“God, I love baseball” — this simple, poignant line from “The Natural” perfectly captures how I and millions around the world feel about our national pastime, a game intertwined with American tradition that transcends generations.
As a child, I remember bonding over games with my grandfather, a World War II veteran. As a teen, I have memories of striking out, riding the pine, and continuously making mistakes on the field while still thrilled I had the opportunity to play my favorite sport.
I’ve made scores of new memories as an adult. Between watching Matt LaPorta’s walk-off home run in person, countless hours listening to radio broadcasts, and time spent perusing the latest team news online, baseball is special. Yet, for conservatives, it’s clear baseball is also increasingly and extraordinarily vulnerable.
Only the most die-hard fan could endure the slew of scandals that have plagued baseball in recent decades: steroids, the ever-increasing disparity between large and small-market teams, and recent sign-stealing controversies have tarnished the game’s reputation.
Still, baseball has weathered these storms, just as it has endured world wars, economic depressions, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and even the COVID-19 outbreak. During America’s darkest hours, the sport has provided a nine-inning escape, while also serving as an agent of unity. As such, the recent insidious injection of left-wing politics into Major League Baseball represents a major cultural tragedy, destroying one of America’s great institutions.
Some hints of the game’s downfall came last summer when the Cleveland Indians announced they were changing their team name. The decision was not made at the behest of the fan base — baseball fans, in general, were split on the decision, while Cleveland fans strongly opposed the change by a 55 percent to 33 percent margin — but was made to prevent a backlash against the team’s corporate sponsors. The big blow to baseball fans, however, was the announcement by Commissioner Rob Manfred to move both the MLB All-Star Game and MLB draft away from Atlanta in protest of Georgia’s new election integrity bill.
The optics of Manfred’s decision are ugly, with the announcement only a few days after public pressure from President Joe Biden. Moving the All-Star Game will cost the city of Atlanta up to $190 million while punishing the very fans that MLB claims to be defending. Manfred’s ruling sets an exceedingly dangerous precedent: if MLB can arbitrarily punish a state based largely on misinformation about a voting bill, what will stop them from bullying other cities based upon politics down the road?
Indeed, we’ve seen similar behavior already from the NBA over a so-called “bathroom bill.” What if MLB doesn’t like a state’s lack of gun control policies? What if MLB decides a state is too restrictive on abortion access? Of course, it’s worth noting these types of policies enacted by our entertainment institutions are almost always made to placate the left. There’s no discussion, for example, about moving sporting events from New York due to their allowance of late-term abortions.
The response from conservatives has been predictable, with prominent figures including Donald Trump, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, and other officials calling for a boycott of MLB, while Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., has aimed at MLB’s antitrust protections. Indeed, it also seems plausible conservative backlash has contributed in part to ratings losses for the NFL, NBA, the Grammy Awards Show, and the Oscars, for example.
Unfortunately, save for a tacit acknowledgment from NBA commissioner Adam Silver that some viewers would prefer the game to be less politicized, the creeping tide of “woke-ism” continues. A boycott of MLB, however, has the potential to be considerably more effective.
Major League Baseball was hemorrhaging viewers even before its ill-advised decision to “go woke,” with interest in the sport crashing to its lowest levels since 1937, leading to a flurry of rule changes in an attempt to spur interest among new fans. The shortened season and lack of fan attendance due to COVID-19 added to MLB’s misery, causing billions of dollars in lost revenue along with increasing debt.
Perhaps most significant is the upcoming labor negotiation, as the collective bargaining agreement between MLB owners and players is set to expire at the end of the season. It’s widely anticipated that these negotiations will be sufficiently contentious to delay the start of the 2022 season, alienating more fans and producing an even greater financial loss. Taken together, MLB is in a precarious position that renders it uniquely susceptible to the ill effects of a boycott.
The only thing worse than an American company relocating abroad is American companies poisoning their employees and customers against the constitutional republic that protects their rights, the economic system that enriches them, and our police and military that ensures their security. Every time a “woke” company goes bankrupt or a leftist Hollywood studio gets shuttered should be cause for a joyous celebration in the culture war. Conservatives should do everything in their power to make Major League Baseball the first high-profile victim.