A revered ex-girlfriend and passionate educator is able to process the nuances and principles of the free market, but can never quite grasp the reality of the astronomical salaries of professional athletes, especially after a night of grading freshman English essays followed by a horrific incident involving a suicidal student. The private school teacher/amazing human being escorted the troubled teen to Children’s hospital in an ambulance, an act of courage and compassion that does not show up in the box score.
After Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw shrugged at history in a nonchalant fashion making a passive aggressive Seattle dog mom on dreary Spring morning leisurely walk seem animated in comparison, the core fanbase of Major League baseball is questioning its collective loyalty. The future hall of famer was pulled after seven perfect innings, a pitch count of 80, and with his team up by seven runs. The insufferable decision by manager Dave Roberts, caused a social media nuclear meltdown in producing a giant rift with absolutely no gray matter between commenters either criticizing or applauding the alleged strategy.
Kershaw, a World Series champion, and author of a 15-strikeout no hitter, was briefly shown in the dugout interacting with teammates after being replaced and after the game placed the onus for the controversial decision on health concerns and the abbreviated Spring training due to the lockout orchestrated by the owners. Reliever Alex Vesia trotted to the mound in the bottom of the 8th inning, much to the dismay of those who purchased tickets for the matinee, and promptly gave up a one out single to Minnesota Twin’s slugger Gary Sanchez in dashing the hopes of those primed to witness at least a combined perfect game. Just for context, according the internet over 214,800 MLB games have been played, and only 23 perfect games have been crafted, the last being thrown by Seattle Mariner Felix Hernandez in 2012.
Within the realm of entertainment that is designed to immerse fans in the ambience of excellence and leisure, the afternoon turned out to be a distraction from the arduous rigors of the world for all the wrong reasons, and the sport which has seen a sharp decrease in ratings was dealt another public relations blow.
While professional athletes already face an unrelenting cycle of praise and criticism of fans, and are held to unachievable standards due to their aforementioned lucrative paychecks, the price for being constantly under the scrutiny of the public’s microscope is part of the occupational hazards of being given the opportunity to live a lavish lifestyle. However, being surrounded by affluence should not deter the competitive spirit.
As professional baseball players are treated as commodities, especially pitchers, in embracing longevity over achievements, and at times winning, the priorities of what was once “America’s pastime” have been turned upside down and inside out. With the introduction of analytics over the last two decades, pitch counts have become the numerical measure of endurance, and are justified by the mentality that hitters are the only ones getting bigger, stronger, and faster through advances in training techniques and diet.
While criticism is well-deserved towards the fraternity of eclectic owners in alienating the baseline ideals of the fan experience, the callous mentality in castigating players with all the empathy and the endearing filial stewardship in valuating Non-fungible tokens, strains a product that has far exceeded its shelf life. The average fan must weigh the cost-benefit analysis of spending over $200 to accommodate a family of four in venturing to the ballpark on a foul April evening, at least in the northern markets, where wind and freezing temperatures only detract from an ambience that is contrived and bordering on the artificial in eliciting disdain, rather than authentic memories.
The major leagues have devolved into an enterprise of double standards, as the governing body of the sport made the reckless decision last year from Atlanta to Denver in appeasing reactionaries and attempting to make amends with the countercultural movement after years sexual harassment allegations and subversive efforts to hide evidence under the rug of false pretenses. Despite the MLB’s pathetic attempt to capture the apologetic momentum of militant political correctness and checking all the boxes of equity and affirmative action, African Americans comprise just over 7% of active players, a startling number when compared with the NBA and NFL. It is at this crossroads of idealistic hypocrisy where players on the mainstage need to close the deal when fate and the planets are aligned for perfection.
With the epic failure of the dubious tandem of Kershaw and Roberts in exercising a blatant indifference to the gravity and density of a showcase that has become increasingly fickle, in the wake of player contracts that rival the GDP of a developing nation, a surreal moment was banished to the hinterlands of a Chinese forced labor camp in merely existing as an example of obscurity. While history is constantly being rewritten, and fans pine for a storybook narrative each day or evening at the ballpark, players and coaches at the very least, must show an endearing love for the game, an infectious gesture that is being jaded by material wealth, statistics in creating apathy that languishes throughout an entire underwhelming season.
The irony remains, that the powers that be adhere to the false pretense and supplemental arrogance that the infusion of cutting-edge will suddenly transform a brand into relevance that is currently lacking a soul, leading to an experience that fails to resonate majority of Americans.
For now, the frustrations emanating from the benevolent, empathetic, and dedicated teacher in comparing work to pay-scale ratio with that of men playing a child’s game is understandable and relatable, as baseball cannot seem to get out of its own way. She will always be in this writer’s hall of fame.