As the city of Baltimore continues to cope with the fallout of “unrest” (which seems to be the term most of the media has settled upon for the situation) following the death of a young man in police custody, I realize it may be crass to speculate on how it might impact baseball. But I have more ideas about baseball than I do about the root causes of Baltimore’s turmoil, so at the risk of being insensitive I can’t help but wonder if this unpleasantness will translate to an expansion of security theater at MLB ballparks.
Today the news broke (noted earlier by my colleague Nick) that due to safety concerns, Wednesday’s game between the Orioles and White Sox has been rescheduled and will take place in an empty Camden Yards. This follows the postponement of the first two games of the series, as well as the relocation of the Orioles’ upcoming weekend series against the Rays from Baltimore to Tampa Bay. The decision to play a game in an empty stadium is bizarre, although it’s hard to think of what else MLB might have done other than postpone the series altogether. It’s such a strange and unprecedented move that I have to believe it’s making MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred think he has to do something to improve the security of all MLB stadiums. Given the role Manfred played in MLB’s drug war – and that he has no regrets about how MLB conducted itself – one gets the impression that he’s a “do something” kind of guy.
The January 2014 decision to mandate metal detectors in all MLB ballparks was never based on any clearly defined threat to fans’ safety. The decision seemed to be tied to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that happened more than a mile from Fenway Park, where metal detectors would have had no effect. There had also been a couple of violent incidents between Giants and Dodgers fans in recent years, which also didn’t happen at the actual ballparks, so metal detectors wouldn’t have mattered.
A few tragic incidents near ballparks led to increased security at ballparks. The violence in Baltimore isn’t related to baseball, but it has actually caused games to be postponed, and one game will be played without the benefit of spectators. Based on these facts, wouldn’t the natural (and misguided) reaction by MLB be to implement additional security measures everywhere? It would make about as much sense as putting metal detectors in all MLB stadiums.
If Manfred does propose increased ballpark security, hopefully this time someone in a position of influence will raise an objection. Indeed, the prime candidate for that job might be Orioles COO John Angelos, who also happens to be the son of the team owner. As the drama was unfolding yesterday, Angelos had some pretty blunt comments on social media articulating what he views as the sources of Baltimore’s ills. In particular, Angelos observed that part of what fuels the anger of Baltimore’s underprivileged may be “an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.”
Sounds like just the guy to stand athwart MLB security theater yelling “stop!”
(Image: Alex Wong/Getty)