The Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2015 — #14: Unrest in Baltimore leads to a fan-free Orioles game

Associated Press
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We’re a few short days away from 2016 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2015. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

On April 12, Baltimore police arrested a 25-year-old man named Freddie Gray. Gray was healthy and fine when they put him into the back of a police van. Between the time he was arrested and when he got to the station, however, Gray sustained injuries to his neck and spinal cord. He fell into a coma and was taken to a hospital where he died due to his injuries seven days later. The story from the Baltimore police about how Gray was injured was implausible and inconsistent. Police brutality and negligence in giving him medical attention was seen as the likely explanation even if, so far, no police officers involved have been convicted of any wrongdoing.

On April 18, protests began. By April 25 the protests became violent. Property was damaged, police cars and businesses were set on fire and dozens of citizens and police officers were injured. That night fans were forced to stay inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards during a Orioles-Red Sox game due to the threat to their safety.

On Monday April 27 and Tuesday April 28 the Orioles games against the Chicago White Sox were postponed due to the unrest. While, in the grand scheme of things, the fate of some baseball games paled in importance to what was going on in the city, the business of Major League Baseball had to go on. The problem, however, was that due to the unbalanced schedule, the White Sox were not going to visit Baltimore again in 2015. How would any of these games be played in a manner which did not put fans at risk?

The solution? A game with no fans:

It was an eerie scene, televised for all of us to see and, most strangely, to not hear. A few Orioles fans braved the city’s streets and lined up outside the gates, cheering when the Orioles did good things. Otherwise, though, silence. It was so quiet that, if you were watching the White Sox’ broadcast feed, you could hear the voice of the Orioles’ announcers bleeding through the walls of the press box, picked up by the WGN microphones. You could hear the sounds of clicks from the media’s cameras in the photo well. At times you could hear the pitchers’ cleats grinding on the mound as they pivoted.

The game itself wasn’t entertaining. The Orioles shellacked the Sox, 8-2, jumping on Chicago early. There were 15 hits, a couple of errors and sixteen total strikeouts. Normally that kind of line would make for a long and drawn-out game, but this one took a mere two hours and three minutes. To be fair, there were several double plays and a lot of first-pitch swinging — it was a getaway day after all — but it’s rare to see such a short game time for a game in which ten runs were scored.

Were the between-inning breaks shorter due to the lack of the kiss-cam and contests and other such nonsense? Was it just dumb luck? Hard to say, but one of baseball’s weirdest games ever was also one of the quicker games of the 2015 season.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.