Did Oriole Park make the Ravens and kill the Orioles? If so, was it worth it?
There are a couple of ways of looking at the yearlong celebration that is 20 years of baseball at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
On the one hand it’s a reminder of just how right Baltimore “got it” back in the early 90’s in paying homage to baseball and the history of the game and its impact on Baltimore. In fact, Baltimore got it so right that others quickly felt compelled to follow suit, making the gem of a ballpark that is OPACY often imitated but never quite duplicated.
The 20 year “celebration” is also cause however for Orioles fans to reflect on the fact that in 2 decades of Orioles baseball therein, the O’s have a grand total of 4 winning seasons and just 2 playoff appearances. As the team looks as far away from “right” as ever, the stadium is simply the silk hat and lipstick that adorn the proverbial pig that is Orioles baseball. More often than not over the last 20 years, the only thing about the ballpark that wasn’t breathtaking was the team that occupied it and the brand of baseball that they’ve played.
Baseball has a long history of curses, at now 20 frustrating years into this experience, maybe it’s time to question whether Camden Yards itself has been cursed. For now though it seems fairly clear that the only pox on the house of Orioles baseball is the owner, Peter Angelos.
Still, for the Orioles and the city of Baltimore, OPACY has been both a blessing and a curse, with a myriad of unintended benefits and consequences.
First, OPACY started a revolution in baseball; it changed the game. It took the Orioles from a middling financial player to big spenders overnight. Predictably, the rest of baseball began following suit very quickly thereafter. When Cleveland and the Indians jumped into the baseball-only facility business, the beginning of the end of the Cleveland Browns was already underway…thanks in no small part to the influence of OPACY.
The park also gave the Maryland Stadium Authority clout. It earmarked the prospective property and plans for a football specific neighbor and had the city poised to pounce when an opportunity like Browns to Baltimore presented itself.
So OPACY started the revolution that Cleveland followed, thus leading the Browns into the financial strife that made them the Ravens. In far less then 6 degrees of separation, the construction of OPACY “created” the Ravens.
The other side of that coin is that the arrival of the Ravens and the cushy deal that they got from the city may have put Baltimore and Angelos at odds. Given the history of Angelos and seemingly everyone he does business with, it’s arguable that he and the city were bound to be at odds eventually…inevitably anyway.
The park also packed in enough fans night by night, regardless of the on-field product, to give baseball a case to park the Expos in DC, which led to the compromise that created MASN, and has essentially turned the Orioles profitable without having to worry much about filling the stands anymore. In that way, OPACY might be the biggest and most beautiful catch-22 ever constructed.
So in a very roundabout way of thinking, Oriole Park may have built the Ravens and killed the Orioles. Of course the Orioles aren’t actually dead, they’re just on life support, and the stadium isn’t what’s killing them, the owner is. The building though, at least helped to create the circumstances that precipitated both events, and it may once again host important and meaningful games at some point.
If asked back in 1994 or so if they’d trade 20-years of sub-standard baseball for the NFL’s return to Baltimore, I’m guessing most would have taken it. Like it or not, we’ve gotten it and then some (on both accounts). But Camden Yards…what have you done for us lately?