Baseball

Manfred, We Have (Another) Problem

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Opinion About the 2021 MLB All-Star Game Location Change

This article is an opinion piece by one individual person and does not necessarily reflect the views of Overtime Heroics or other contributors to this website.

Me First…

Whenever I get into any serious discussion about anything political (especially when it comes to the police), I always feel an obligation to myself to preface my opinions with my background. I have a four-year degree in criminal justice with additional credentials from education in police and fire. Most of everything in these courses was about the interpretation of law, history of western law, and criminal investigation/procedure. I cannot remember how many times I made the dean’s list, but it was more than once.

Every Tom, Dick, Larry, and Karen feel like they are made political experts, economists, and lawyers by a couple of Facebook articles and something their coworker said on a lunch break. I ultimately decided not to pursue a career as a lawyer, but I am using my degree to do something I love. The point being, while I am no Alan Dershowitz, I am more qualified to speak about the law than most people.

Here’s the kicker though – I am not going to speak about the content of the Georgia voting law in question at all because I do not need to in order to prove my point. I am being dead serious: what you are about to read has nothing to do with my opinion about the controversial law. My overarching thesis is how Major League Baseball moving the All-Star Game is a bad decision for baseball when considering baseball-related reasons.

Flipping Birds

Serious question for whoever was involved in the decision-making process, in what way did this help baseball?

First Flip

Most obviously, the Braves were not happy with this. They released their own press statement expressing their disappointment, and I personally cannot blame them. They have been planning to host the game in their brand-spanking-new ballpark since May 2019 when the All-Star Game location was first announced. But most puzzling to me: why are we punishing a baseball team for a state legislature’s actions? So MLB flips the first middle finger to the Braves organization.

Second Flip

Let us discuss fans. In 2019, Atlanta was the twelfth most visited ballpark and ninth in revenue that same year, according to Statista. We are not talking about the Rays here. This is one of the larger, longest-lasting, historic, and frequently winning fan bases. The last time Atlanta hosted an all-star game was 2000, and before that was 1972. MLB keeps reaching for the younger audience, and yet there are young adults in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas who MLB just threw under the bus. Middle finger number two goes to the young fans who were excited, younger fans who were about to get invested, and older fans who have been waiting patiently.

Third Flip

The decision to move the All-Star Game is politically motivated. The message is clear that this is a direct attack on those who support the bill that Georgia passed, assumingly right-wingers. But Georgia voted Democratic in the presidential election (by a slim margin), and Republican Governor Brian Kemp only won in the 2018 election by less than a two-percent margin. What is the point? It is reasonable to assume that half of the Braves market likely opposes the bill anyway. MLB’s attempt to “stick-it” to bill-supporting fans in Georgia in turn also does the same to bill-opposing fans. Braves fans get the middle finger from MLB regardless if they support or oppose the bill in question. Both sides lose.

Fourth Flip

Remember in September 2020 when Taylor Trammell wrote an article for The Players Tribune “MLB Is Not Black Enough?” How about in January 2021 when ESPN published an article written by Doug Glanville titled “MLB Needs More Black Managers.” I will not reveal whether I personally agree or disagree with the content of these articles, because that is beside the point. The fact I am stating, however, is that there is press being published from big-name sports media trying to influence MLB to tap more into Black America.

I have no idea if MLB ever made it a specific part of their agenda to especially capture Black America in the way that these articles (and others) are asking for, but let’s go off the assumption that they did. If you look at a population map of the United States, you will notice that the densest concentration of Black Americans is in the southeast, where Atlanta is. There are no other MLB teams in the immediate vicinity of Atlanta, so the Braves’ media marking stretches through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, parts of Florida, and Tennessee. If MLB was serious about capturing the attention of Black America, this is the geographic region they would likely want to emphasize. Moreover, Atlanta is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Note, too, the recent passing of Hank Aaron. The All-Star Game in Atlanta could have been a great unifying event. But instead, MLB flips its fourth middle finger to Black America…ironically, in the name of social justice.

Fifth Flip

Now for the final middle finger recipient, let’s look at the sports-watching fan base as a whole. American sports viewers can be divided into three groups: the right, the left, and the “STFU I just want to watch the damn game!” Clearly, the bill-supporting fans are angry about the decision to move the game based on their political views, and the bill-opposing fans are happy with the decision for the same reason. I have no idea whether the “STFU” group does not care enough and will turn on the game regardless or if they will now become so annoyed by politics in sports that they do not bother watching. Maybe it is a fair mix of both. But the one thing I am fairly certain of is that this decision did not reel in many new fans to all-of-a-sudden love baseball now. This last middle finger gets flipped to the fans of Major League Baseball across the country, from the die-hards to the casual viewers.

Everyone gets a middle finger, except the Colorado Rockies. To be fair, Rockies fans could use a hug after the middle finger their ownership gave them this past winter regarding Nolan Arenado.

So at this point we have a sport that is hungry for more fans deciding to pull a publicity stunt that angered at least half of the people who were watching and likely did not bring in many new ones in the process. MLB never acknowledged how their decision is meant to actually help the part of the population they believe is a victim of the law.

