The Orioles returned home last night (finally it seems) and were greeted by the Cincinnati Reds who they defeated 5-4 on a walkoff home run by Derrek Lee in the last of the twelth. Luckily for the O's, they were the home team last night since the home team bats last. Remember a week-and-a-half ago when the Orioles lost in Toronto on Adam Lind's walkoff home run? When you're on the road that's how quickly and coldly games can end for you. Last night the Orioles had a 4-0 lead only to see the Reds knot it at four in the middle innings. It looked for a moment as if Cincinnati would take the lead, however Scott Rolen made the mistake of trying to run on the Orioles' defense and try to score from second on a double. Adam Jones relayed the ball into J.J. Hardy, who gunned Rolen down at the plate in the top of the 12th. That set the stage for Lee's at-bat to lead off the last of the inning, which of course resulted in a big bop.
Hitting last in the inning and in the game is a courtesy that's offered to the home team in baseball, just like hitting first in the game is a courtesy that's offered to the road team. With that said, yesterday this column took a bit more of a regional flavor when I addressed the resignation of now former Nationals manager Jim Riggleman. Today we're going national! The Seattle Mariners are currently in the midst of a nine-game east coast swing that's taken them through Philadelphia, Washington, and they're currently playing at the Florida Marlins. However South Florida is starting to look a lot like Seattle...that's because they're in Seattle! Sun Life Stadium (the home of the Marlins until next year when they open a new ballpark) is hosting a U2 concert next week, and Bono and his crew need several days in advance to set up their set. So being tenants that don't really yield huge crowds to begin with, the Marlins were bumped out of their home park this weekend. MLB decided to move the series to Seattle, much like last year's series between the Blue Jays and Phillies was moved to Philadelphia with the Jays as the home team. The Marlins were officially the home team, which meant that the ticket, concessions, parking, etc. revenues all went to them. The Marlins also brought their home whites to Seattle since they're designated as the home team, while the Mariners are wearing their road grays. The Marlins are batting last in the innings, and-get this-they're using National League rules. Being a Marlins' home game in interleague play, the Mariners are forced to surrender their DH and insert their pitchers into the batting order...in their home park. (The one thing that will be constant with a Mariners' home game is that Florida will still utilize the third-base side dugout and clubhouse, which is the visitors' side, while the Mariners will be allowed to stay in their normal digs on the first base side. This also pertains to the bullpens.)
I said this last year when it was done with the Phillies and Blue Jays, and I'll say it again; I don't like this at all. While it shouldn't happen, I suppose that I can understand that when a team isn't the primary tenant in a ballpark sometimes these things can happen. However...was there really no better option than moving the games to the visiting team's park? I don't buy into the whole "Mariners are the visiting team" bologna. Just because they wear gray, bat first in the inning, and have to surrender their DH doesn't mean anything. (In fact if I were the Marlins I'd be asking the league to classify them as the visiting team so that they could utilize a DH.) The games are being played in Seattle, in front of Seattle Mariner fans, and thus in a strange environment for the Marlins. The Marlins are claiming that this actually works better for them because first off they'll probably be the highest attended "Marlins home games" of the year, and they "hit the road" immediately following this "home series" and they head to the west coast. I suppose I could understand that, however...here's the other thing, the Tampa Rays are on the road this weekend. Why couldn't the series have been moved to Tampa? Better yet, there are several minor league complexes around the state of Florida, why not play the series there? The Marlins have putrid home attendance; by that, I mean friends and family. So would it have really mattered had they played the games in a ballpark that seats 10K people? At the very least they would have felt like home games moreso than the games currently do.
This kind of thing isn't totally unprecedented, even before the Phillies and Blue Jays did it last season. However it's never happened in this manner prior to 2010-11. Teams have often had to finish games in other ballparks. A few seasons ago the series finale between the O's and Chicago White Sox was suspended by rain in the middle of the game. The series was originally set at US Cellular Field, and the Orioles didn't make a return trip there that season. So eventually it was decided that the game would be resumed and completed when the White Sox came to Baltimore. Prior to the first game of the series at Camden Yards the O's and White Sox picked up the suspended game right where they left off in Chicago...with the White Sox as the home team. (The O's batted first in the innings, although they wore their home whites and Chicago their road grays since they were about to open up a series in Baltimore.) That's a totally different situation than the Marlins and Mariners. That was finishing the end of a game as opposed to moving a whole series. If I were the A's. Angels, or Rangers, I'm not sure how happy I'd be knowing that Seattle was getting three extra games in their home park in front of their home fans. Consequently, if I were the Nationals, Phillies, Mets, or Braves, I'd be thrilled at knowing that my division rival was getting three fewer games in their home park this year. I suppose there's no perfect solution, however...anything else would have been better than playing in Seattle.