With spring training in full gear, and the lockout behind us, baseball fans can now focus on the 2022 season. In less than three weeks, the season will begin, and fans will forget all about the lockout, right? After all, all’s fair in love, war, and MLB negotiations, so does it really matter who “won” or “lost” in the final deal? More importantly, will the aftereffects of the prolonged process stay with fans, or will they linger for some, if not many?
Beyond the lockout, what about the recent free agent frenzy? Prior to the lockout back in December, only a handful of players had signed new contracts. So, in the last week and a half, fans have seen a lot of players change teams, either through free agency or via trades. Some fans are ecstatic about what their teams have done, while other fans are somewhat less enthusiastic. In any event, reflecting on the lockout and the subsequent flurry of activity has caused us to ponder this question – What does it mean to be a baseball fan in 2022?
MLB Fans as Negotiators
During the lockout, most fans tended to take sides, as if they and they alone knew what was right. Looking at social media, one would have thought that every fan must have at one time or another been a union or management negotiator. Some of the thoughts shared by avid fans were priceless. On the social media page of any team, one could daily see comments such as, “Man, these billionaire owners are just greedy! Don’t they realize that fans pay to see the players play? How many fans pay all that money to go to a game and watch the owners in their suites? Come on, man!”
Then we had those on the other side with such witty remarks as, “These players are so greedy! They are getting paid millions to play a kids’ game, and they still want more! Why, I would be willing to play the game for a million dollars a year if I had the chance! How much is enough for these guys?” Or, our personal favorite: “Maybe these players should do out and try to find a real job and see how the rest of us live. Let’s see them work 9-5 for $50,000 a year. They don’t know how lucky they are!”
Then there is the third group who are united in their dislike and distrust of both sides. In this group, one can find multiple schools of thought. One line of thinking goes like this: “Billionaires fighting with millionaires – just get it done and start the season! Don’t you care about us fans?” Or, there is this: “I am done with MLB, these guys make me sick! I don’t care if they ever play another game, they are not getting any more of my money!” Finally, the below-the-belt shot: “I am going to go watch high school, college, or even local youth leagues. They play for the love of the game. That will show all these rich people how mad I am!” Yeah, that’ll show ’em!
MLB Fans as General Managers
The lockout was fun, but, for real entertainment, the fans play general manager every offseason, and this season was no exception. The only difference in 2022 was the long lockout, which resulted in a compressed, and thus explosive free agency period (as well as trades). This compressed time period for making deals must have gotten the fans going because some of the comments were just priceless. Yes, we all think we are GMs, to be sure, but the fans have outdone themselves this time around.
Check out any MLB team’s social media page, and you will hear the obligatory, “We should have signed this guy, but, no, our cheap owner wouldn’t spend the money!” This is generally followed by an assessment of the GM’s skills, which goes something like this: “We never go after the big-name free agents, we always swim in the kiddie pool! We will never win anything with him here!” These comments are often accompanied by the threat that “I am so done with this team, I will never watch another game!” Don’t forget the classic “Why did we trade for this guy? what was the GM thinking?”
Even better, though, is the back and forth in comment sections on social media. It seems that some fans like what their team has done (or not done) in the offseason, and wish to heap praise on their front office. They say such things as “The GM has put together a good team, and maybe he is waiting for the deadline to make the key trades. Why waste money when you don’t need to?” To which a clever poster will respond with “It’s not your money, why do you care?” Or they will offer faint praise, like this: “Well, look at Team B, they really had a bad offseason. At least we did not do as bad as they did.” This will no doubt elicit a response along the lines of “Who cares about any other team? All that matters is our team!”
Some fans go so far as to look back, then look forward at the same time. “Well, we tried signing a shortstop a few years ago. How did that work out?” Additionally, fans constantly debate the value of unproven young players versus the established veteran. “We can’t trade him, he is going to be a superstar, just you wait!” The common response is “We are trying to win now, and we may never have this chance again. Who knows about the prospects, many never even make it to the show” And so it goes.
The Ultimate in Fandom
Last, but surely not least, is a special group of fans who provide endless hours of entertainment. They deserve their own space in the annals of baseball fandom. Why is that, you ask? These dedicated fans have developed a unique term to describe misguided fellow fans. That term is “fanboy.” It seems as though this term is used indiscriminately whenever one wants to make one of a fellow fan. It is more broadly aimed at those fans who dare do one of two things: say something positive about their team; or, make any type of statement that could possibly be construed as even the timidest of defenses of the team’s owner. Yep, make a positive statement and you are labeled a fanboy,
However, there is an ironic twist in the fanboy story. Believe it or not, some of the “fans” calling others “fanboys” are also season ticket holders. Yep, they put thousands of dollars into the pocket of the “cheap” owners. Still, they call others fanboys for merely stating their support of the team. How meatball is that? These season ticket owners have no idea just how ironic (and hilarious) their actions are. It is rather entertaining, though. I guess it’s a crime to support your team. Or something like that.
What to Make of All This
Finally, the question that we originally asked was, “What does it mean to be a baseball fan in 2022?”There is no doubt that there are multiple answers to this question. However, here is what we suggest to anyone who wants to enjoy another MLB season: Put the lockout in the rearview mirror, take a break from your armchair GM duties, and just relax and watch your favorite team play. This is baseball, after all, and after a long winter, you fans have earned the right to root for your team. Oh, one more thing: If some meatball calls you a fanboy, just smile and thank them. There is no greater joy in sports than to be a passionate baseball fan, and fanboys rule!
main image credit: Embed from Getty Images