It all seems so trivial right now, doesn’t it, the bickering between Major League Baseball and its players over how to fairly set salaries for the 2020 season?
Our country is coming apart at the seams, protests and riots consuming cities across America over an issue that has plagued this land of ours for centuries and has now reached a boiling point. All of this, mind you, against the backdrop of a global pandemic and collapsed economy.
We’re supposed to care about baseball right now?
But then it dawned on me at the end of a weekend filled with sadness, anger and fear. Yes, we should care about baseball right now. Or, more specifically, baseball should care about us right now.
We need something good. We need something that brings us together. We need something that shows the country that people from vastly different backgrounds can work and play together and bring joy to us and to each other.
Baseball can do that.
In no way is this to suggest the 2020 MLB season can fix a societal problem that should not exist in 2020 but cannot be fixed easily or quickly. That requires a complete change in the way we think, in the way we act and in the way we treat each other. It takes generations of change to become reality.
But baseball can play a role in our recovery from the chaos that surrounds us and in the long-term goals we seek. Because baseball has always done exactly that.
The sport that gave us Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente can lead the way once again.
The sport that gave us one of the tightest-knit, most-diverse World Series champions in recent memory - that gave us Mississippi’s Brian Dozier and the Dominican Republic’s Juan Soto singing along to a Reggaeton pop hit, Venezuela’s Gerardo Parra turning the Korean version of a preschooler’s song into a team-wide anthem, and Florida’s Howie Kendrick and Ohio’s Adam Eaton celebrating home runs by mimicking gear shifts in a hot rod - can be an example for everyone else.
We’ve always turned to baseball in times of trouble. After World War II. During the tumultuous late 60s. In the wake of the September 2001 attacks. And baseball has helped bring us back together and remind us there’s far more that unites us than divides us.
But it can’t happen if baseball can’t get out of its own way. It seems so self-explanatory, and yet this sport just can’t help itself sometimes.
Well, now is the time for baseball to get its act together. It’s time for owners and players to find the common ground we all seek across society right now, figure out a compromise and figure out how to start the 2020 season as soon as safely possible.
It’s time for players, coaches and other staffers of different backgrounds to talk openly and honestly with each other about their experiences at and away from the ballpark and learn how they can be better.
It’s time for all of us to listen to what those less privileged than us have been trying to tell us all along.
And it’s time for ballplayers to take the field and show us how teammates unite behind a common cause and give us all something to cheer.
In these darkest of times for our country, it’s time for baseball to do what it’s always done: help bring us together.