Baltimore Orioles: New York gets some home cooking

Luckily for the Baltimore Orioles and the entire mid-Atlantic region, it appears that Hurricane Irma isn’t going to visit this far north. However ripple affects of the monster storm are being felt across the board. So why not include the Orioles and other AL East teams in that mix?

The New York Yankees were scheduled to open up a three-game series against the Tampa Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday. That series will not be played in Tampa due to the potential affects of Hurricane Irma. So the league knew that they had to think fast and actually move the series – in fact, Baltimore was considered as a potential alternative.

However when the pieces fell, the parties involved decided upon Citi Field in New York – home of the Mets. This means that the Yankees will play 17 of their last 20 games in New York to close the season. For a team that’s in the wild card race, that’s a huge advantage. And a huge disadvantage for teams such as the Orioles who are trying to back their way into the playoffs.

Supposedly, this was an outcome chosen by the Rays themselves. How believable that is might be another story. Nevertheless, Tampa manager Kevin Cash probably hit the nail on the head when saying that there were more important things than baseball to consider (quote courtesy of Billy Witz, New York Times):

I’m fine with that. Look, we’ve got to suck it up on our end, deal with it. It’s not the most important thing.

There’s no question that the games are secondary, and certainly all of the people of Florida and all affected areas are in the thoughts and prayers of the entire nation. But there’s no denying that this gives the New York Yankees a huge and unexpected advantage. And it’s not really a matter of the fact that Yankees fans will be the primary attendees of the games – that would have probably been the case in Tampa also. But it’s the visiting players who’ll get to stay in their own beds, drive their own cars to the games, and get meal money for being on the road.

Meanwhile, the “homestanding Rays” will be living out of a suitcase in a hotel. Again, there may well have been no perfect solution given the circumstances. But my point here is that any other solution would have been preferable to playing in New York. This is something we’ve seen a lot of over the past few years – in terms of relocated games. Remember the Orioles playing their “home series” against Tampa at Tropicana Field? Even before that, Miami played a “home series” against Seattle at Safeco, and Toronto did the same against Philadelphia at Citizen’s Bank Park. And looking to other sports, we all of course remember the Saints playing a “home game” at the Meadowlands after Hurricane Katrina against the NY Giants.

Now granted the Yankees aren’t playing in their home park in this case. But that’s like arguing semantics. They may as well be playing in their home park. And I would submit that this is a trend that needs to stop. Inevitably, games will occasionally need to be relocated and teams will in essence lose home games when the real world meets the sports world. That goes without saying, and the fact is that you make due in anyway that you can. But is it really fair to even consider having a team “play host” in the actual visiting team’s park or city?

MLB got it right a few weeks ago when the Houston Astros played their series against Texas in Tampa. That was a totally neutral city and  so forth. But in this specific case, there’s going to be a couple of teams who miss out on the postseason that will do so by one or two games. The Orioles may or may not be one of those. Is it really fair to let them wonder what would have happened had New York not gotten three de facto (extra) home games?

For what it’s worth, Tampa will be designated as the home team in these games. They’ll wear their home whites while New York dons the road grays, and they’ll have the last at-bat. But baseball’s ultimately baseball once you’re between the lines. None of that really matters, nor does how many fans are rooting for which team. But there’s no question that New York will get the intangible benefits of being at home. And that’s a huge advantage – especially in a pennant race.

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