It certainly will be a strange scene when the Orioles and Chicago White Sox play in an empty stadium on Wednesday afternoon, but it couldn't be helped. The security concerns throughout the city of Baltimore in the aftermath of Monday night's intense rioting and urban destruction made it impractical to assign a large contingent of police to Camden Yards.
Hopefully, it'll look like an overreaction when the Orioles play their three "home" games against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., this weekend, but baseball had to step aside for the greater good.
No, it's not really fair from a competitive standpoint and it's not fair to Orioles fans. It's just that fairness has nothing to do with it. The "demonstrators" who tore up the city on Monday night and made a sad mockery of the legitimate Freddie Gray protests succeeded in their desire to shut down normal city life, so the only logical thing for city and state officials to do is to try and deny them the opportunity to make things even worse.
Police resources have been stretched thin already, so allowing Tuesday and Wednesday's games to go on would have required a police presence that is badly needed elsewhere. The Orioles understand that they will be competitively disadvantaged by losing a home crowd Wednesday and three more this weekend. They'll deal with it with the same stoicism as all the other obstacles they've overcome during the Buck Showalter era.
Some fans will wonder why the Orioles and Rays didn't trade home series, but Major League Baseball apparently didn't feel that would be fair to Rays ticket holders. The Orioles and White Sox will make up Tuesday and Wednesday's postponements with a single-admission doubleheader on Thursday, May 28 at Oriole Park.
They're just baseball games, of course, and this is one of those times when sports get put in perspective, but that doesn't mean the loss of four home crowds is a trivial matter. The fans will get their tickets exchanged and the team isn't going to go broke because of the temporary loss of gate revenue, but there are a lot of people who work around the ballpark and a lot of businesses that depend heavily on the revenue from Orioles and Ravens game days.
Some of those workers live in those riot-ravaged neighborhoods, so they're getting victimized a second time.
And that's just the short-term impact of the riots. The fact that the Orioles will be playing on television in an entirely empty stadium sends one more signal to out-of-town folks that Baltimore is such a dangerous place that you can't even go to a baseball game without feeling threatened. That may be more perception than reality, but there probably won't be time for deep analysis while they play Wednesday's game highlights on SportsCenter.
Of course, most of that damage is already done. Baltimore has worked very hard to soften the image it got worldwide from televisions series such as "The Wire" and "Homicide: Life on the Streets." The city has gained a strong convention clientele and is known for its terrific Camden Yards dual stadium complex.
It's impossible to calculate how much the violence Saturday night and Monday night will suppress the tourist business in Baltimore, but make no mistake. That business generates jobs and tax revenues that benefit the same urban areas that are smoldering right now. We need more jobs and more business activity to help alleviate the economic issues that plague Baltimore's underclass, but now we're going to have less.
Freddie Gray's sister said it best the other day: "Violence doesn't do justice."