Hey look! Opening Day has finally arrived. It was a dicey winter but we made it, and our reward is baseball. I would like to take this opportunity to wish a happy and thrilling Opening Day to everyone except Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias, and whoever came up with this stupid idea:
The Orioles, after 30 years at lovely old Camden Yards, have finally determined that the park is too hitter-friendly for the modern game. Orioles fans do, in fact, see an awful lot of dingers socked at their home stadium. As reported by the Baltimore Sun, since 2015 there’ve been 1,581 home runs at Baltimore home games, the most in the majors by 67 homers, more than 100 homers more than third place, and 180 homers more than were smashed at the Rockies’ ballpark in the thin air of Denver, Colo. In the three full seasons since Mike Elias took over as Baltimore’s general manager, Camden Yards has surrendered 655 home runs, again the most in the majors, and the 72-homer gap to second place (Yankee Stadium) is greater than the gap between second place and 13th place (Wrigley Field). If you love watching dingers, and especially if you love watching dingers while wolfing down a crab cake at one of the most beautiful venues in all of sports, Camden Yards is the place to be.
The people in charge of the Orioles feel that this is simply too many dingers. The thinking goes that Camden Yards’ cozy dimensions—318 feet to the foul pole in right, 333 feet to the foul pole in left—were fine in eras of line drives and small ball, but will no longer suffice now that baseball is setting new marks for total dingers every season. But a minor re-contouring of the outfield shape would be tricky due to the park’s quirky features, like the 21-foot scoreboard wall in right, and the unique two-tiered bullpen situated just beyond the wall in center field. The only part of the outfield at Camden Yards that didn’t have some venerated quirk was in straightaway left, where the seven-foot wall was the shortest left-field wall in baseball but was otherwise just a length of green wall. Simply hack a hunk of seats away, move the wall back 30 feet, and voila: A hideously mangled ballpark that a Sun analysis says would’ve allowed 14 percent fewer dingers over the last seven seasons.
I would not want to be the first outfielder to sprint directly into the 90-degree corner now jutting out into left-center, while tracking a deep fly ball. But my main issue with this is that it is an ugly thing to do to a beautiful baseball stadium, and that the reason it’s been done is mainly because the Orioles are a bad baseball team. The Sun did the math and found that 57 percent of the dingers socked over the past three seasons—the Mike Elias era, in which the operation has been ripped down to the studs and no effort has been made whatsoever to field anything even vaguely approaching a competitive baseball team—have been hit by visiting players. That’s not because gravity and physics work differently for people wearing O’s uniforms; that’s because Elias has worked determinedly since taking over the Orioles to make sure they are a cheap and bad baseball team. The Orioles have finished last in total payroll and 26-man roster payroll in each year since Elias took over; this year their projected total payroll is less than a quarter that of the Milwaukee Brewers, whose projected total payroll is less than half that of the New York Mets, whose projected total payroll is $24 million less than that of the New York Yankees. The same Yankees who play in a hitter-friendly stadium that has allowed the second-most dingers in baseball over the same span, and who over that span have won approximately 60 percent of their regular-season games.
Here is Mr. Elias, explaining his reason for supporting the changes to Camden Yards (emphasis added):
“We still expect that this will remain somewhat of a hitter’s park, and we like that about Camden Yards. But the conditions here have been very extreme towards the very most extreme in the league. It’s not a secret. It’s been the case for decades. And part of having a winning program is the ability to recruit free-agent pitchers, and that has been a historical challenge for this franchise. There’s just no way around that. So do I think it’s gonna help going forward? The proof will be in the pudding, as the games get played here over the next couple of years.”Baltimore Sun
How the hell would Mike Elias know anything about recruiting free-agent pitchers? Seven free-agent pitchers signed contracts this winter that will pay them in annual salary approximately as much as the Baltimore Orioles will spend on their entire 26-man roster. Max Scherzer will earn nearly twice as much this season as Elias will spend on his whole damn baseball team. Elias has shown less than zero interest in associating his team with professional-grade pitching:
If hearing that Elias explained away the desecration of the last non-desecrated piece of the bullcrap baseball operation he’s been running over the last few years by saying that it needed to be done in order to recruit free-agent pitchers makes you feel absolutely insane—if it makes you feel like you can’t possibly be living in a coherent reality—allow me to offer you one possible explanation: Mike Elias is stunting on you. Tearing up the outfield wall like that is his version of a touchdown dance. He’s already demonstrated beyond any doubt that he personally hates every single Orioles fan and wants to do everything in his power to make every summer as miserable as possible for all of them, and now he’s doing the Electric Slide just to demonstrate how much fun he’s having. There is, unfortunately, nothing you can do about it.