My post yesterday, Nats: Terrible, Terrible Decision, reminded me of what most bothers me about baseball, a game I’ve loved for as long as I can remember (at least six and a half decades).
There were a number of articles and posts (and I assume there was similar coverage on TV and radio) about how the Nats’ fans reacted to the loss of one of their favorites, Tyler Clippard (hint: not well). Particularly striking was the reaction from young people, kids whose first baseball experience has been with the Nats and who have come to love Tyler Clippard.
Lots of tears. Lots of disbelief. Lots of not understanding (How could you trade a player who was so important to your team?).
Parents had difficulty explaining to their kids that baseball is a business, and in business the ‘rules’ are different than what we teach our kids. Or at least the values are different.
Fortunately, or maybe not, I grew up in a time when players largely stayed with one team. (Happily, I wasn’t around for the sale of Babe Ruth to the Evil Empire. That would have been unacceptable.). Mostly, the players who were my heroes, whom I ‘worshipped,’ stayed with the Sox throughout my early years. (It wasn’t until much later that the likes of Boggs, Clemens, Damon, Ellsbury and Lester, to name just a few, left or were traded from the Boston family.)
And that word family is part of all of this.
Teams make a big deal out of projecting an image that they are a family. The Sox do this. The Nats do this. Most teams do it also. Much time, energy and money are spent creating an image of how a team is a family and of the importance of being a part of that family.
But families don’t sell or trade or get rid of their family members, at least most families don’t.
So why does baseball seem so willing to jettison their family meme and say “baseball is a business?”
I know there have been significant changes in how baseball is financed and how players are paid since I was a kid (some of which benefit players significantly).
And yes, baseball is a business.
But in my humble opinion, and I suspect for many others, not just kids, the frequency with which ‘business’ trumphs the ‘family aspect’ of baseball, is a big deal.
I know. I know. It’s not only in baseball or in sports in general that staying with “thems that brought you” is no longer as important as it once way. Working for one company all your life, staying with the person you married and putting loyalty ahead of profit are all seen as outdated.
And I think we’re worse off as a result.
So call me old-fashioned (my kids have for years), outdated, not ‘with it’, but I think baseball would do better to keep in mind their business success depends upon their fans, who are every bit as much a part of the fabric of a team as are the players and management.
Yes. Winning is also key. Maybe the most important key as far as some are concerned.
But all those years (60+), I stayed obsessed with the Sox, they didn’t win one World Series (oh, the suffering), but they were my team, and I loved them.
Trading, selling, losing members of the family, my family, has taken something very important away from baseball.
Sometimes, I think those who control baseball don’t understand that.