Allegany Communications Sports
Last Saturday during the Baltimore Orioles’ 3-1 win over the Houston Astros, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer was discussing the difference in all things Orioles now through the turnaround they currently find themselves conducting as opposed to all things Orioles then when the collapse triggered the massive organizational rebuild that has led them to this point.
Palmer said that amidst the O’s abyss, he had the opportunity to run into (over would have been preferable) former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig at a Hall of Fame induction and he said that Selig told him, “We (MLB) really care about Baltimore. We want them to be competitive.”
To which Palmer said he replied, “Then why did you put a team in Washington?”
“End of conversation,” Palmer added.
It’s never been a secret that I have no personal rooting interest in the fortunes of the Washington Nationals, and the reason for that is the same reason Palmer asked Selig the question.
The Nationals’ presence in Washington has done nothing but damage what not long ago was considered to be a healthy large-market MLB franchise in Baltimore.
While it certainly seems appropriate for our nation’s capital to have a Major League baseball team, it is just as appropriate and fair to remember there were two very legitimate reasons why Washington, D.C. went without a team for 34 years – nobody came to see the Washington Senators play, not the original Senators who left town to become the Minnesota Twins in 1960 and not the expansion Senators, who left town to become the Texas Rangers in 1972.
Granted, those were different times than we now find ourselves in as D.C. is a far different and far more vibrant baseball environment now (when the Nats win) than it was in those days. That, however, is because of the training the average D.C. baseball fan underwent in traveling up the Parkway to Baltimore for 34 years to become an Orioles fan, as the District itself and the surrounding affluent counties and regions were officially branded as Orioles territory by MLB as it pertained to marketing and broadcast rights.
The long, strange trip MLB took to return baseball to the District was put into motion when Selig and the cutthroat owners shut down the 1994 season and eliminated the World Series for the first time in baseball history (lovely people).
The two best teams in baseball at that time – hands down – were the Cleveland Indians in the American League and the Montreal Expos in the National League. The Indians had the inside track to get to the World Series and take a shot at Cleveland’s first world title since 1948 (witness the wonderful movie “Major League”). The Expos were seen by every baseball eye test in the free world as being the best and most talented team in baseball — even more so than the Indians, and the Indians were, in fact, loaded.
All of that went up in flames, of course, when Weasel Sr., Selig (Manfred is junior) and his band of thieves went for the money grab and yet again unsuccessfully tried to break up the players’ union.
We all know what happened next. What interest there was for baseball in Montreal crumbled as fast as the deplorable Olympic Stadium where the Expos played their home games. Neither the fans, nor the interest ever returned and in 2005, the Expos became the Washington Nationals, and with it, the Baltimore Orioles became a financially challenged organization.
Having been a Baltimore guy my entire life, this is at the core of my lack of interest or give a darn when it comes to the Nationals. My whole thing has always been “Who invited them?” And, of course, the answer to that is Bud Selig. But that is another Oliver Stone entry for another time.
The Nationals, though, have become a top-shelf organization, there is no denying that. I have great respect for general manager Mike Rizzo and how he runs the operation, which I’m sure came as a great comfort to him as he celebrated the Nationals’ world title in 2019, Washington’s first World Series championship in 95 years.
Still, D.C. lost baseball twice for very valid reasons, but when the Nationals were winning, Nationals baseball was fashionable. The fashionable is why Baltimore wanted them out of Camden Yards in the first place.
Well, Baltimore got its wish, yet the wish came true with the MASN television rights deal the Nationals agreed to, but are now doing their best to renege on.
The deal wasn’t fair to the Washington franchise? Well, neither is Bud Selig talking out of both sides of his mouth and not answering Jim Palmer’s simple question.
If the MASN deal wasn’t fair, Nationals ownership should not have been so eager to sign it. Truth is, the MASN deal is the only reason both franchises are able to exist less than 40 miles from each other.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT