- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

BALTIMORE. — The egos and politics of the business of baseball take a back seat to no one or nothing — not even to panic in the face of Hurricane Isabel.

The federal government shut down. Schools were closed. Mass transit stopped. Airports were closing. The bus company that was going to transport the New York Yankees to the Philadelphia airport to play their next series in St. Petersburg, Fla., refused to take them. But yet the Orioles and Yankees were playing baseball yesterday at Camden Yards, which seemed like lunacy.

Then, after five innings with the rain falling and nothing to show for it but a 1-1 tie before the umpires called the game, the lunacy rose to a new level, with fingers being pointed everywhere as to whom was to blame for this debacle.

Before the game officially began, the decision to play was in the hands of the office of Cadillac Bud Selig, baseball’s commissioner, who, as is his decisive nature, refused to be the voice of reason in the storm of controversy involving the Yankees, the Orioles, the Major League Baseball Players Association, a former Orioles pitcher, and may have included one more team that wasn’t even playing at Camden Yards — the Boston Red Sox.



According to sources within the Orioles organization, the Red Sox had protested to Cadillac Bud that the Yankees should not get the benefit of an extra home game and improved home-field advantage, though Red Sox spokesman Kevin Shea said any such input from the Red Sox “was news to me.”

If yesterday’s game had been canceled, it might have been made up the final weekend of the year, when the Orioles travel to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series starting next Friday. When it comes to the “Evil Empire,” as Red Sox president Larry Lucchino dubbed the Yankees last winter, there is no such thing as a small slight.

Alas, the end result is that because the game ended in a tie after five innings, it will have to be replayed as part of a day-night doubleheader in New York that final weekend if the outcome affects the American League East race or the wild-card chase. Everyone got soaked yesterday, including several thousand fans who showed up at Camden Yards despite the dire weather warnings.

The intrigue began before Tuesday night’s game, when former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina, yesterday’s starter for the Yankees and their union player representative, walked over to the Baltimore dugout and asked reporters jokingly, “Who do I talk to about canceling a game?” — referring to yesterday’s scheduled series finale.

After Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Orioles, the Yankees griped to reporters about having to play yesterday. “Everybody’s scratching their heads as to why we’re cutting it so close,” Yankees manager Joe Torre told reporters. “But it’s not our decision.”

But the Orioles fired back before yesterday’s game, saying that it was the Yankees who forced yesterday’s game. The Orioles came to the Yankees with an offer that had been approved by Cadillac Bud Selig to play a day-night doubleheader Wednesday, which would have given the Yankees plenty of time to get out of town. They would have been in sunny St. Pete yesterday.

“We tried to take the high road, but the Yankees decided to go public, so we’re going to lay it out,” said Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka, revealing Baltimore’s offer for the doubleheader.

It would be hard to find a high road in all this. After yesterday’s foolishness, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was livid, claiming that the Orioles had gone directly to the players association with the doubleheader proposal and never contacted Yankees management. But, this was perhaps more of an indictment of the relationship between the Yankee players and management, since Cashman said the players never told Torre or himself about the doubleheader offer.

Mussina, who was going for his 200th victory yesterday, laid the blame at the feet of Gene Orza, the players association general counsel. Mussina said the Yankees players never got a chance to vote on the day-night proposal.

“The idea was thrown out there, but the Players Association answers those questions, and they said it wasn’t in our best interests,” Mussina said. “We just played [a doubleheader] last Saturday, and that we weren’t going to play it. We ended up with what we got. We never had the question and I don’t know if we would have wanted to do it. If it was asked to us or not, I don’t know what would have happened.”

Perhaps the Yankees thought Isabel would simply stop or take a turn out to sea, because, after all, we are talking about the New York Yankees here — an organization whose arrogance rises higher than any sea surge.

Little did the few thousand drenched spectators know that they were just pawns in the petty game of inside baseball taking place behind the scenes. After the game, Torre implied the Yankees were being punished by the Orioles.

“If I knew that because we turned [the day-night doubleheader] down that they were going to make us stay today as a penalty, then you had to consider it,” he said. “But it wasn’t presented to us. We didn’t get that opportunity.”

To which Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said, “If we would have been in New York, I’m sure they would have done the same thing.”

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