The Orioles tried to play a baseball game in the calm before the storm yesterday, and before Hurricane Isabel struck Baltimore, they faced the wrath of Hurricane George.
New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was seething after his team played the Orioles to a 1-1 draw at Camden Yards, in a game called by rain after the fifth inning, which denied former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina his 200th career victory.
"This was incredibly bad judgment and stupidity by the commissioner's office," Steinbrenner said in a statement. "Schools, businesses, athletic events were all called off, and yet this game went ahead. It was inappropriate, and an act of great stupidity."
In response to the Orioles' claim that the Yankees had refused to reschedule the game as part of a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday, Steinbrenner's statement said: "It's a lame excuse for [the Orioles] to try to get off the hook."
Orioles owner Peter Angelos did not take kindly to those remarks, especially Steinbrenner's use of "stupidity" and "lame."
"There goes George again," Angelos told The Sun. "He didn't get his way. Like a spoiled child, he berates and insults others, never realizing that his tirades strongly suggest that he may very well be the one who's suffering from the condition he attributes to others."
The game had originally been scheduled for last night at 7:05, but the Orioles began consulting with the commissioner's office about a possible change early in the week.
On Tuesday, Orioles vice chairman and chief operating officer Joe Foss told Major League Baseball the Orioles were willing to play a day-night doubleheader Wednesday. But Katy Feeney, MLB's vice president of scheduling and club relations, told Foss the idea wouldn't fly.
The players union has to approve such a decision, and the union's associate general counsel, Gene Orza, had already sensed resistance from the Yankees, who played a doubleheader against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Orza spoke with Mussina, the Yankees' player representative.
"[Orza] said, 'The idea's been thrown out there to play a split doubleheader [Wednesday], but I didn't think it was in your guys' best interest,' " Mussina said, relating a telephone conversation with Orza from Tuesday. "I said, 'I'm going to guess it's probably not in our best interest, either.' "
The Yankees were pushing to have yesterday's game postponed and rescheduled for next week in New York, which would have allowed them to travel to Tampa Bay before the storm hit.
But the Orioles didn't want to lose one of their 81 home gates, and with the Yankees still involved in a pennant race, the commissioner's office was trying to preserve the integrity of the schedule instead of granting New York an extra home game.
On Wednesday, Foss checked the latest weather data, which projected the first rains from Isabel hitting yesterday at about 4:30 p.m., and suggested moving up the game time to 12:35. Feeney and the Yankees agreed.
But that didn't stop the Yankees from grousing and accusing the Orioles of using bad judgment. After all, Yankees manager Joe Torre reasoned, by changing the game time, the Orioles had to offer a refund to all the fans who had purchased tickets for the game.
The paid attendance was 29,093, but only about 2,000 fans actually attended.
"I'm angry because I don't know what sense it makes," Torre said. "I don't know why we are playing this game, because it's not a financial thing. Baseball-wise, we could make this thing up. I sense that it's the Orioles that are making this decision, and Major League Baseball is really stepping aside to allow that to happen."
Orioles media relations director Bill Stetka replied: "With all due respect to Mr. Torre, they had options and rejected them."
Despite the reluctance, the Yankees actually took the field, and as fate would have it, the Orioles still wound up as the ones with egg on their face.
It started raining in the bottom of the first inning. New York took the lead on Jason Giambi's run-scoring double in the third, but the Orioles tied it later in the inning when Brian Roberts doubled and scored on a single by Luis Matos.
Orioles starter Pat Hentgen stranded the bases loaded in the third inning, and Mussina narrowly avoided the loss.
With the rain coming in sheets, Pedro Swann led off the fifth inning with a double. One out later, Roberts singled to left field.
Third base coach Tom Trebelhorn was waving Swann home, but stopped when he saw Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui make a strong throw back to the infield.
By that time, Swann had already touched third base, and he had a hard time stopping. Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone trapped him in a rundown and catcher John Flaherty applied the tag.
With Roberts on second, Mussina got Matos to ground out, ending the inning. With that, the umpires called for the tarps, and after a 44-minute delay, the game was ruled a tie.
The statistics are final, but the game will most likely be made up next week in New York, especially if there are still playoff implications for the Yankees, who made it to Tampa last night after flying without incident from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
"I had full intention of scoring him," a dejected Trebelhorn said. "Matsui made a really nice play, and I just let Pedro go too far. I should have just let him go. It was bad coaching, bad timing. Gracious sakes. Wow."