To top it off: everybody has a gripe with Rob Manfred. He is not a well-liked commissioner by fans, players, or broadcasters. In typical Rob Manfred fashion, he sends the sport into a tailspin while he himself is already skating on thin ice. Manfred, the commissioner of baseball, flips a bonus middle finger to himself. Because he is a moron (for a number of reasons, not just this).

I Didn’t Forget You…

MLB acknowledged in their statement announcing the move of the All-Star Game out of Atlanta that the decision came after consulting with players. Supposedly, the union was discussing boycotting the game due to their opinions on the Georgia law in question (again, punishing fans). If this is true, logic suggests that Manfred heard this and panicked to give in to their demands so he can somehow maintain their favor before the new collective bargaining agreement negotiations begin this off-season. Many fans use this possibility as their reasoning to take some blame off of Manfred, believing this puts him in a near-impossible position.

But not so fast Players Union…

I will operate under the assumption that the Major League Baseball Players Association was going to boycott the All-Star Game.

Dear MLBPA: You have absolutely nothing to lose here. You are going to have your All-Star Game in Colorado and still make the same millions of dollars and your lives will not skip a single beat. Hell, we just found out some of the game’s biggest stars Jacob deGrom, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa will not even show up at the game. Do you know whose lives will skip a beat? The fans who had planned to give you their money. The people who made it through a pandemic without baseball and were so excited to finally go to the all-star game and celebrate after the worst year in modern American history. Fathers and sons who were going to take their kids to one of the most festive events of the baseball year. Local businesses who were looking for that short (but much-needed) economic boost after they lost so much money. People who just wanted to have a break and not be reminded of politics.

I would be more respectful and understanding of individual players who decided to boycott the All-Star Game just by themselves. At least they are using their platform to speak on behalf of themselves and make their own sacrifice. But moving the all-star game is not their own sacrifice: it is a fan’s sacrifice that fans themselves have zero input on. Players are sacrificing other people’s money and enjoyment in order to make their own statement, and some do not care to show up because players get to have their cake and eat it too.

So for the second year in a row, the MLBPA threatens to hold the fan base hostage and sacrifice someone else for their own message. To me, this is an act of selfishness that requires no real sacrifice on their part. They do not care about the fans at all. To quote a friend: “when millionaires fight billionaires, the thousandaires lose.”

So for trying to flip a bird at us fans, consider this the bird flipped right back at you.

What MLB Should Have Done

If MLBPA was not threatening to boycott the All-Star Game, but MLB received bad press for hosting the game anyway, then MLB should use money and resources to assist people in the community in some way relative to the issue (which, to my knowledge, is something no one said they were going to do).

But if MLBPA truly did threaten to boycott the game, MLB should have released a similar statement to the following

“We as Major League Baseball value our fans and workers above all else of the many races, countries of origin, and demographics from which they all come. MLB views itself as a great unifier and symbol of what is best about America and is committed to continuing to do so in the future. We acknowledge and respect the decision of players who wish to boycott the All-Star Game for whichever reasons they feel necessary. Major League Baseball has elected to keep the All-Star Game in Atlanta in 2021 in order to fulfill our promise of giving fans an All-Star Game in beautiful Truist Park. If any players who choose to boycott the game decide to change their mind, they are always welcome to come join us, their peers, and the greatest fans in the world in celebrating both the greatest game in the world and the life of Hank Aaron. There is room for everyone in baseball.”

After this statement, MLB should again have announced the use of money and resources to assist people in the community in a way relative to the political issue at hand. I feel this damage-control statement is the best way MLB could come out on top as a unifier, maintaining loyalty to fans, and meeting adversaries with grace. Notice how this proposal makes it clear that money and resources would be allocated to the population allegedly harmed by the law. This is in contrast to the current reality of neither MLB nor MLBPA demonstrating how they want to actually help the victims.

What Comes Next?

There are a lot of questions and observations that I have that are unable to be answered at this time. Listed below are a few of them:

-If Georgia repeals the law, will MLB return the all-star game to Atlanta this year? Soon?

-If Georgia does not repeal the law, will MLB ever host an all-star game in Atlanta? If the law is too unfair to operate in Georgia this year, will it not be too unfair to operate in the future?

-MLB will be criticized for any other all-star location they choose in the future if the location’s state has voting laws similar to Georgia. MLB has opened that door.

-Milwaukee was the obvious choice for a new location if MLB really wanted to honor Hank Aaron. I have a hard time believing Milwaukee could not organize to host the game in the remaining months while Colorado can.

-Texas just opened a brand new ballpark. Why not play the game in Arlington? Texas’s last all-star game was before Colorado’s last one.

-What precedent does this set for MLB and other sports leagues having to refer to politics when considering locations for events? Does it even set precedent at all?

Final Thoughts

After letting my thoughts really stew in my mind, I am not really angry at Rob Manfred, even though he is not a very well thought out decision-maker. I guess by default I could say the same for the people around him. The whole decision came off as spineless and panicky.

I feel like I can be madder at the player’s union (provided that the rumors about the boycott threats are true) because it throws fans under the bus without players sacrificing anything. Now, if the all-star game had been kept in Atlanta and players still boycotted, I can respect their decisions to sacrifice their own appearance at the game. Something about holding fans hostage just does not sit right with me. It makes me feel like a toy.

God Bless America, God Bless Baseball.


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