Few notions are more comforting to the Baltimore sports fan than the one that everyone is out to get our favorite teams. When this is actually true, so much the better. With Major League Baseball currently engaged in a protracted campaign to stick it to the Orioles organization wherever possible, there's no shortage of stuff to bring up waves of righteous Baltimore indignation from the depths. Let me count the ways:
1. MLB probably rigged an arbitration between MASN and the Nationals nearly three years ago, the result of which, if upheld, would be that the Orioles-owned network would owe something like $70 million in back pay to the Nationals. They were threatened by outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig with "the strongest sanctions available" should they take this dispute to court, which they have now done.
2. In a move so convenient that no one on Earth could possibly believe it to be coincidental, MLB decided to abandon its yearly alternating of All-Star Games between AL and NL stadiums to double up on the National League for 2016, an All-Star Game that had previously been believed to be favored to be held in Baltimore.
The 2016 game will be held instead in San Diego, where they put in a monument or something to Selig right in the stadium, and the 2018 game, just to stick something extra in the craw of O's fans, will reportedly be hosted by ... you guessed it, the Nationals.
3. As if that wasn't enough, MLB is or has recently also been engaged in unspecified efforts to help broker a deal between the Orioles and the Blue Jays so that the Toronto club can steal away the O's Executive of the Year winner with four years left on his contract. This is probably less accurately described as "brokering" and more like "threatening the Orioles."
4. Not that I'll be feeling sorry for Peter Angelos the person any time soon, because he's worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but Peter Angelos the Orioles owner was conveniently removed from the inner council of owners on which he sat. Sounds legit.
Meanwhile, the franchise that's supposedly so hurt by the whole MASN arrangement that they needed a secret MLB loan just to get by without the rigged arbitration money - that's me being tongue in cheek there - just signed free agent pitcher Max Scherzer to a contract that is believed to be worth $210 million. Also sounds legit.
There's little attempt to hide any of it. The baseball arbitration panel that so offended MASN issued a decision that it conceded in its own decision was ignoring all precedent. While the discovery process in the court case did not produce any smoking gun video of Rob Manfred being recorded dictating the outcome of the proceedings to the panel members, the evidence that has been revealed leans more and more towards MLB unfairly influencing the entire process.
For having the audacity to contest this process, the O's get the All-Star Game feather plucked from their cap and watch it placed in a Walgreens cap about 30 miles to the south and west, to be admired instead by the pack of bandwagon-riding part-time baseball viewers who periodically bleat in favor of their team, that is, when they are actually bothering to show up to playoff games and not leaving them early.
Piled onto this vengeful array of petty slights is an entirely unrelated item that is no less frustrating to an Orioles fan, which is that, despite taking down the AL East last season and proving themselves to be among the cream of the league, the O's are shut out of the first wave (five weeks) of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball telecasts. Three weeks will feature the Yankees, including two interminable Red Sox lovefests, with the other two featuring the Cardinals. I am no longer surprised by it, but that doesn't stop me from working myself up about it.
All of it, while not exactly ideal for the franchise, does have the effect of bringing the mind of the Baltimore sports fan back where it feels most at home: outraged over every perceived slight and sign of disrespect. The big difference in this case being that all of these things are actually happening.
Just think of the fun once the season starts. Every questionable strike call. Every disputed replay. Every time a player on the Orioles gets more of a suspension than someone on another team if there is an incident. These are the kinds of moments that regularly raise the hackles of fans who want to believe in the most Orioles-friendly outcome. Now, in the wake of the MASN case and everything else, when those moments happen, and they will happen, we will all know exactly why.
It sucks a lot. But let's be honest, we'd already be talking conspiracy theories anyway. Now it just turns out there actually is one.