Right after the South Carolina primary, not content to merely dominate the front page of every newspaper in America, Donald Trump expanded his publicity juggernaut into the sports pages by tweeting the following:
I hear the Rickets (sic) family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!
Trump, it seems, was put off because the Ricketts family (whose name he spelled incorrectly) had given $3 million to a PAC that ran ads against him. It should be noted that the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs, are prominent Republican donors, and that Pete Ricketts who sits on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Cubs is also the Republican Governor of Nebraska.
While Will Rogers may have never met a man he didn’t like, oddly enough, for the man who is the front runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, Donald Trump is the exact opposite, as he seemingly can’t find any Republicans he can stand. Jeb Bush is low energy; his brother, the former President Bush, an incompetent liar; Rubio is weak like a baby; Ben Carson has a pathological disease. He had issues with Carly Fiorina’s face; and when he isn’t calling Ted Cruz a liar he is threatening to sue him. The list of Republicans who draw his ire goes on and on and expands seemingly every day, with the Ricketts being just the latest target.
Much of what Trump says, of course, is nothing more than political theater, and his fellow Republicans seem flummoxed on how best to respond, having learned the hard way that no matter what Trump says nothing seems to hurt him with his supporters. This is something that seems to surprise even Trump himself, who famously observed in Iowa, “They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody. And I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s like incredible.”
Baseball and politics do have at least one thing in common, as you have to play hardball to win. Trump, in his short foray into national politics, has thrown a lot of high hard ones at his fellow Republicans, and this is certainly within the rules of engagement for both baseball and politics. But that strategy will eventually backfire. Trump and his supporters, no doubt, envision him as a modern-day Andrew Jackson who will ride a wave of populist support into the White House. That may make good copy, but Election Day politics are often more stuffy, nuanced, and boring than that.
If Trump does get the nomination, he’ll face a ferocious political team led by Hillary Clinton, who will make Ted Cruz seem like a Boy Scout in comparison. With the Democratic Party having a steep demographic edge in national elections, it sure would be nice for the Republican nominee to have, let’s say, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio, and Rubio and Jeb Bush from Florida fully vested in his campaign and dedicating real energy and expertise on how to capture those must-win States. But if you understand how baseball and politics work, you also know the unwritten rules of throwing high and tight at someone. Those in the hyper competitive worlds of baseball and politics don’t take being thrown at lightly and will bide their time till they can return the favor. That favor will be returned this fall when Trump needs all the allies he can muster and calls for help to key Republicans go unanswered.
Trump also risks alienating members of the conservative base, like me, who could care less about his tone but take issue with parts of his message, such as the Ricketts’ tweet itself. If The Donald knows of illegalities about the Ricketts or the Chicago Cubs, by all means report it to the authorities. If not, Trump’s threats come off sounding too much like team Obama and Clinton who think nothing of using their power and influence with the IRS and Justice Department to target people and organizations whose politics don’t square with their own personal agendas.
Trump may win the battle but stands to lose the war. If things continue the way they are, the Cubs are more likely to end their 71 year drought of not being in the World Series this fall than Trump is of winning the presidential election.