Thursday, April 30, 2015


There is no spreadsheet that can quantify the true effect of violence. Baseball ran up against that limitation yesterday, in trying to deal with rioting in Baltimore. They chose a bizarre workaround that didn't solve any problems, logistically and culturally.

The empty stadium provoked a range of canned responses (from fans and media alike). What was absent from that commentary was the notion that the best thing baseball can do in times of crisis is to get back to business as usual as fast as possible, even if there is some risk involved in doing so.

Location maps of the violence in Baltimore suggest that it would have been a more straightforward process to ensure security at Camden Yards than what was represented to the public. With lawyers in charge of just about everything, the legal risk of a damage lawsuit was probably more prominent in the minds of the "MLB brain trust" than anything else.

Given the scheduling constraints (the Orioles playing another series at home over the weekend), baseball blinked, creating a series of unsatisfactory downstream events, a number of which could have been avoided.

The best bet, in fact, was to schedule an event almost as rare in the history of the game than the bizarre "fanless" game held yesterday. What's that event? A mid-week doubleheader beginning at mid-day.

Daylight is always a good answer, in virtually all situations short of all-out war. (And surely even the media mucks who shameless milked the Baltimore riots know that what we were witnessing there fell far, far short of such conditions: relatively self-contained looting events, almost exclusively nocturnal in nature, did not warrant such "shock and awe.") 
Baseball's leaders could have embraced the daylight and rallied fans to an event that could have represented a moment of healing and compassion--and that would have gotten two games played, thus reducing the scheduling dilemma to a situation where the game lost on Tuesday night could be replayed at the end of the season only if necessary.

The message would have been clear: baseball responds to adversity with faith, courage, and generosity. Owners can been seen as compassionate by holding an olive branch in one hand while approving overtime pay for stadium employees in order to make this singular event into a moment for the community, and not another reminder of our increasing embrace of "citadel culture."

Cash would have flowed through Camden Yards; the immediate schedule issue would have been brought under better control; the fans and the nation who would have watched the game would have experienced a singular event that brought them together as people, not as shunned consumers who were  being protected from the opportunity to file a lawsuit against plutocrats on the slight chance that something untoward were to have occurred.

If we as a nation and a people are to reverse the backsliding that seems to be gripping us, we are going to have to learn to rise to the occasion when a crisis of this nature occurs. Rob Manfred failed a significant test yesterday, but do not forget that he's first and foremost a lawyer, in an age where that profession is more suspect than at any time in America's gloriously checkered history.