Updated: Apr 12
Coronavirus wasn’t the hero baseball wanted. But it was the hero baseball needed.
Absolutely absurd right? But probably nonsensically true.
Within recent years, the game we collectively adore, adjourn in and escape every pressing political, economic and social issue in our day to day lives has changed beyond recognition.
Ryan Braun to the Houston Astros, Alex Rodriguez to Alex Cora, Felipe Vasquez to Jose Fernandez, Carlos Beltran to Robinson Cano. We, the fans have been let down by the biggest and brightest of stars.
We, the fans, invest so much more than our cold hard earned dollars into players and team's. We invest an overwhelming sense of love, idealism and hope.
The players we escape in are products of imagination for kids playing on their local diamond, “throw me a fly ball dad, I want to climb the wall like Trout”.
For the everyday fan, team’s serve as beacons of hope; “maybe one day my team will win a championship” or “just please, one World Series”.
All sports fan's are driven by this bizarre naive notion of hope. What are we hoping for? The outcome of games or a season doesn't affect my life. It doesn't affect my job. It doesn't affect my family. It doesn't affect whether I am a good person. But it's an escape from everything within a fan's life.
From steroids, to sign stealing, from domestic abuse to drug based deaths, scandals littered the 2010s.
There was so much wrongdoing that by the end of the decade, a disgrace if committed years earlier would have been greeted with an outpouring of disdain was barely met with a ripple of response.
Fans understandably began to fall out of love with a sport that once represented a nation and a society. Attendances fell, TV ratings fell, interest fell and kids now wanted to be Tom Brady or LeBron James rather than Derek Jeter or David Ortiz.
A decade which saw Manny Ramirez, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Starling Marte, Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez suspended for a combined 537 games was capped with baseball’s biggest scandal since the Black Sox in the infamous 1919 World Series.
Without delving into details and narrating a story we’ve all heard a thousand times, the 2017 Houston Astros and 2018 Boston Red Sox disproved the saying that cheaters never win. Lying and deception does pay dividends. Dishonesty and blatant treachery does indeed get you to the peak of a sport we all love.
In consequence, Baseball became the laughing stock of the sporting world, for it only to later become the circus of the sporting world upon Rob Manfred’s punishment of the Astros, which ironically, didn't punish any of the participating players. Go figure.
Fast forward 2 months. Baseball was in a bad place heading into 2020 Spring Training. Inevitably, the Astros were the talk of the town with a common topic of conversation consisting of how many batters will be hit by pitchers this season?
For a sport which did not cease during the World War and for a sport which prides itself so strongly on breaking the colour barrier, resorting to purposely trying to harm players doesn't sit well within the landscape of its own past.
The sport of baseball is so much better, classier and self respecting than the state of the same sport which entered 2020.
Then just like a parent confiscating a child's toy, along came Coronavirus and took away baseball. We the fans didn't deserve the sport which was on offer 3 months ago. We have come to settle for a sport which encourages cheating, encourages PEDs and offers little or no ramifications for ill human actions.
Only one week removed from the ceasefire of pitches, fans of America’s past time have had their eyes opened to wider issues, issues which don't paint the sport we love in a very good light. Issues exactly like the current state, or lack of minor league pay. Issues like the healthcare provisions for the families of players.
The current outpouring and social media deluge for baseball to return should highlight to the commissioners office that baseball is still loved. Loved in the capacity it already exists.
There isn't a need for a 3 hitter minimum. There isn't a need for a pitch clock. There isn't a need for robot umps.
There is a need however, for a self-effacing sport filled with a level of realigned morals and values which are bought into by those upstanding them. When people fall foul of the morals, they need to be appropriately disciplined and punished in a way that sets a standard for any future offenders.
When baseball returns, and it will, It will return as a sport significantly stronger than the one we lost last week. There is an old phrase “You don’t know what you had, until it's gone”. And that is baseball. It is, has been and always will be a means of an escape for fans. We will continue to invest our dollars, love and affection for the teams and players we hold so dear. But first we just need to remember what it is about baseball we truly love.