up to the Orioles and MLB if it’s in Baltimore or not.

Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

The NFL knows that the majority of people are probably going to be on their side because…they’re the NFL. Furthermore, even though the Orioles are birds of a different feather as opposed to what they were for 14 years, they also know that Peter Angelos is a less-than-popular person in Baltimore. So all people are hearing is that unless the Orioles (insert Peter Angelos)  relents, the NFL (who’s the voice of justice as opposed to Angelos’ ill) will have their hand forced to schedule the game elsewhere. The Orioles aren’t commenting publically on this, which of course is causing more people to take the NFL’s side so far as I can see from reading and listening to people around the area.

Again, I kind of advocated getting a compromise done back in February for the good of both sides. However there are other things involved here. In order for a game time to be changed by more than 30 minutes, both teams (in this case the Orioles and the White Sox) would need to agree, as would the MLBPA. Good luck with that. Perhaps more importantly, both teams involved play games in other cities the night before. (The O’s play at Cleveland and Chicago at NY, both at 7 PM.) That means that assuming both games end at normal times, neither team will be getting into Baltimore until well after midnight (nevermind what happens if extra innings or a rain delay are involved). So to ask these teams to agree to play an afternoon game would be asking a lot. Combine all of that with the fact that one or both teams might be in a pennant race at that point, and you can understand why it would be such a huge sacrifice. And even if both teams agreed to it, odds are the MLBPA would step in and say that the late games combined with the travel and quick turnaround is not condusive for their players’ health, safety, etc. (Certainly player safety is something that the NFL wouldn’t want to jeapordize, right?)

However again, the NFL is backing the Orioles into a corner by saying that the Baltimore fans could lose the game that the Ravens earned. That’s something that should not sit well with Baltimore fans. That said, if I were the Orioles I’d simply state that the game with Chicago will be played as scheduled. This is the NFL’s problem, not the Orioles’. Furthermore and once again, for them to use Rosh Hashana as an excuse is borderline shameful. I highly doubt that the Ravens’ coaches and players, or the Baltimore fans will care if the game is Wednesday or Thursday. Their attitude is going to be “tell us when to show up and we’ll be there.” It’s the NFL that insists that it has to be Thursday, without any regard to at who’s expense it comes (because Thursday is considered a bigger ratings night for TV than Wednesday).

Again folks, this is a power grab. The NFL thinks that they can impose their will on anyone, and I say that as both a baseball writer and a huge NFL fan. In fact, the Orioles and MLB should be applauded by reasonable people nationwide for sticking to their guns and not allowing someone else to impose their will. I suspect that if the NFL decides to make the Ravens the road team in the game, there will be a group that blames the Orioles 100% (even given that it’s not really their decision). If not for the baseball game the Ravens would get their home game, right? No, that’s not even close to being true. If not for the NFL’s unwillingness to work with an event that was already scheduled at that site, the Ravens would have gotten their home game. With all of this said, I applaud both the Orioles and MLB for something else in this mess. The NFL has decided to take to the media to throw mud on the Orioles and MLB for “causing this situation.” The Orioles and MLB are remaining silent on the matter as opposed to joining in the fray. To me, that’s standing above acting like a child that doesn’t get their way. Ultimately, this is an NFL problem…the NFL needs to find a solution, not MLB.

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