Baseball Is Largely Free of Politics. Let’s Keep It That Way

Baseball spring training is upon us. The regular season starts on April 2nd and fans are happily blasting John Fogerty’s song, “Centerfield.” Baseball is not referred to as our “national pastime” for nothing. It is a sport that rises above all others because it has moments that stand alone. Of the four major sports—baseball, football, hockey and basketball (even if you want to include soccer)—only baseball is played without a clock. Critics say this makes the sport slow. It’s not slow. It is deliberate. And no team is out of it because time is ticking away. In baseball, the game is not over until the last man is out.

Baseball is also an institution that has largely remained free of politics. To most fans, that is a good thing. We live in a culture where politics permeates everything we do. It’s difficult to get away from politics, but when I turn on a game to watch the Yankees (or any game for that matter), I know that I am going to be politics-free for several hours.

So why do some people insist baseball should become political? At ESPN, senior writer Jayson Stark wrote the following:

Welcome to baseball in 2017, a year like no other in our nation. In the NBA, coaches and stars take regular aim at the policies of the new president of the United States, from the executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries to plans for building a massive wall along the Mexican border. But in Major League Baseball—where locker rooms feature a multicultural melting pot of athletes, many of whom could be directly or indirectly affected by those policies—what you hear (or don’t hear) is the careful sound of political silence.

To this I say, “So what?” Stark, on the other hand, appears to be disappointed.

He even allows Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet The Press, to opine. Here is what Todd had to say:

“Baseball has an opportunity to heal the country, because of the political, ethnic and racial diversity in its locker room. No other sport has that. So it can either hide in a corner and pretend nothing is happening—and baseball becomes America’s distraction—or maybe we’ll see some leadership . . . where some players who politically disagree get together and say, ‘This is way too tense.'”

 One has to wonder, why is 2017 different from 2012 or 2014? Were we a united country then? Not at all. The country was just as divided and required the same “healing” Todd claims is needed now. The only difference is who occupies the White House. Stark wasn’t writing columns bemoaning the lack of political participation by Major League Baseball a year ago, and I cannot recall the nation basking in peace and love for one another. That Stark and Todd are actively advocating for political participation from MLB now is telling.

If players choose to speak out about an issue, that is up to them. However, players must also understand they are part of a team. Should they comment on a subject, be it from a conservative or liberal point of view, they should be aware their teammates will likely get quizzed on it. “Hey what do you think about what so-and-so said about such-and-such?” If Major League Baseball dives head first into politics, it won’t be long before players are asked not about a win or loss, but rather called upon to offer their view of President Donald Trump’s latest tweetstorm. Politics will become intertwined with baseball, to the detriment of the game.

With the exception of the historic moment when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, the only time baseball mixed with politics was following the 9/11 attacks. Baseball, during the World Series that year, became a symbol of healing in our nation. There were no divisions. The country was united. When President George W. Bush strode out to the pitcher’s mound at Yankees Stadium on October 30, 2001, there were no Republicans or Democrats. There were no conservatives or liberals. Political divisions went out the window, and when the President threw out the first pitch for a strike, baseball fans everywhere forgot all about the horrific events that had taken place less than 60 days before.

At that moment, baseball transcended politics. For the betterment of the sport, as well as the players and the fans, it should remain that way.

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20 responses to “Baseball Is Largely Free of Politics. Let’s Keep It That Way

  1. “Welcome to baseball in 2017, a year like no other in our nation.”

    That’s an ironic comment coming from Mr. Stark, as one of his jobs as an ESPN columnist is to point out statistical oddities in today’s baseball, e.g., events that have rarely or never happened. Maybe that type of thinking is informing him a little too well.

    I like Stark, have read his stuff for years and think he’s observant and often witty. But the none-too-sly implications in his and Mr. Todd’s pleas — that “political silence” means acquiescing to Mr. Trump’s policies or “leadership” means opposing them — are just their opinions and assumptions (though not named as such). Stark and Todd want baseball to “speak up”, but in the right way. In this, of course, they’re merely sharpening the political divide they lament so righteously. That seems to bring the irony full circle.

  2. I know of exactly one attempt to import a political issue into baseball. A few years back retired Cincinnati Red great turned broadcaster Joe Morgan attempted to raise a row by claiming that Negroes are under-represented in the major leagues.

    At the time, approximately 13% of the population of the U.S. was Negro. Approximately 12% of MLB players was Negro. I am not making this up.

    (We have yet to hear anyone complain about the under-representation of Negroes in NHL hockey…or the under-representation of Caucasians in the National Basketball League. I shan’t hold my breath.)

    1. The short and snarky versions:

      Hockey is too equipment-intense to afford on AFDC. And if you think a hubcap is an automotive accessory, and not a fashion accessory, you probably won’t consider a roundball career.

  3. Stark is no different than the other self identified “elites” in other journalistic endeavours. I have to chuckle when I read his political pronouncements of what is best for the rest of us poor non-elites. I chuckle because ESPN is quickly going down the tubes from their stupid radical left turn and virtue signaling and his job with it. When you piss off at least half your audience what do you expect dummy.

  4. Please Dear God it would break my heart if Baseball became another arena for political malcontents.

  5. Of course the irony that morons like Stark continue to ignore is that ESPN is in the toilet and some of their larger on air personalities are going to get fired because they have chosen to push the gutless progressive agenda.. The very definition of stupid..

  6. If Stark got his way and baseball became a breeding ground for default liberal/leftist groupthink and constant recriminations against half the population about how bad/evil/racist/sexist/homophobic we all are, it would destroy me. I don’t know a life without my love of baseball. Every year it has been a refuge. It connects me with family members and friends, some of whom have been deceased now for decades. Stark wants to destroy all that to “make the world better.” They’re cultural psychopaths.

  7. I live in New Zealand, an entire hemisphere and something like 16 time zones away from the American League East. On cold winter days, thanks to MLB.TV, I can tune into a daily slice of the American summer and watch the world’s best players compete in the world’s best ball sport.
    Pretty much my sporting highlight of this millennium was the reception given to Nick Markakis by the Baltimore crowd when he came out to bat for the Atlanta Braves after nine seasons with the Orioles.
    In my experience, that sort of thing just doesn’t happen in any other sport.
    It would take just one Kaepernick moment for me to chuck the whole game away. Baseball would, for me, be tainted beyond repair.

  8. Curt Schilling “got political,” and was tarred and feathered, and run out of town on rail for it. So, according to Stark and Todd, only a specific set of political views would be acceptable.

    1. 2 thoughts

      #1 – IMHO – Curt Schilling is the only guy left who has a legitimate gripe about not being in the HOF

      #2 – Curt Schilling needs to forget about his delusional ideas about running for office and really should tone down the rhetoric until he pays back the $$$M’s in loans from his bankrupt company 38 Studios that is owed to the state of RI

  9. That article is a big reason why ESPN is going down the tubes. Rather than try to figure out why people are tuning them out in droves, like all SJWs, they double down.

  10. Didn’t the ownership of the Cleveland Indians float the idea of retiring Chief Wahoo after last year’s World Series because they agree with the sports media that the logo is raaaacist?

  11. It’s every American’s right to be political. What I think turns people off isn’t the inclusion of politics but the exclusion of civility. When Rick Monday snatched an American flag off the outfield grass of Dodger Stadium in 1976, that act was just as political as the burning of it that the protestors were attempting to do. But he was a hero for making a stand for decency, not just the flag.

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