Anonymous MLB Player, Special to Detroit Free Press
Published 6:00 a.m. ET June 6, 2020
What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale discusses the newly proposed protocol by the MLB in an effort to re-start games in a safe manner.
Editor’s note: This Op-Ed was submitted to the Detroit Free Press and other media outlets for publication. The player requested anonymity because his comments take aim at the standoff between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association about starting the 2020 season.
Baseball is the sport of Jackie Robinson.
Of Larry Doby breaking the American League’s own color barrier only months later. Of Roberto Clemente sacrificing his life providing humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Of Hank Aaron besting the Babe’s home run record in Atlanta — the home of Martin Luther King, Jr. — in the face of constant and vicious death threats. Of Satchel Paige, Frank Robinson, Curt Flood, Bob (and Josh) Gibson, Dave Winfield, the list goes on and on. Of men who are remembered not only for their terrific performances on the field but also for their lives of character, substance, and activism off of it.
Baseball is the sport of 9/21/2011.
Of the Mets winning 3-2 wearing NYPD and NYFD hats. Of President Bush throwing a strike down the middle for the first pitch in Yankee Stadium in a bulletproof vest. Of fans in Citizens Bank Park erupting “U-S-A, U-S-A” upon finding out that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. special forces, only to have that truth confirmed by President Obama hours later in a special broadcast to the country.
Baseball is the sport of Ted Williams.
Of Bob Feller, Yogi Berra, and countless others interrupting their careers as legends in between the lines to lay their lives on the line as heroes in the war against fascism in Europe and the Pacific. Of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League skillfully representing all the Rosie-the-Riveters who were so crucial in saving the world from evil. Of the later reconciliation process with Japan that has led to our status today as strong allies.
In good times and in bad, baseball has always been there for our country and the world.
Times now are beyond bad.
A global pandemic has killed over 110,000 Americans (380,000 people worldwide). One in four American workers has filed for unemployment. The world seems on the brink of collapse as people have been stuck inside their homes for months.
And most recently, yet another black man, George Floyd, was killed by a police officer, sparking protests and riots all over the nation. On the heels of Ahmaud Arbery being hunted by two white men for daring to go on a jog. On the heels of Breonna Taylor being shot to death in her apartment by police officers. The unending cycle of systemic racial injustices in our country, which was established on the twin pillars of genocide and slavery, rolls on.
As a privileged young white man, I don’t have much to say about how our society threatens the safety, well-being, and fundamental existence of black people other than this: I, along with baseball players of all races, ethnicities, creeds, and nationalities, stand with the black community in demanding justice. We hear you, we see you, we stand with you. Black lives matter.
As a mediocre and expendable AAAA player (thus the anonymity, which by the way is for the messages below, not above), I am also self-aware enough to know no one cares about my opinion on MLB labor relations. All that being said, I do know one thing that is entirely true and deserves to be said:
America needs baseball, right now, as much as ever. Some semblance of normalcy. A shred of hope. A bit of light. And it is squarely our responsibility as players and management to provide it to them.
Yes, money is and will always be an issue. But since MLB and Rob Manfred are content to slow-play, low-ball, and negotiate through the media instead of in good faith, it’s time we as players came out and express just how badly we want to represent our cities and our countries in this time of unprecedented crisis.
We want to play baseball. As safely as possible, as soon as possible, and as much as possible.
So Rob, get on the phone with Tony Clark and do not hang up until y’all work out a deal. Call him all day, every day. He’s ready to talk with you. You don’t have to wait days in between every conversation. At this point, it’s a disservice to both the owners and the MLBPA.
You owe it to the game; you owe it to the country; you owe it to the frontline workers; you owe it to the ill; you owe it to the disenfranchised; you owe it to the discouraged; you owe it to the first responders; you owe it to anyone who’s life can be made better right now by our sport; you owe it to the world. Honestly, as Commissioner of Baseball, you owe it to yourself and your legacy. Whatever brings you to the table with honest enthusiasm for working out a deal instead of steadfastly fighting to save as many pennies as possible.
The stakes are high. If we squander this opportunity to serve our nation as a beacon of normalcy and hope and light in yet another time of peril, baseball really will cease to be America’s pastime once and for all.
And that would be a damn shame as the sport of Jackie Robinson.