The crack of the bat can be heard at spring training exhibition games this week in Arizona and Florida, a clear sign that baseball’s opening day is right around the corner. Before the frenzy of the regular season begins, spring training provides us the perfect opportunity to reflect on all the so-called “improvements” that has been implemented in Major League Baseball since the end of last season. In doing so, one can’t help but conclude that the culture and traditions that make up professional baseball, much like our nation, are sadly drifting leftward.
Case in point, after the take-out slide by Los Angeles Dodger base runner Chase Utley broke New York Mets infielder Ruben Tejada’s leg during last fall’s playoffs, there has been much hand wringing by the worrywarts of the world that baseball has safety issues. In a country that is currently waging war against dodge ball on school playgrounds, the idea of grown men playing hardball like they have for decades is no longer palatable. To this end Major League Baseball has updated its rules to forbid the take-out slide. According to the new rule, “Runners will not be allowed to change their ‘pathway to the base’ in the middle of a slide to break up a double play.” This new rule is followed by a previous rule pertaining to base running incorporated into the game in 2014 that eliminated the home plate collision, à la Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse during the 1971 All Star Game. This season fans can look forward to the excitement of base runners tip toeing around the bases to make sure everyone stays safe.
Also new and displeasing to fans who want to sit close to the field, but not necessarily behind the protective netting as it obstructs the view, you may have to move further away from the action. This is thanks in part to the trial lawyers and a nicely timed lawsuit. To reduce liability Major League Baseball has recommended that all stadiums expand the length of the protective netting in Major League stadiums before opening day. Historically speaking, professional baseball has been around since the 1860s, and over the last 150 years it had been understood by spectators, teams, and the courts that fans were smart enough to realize that they were at a baseball game and assumed a risk attending a baseball game knowing there would be foul balls. But, alas, in this day and age where personal responsibility is a pejorative term, history and common sense have been turned on its head. Pretty soon Major League Baseball will be recommending all fans be clothed in bubble wrap for their personal protection.
The never ending war against self-determination and tobacco marches on, and this time the target is baseball players. This spring New York City’s Health Department is supporting legislation to ban chewing tobacco from all sports arenas, including the homes of the New York Mets and Yankees baseball teams. While I’m not advocating chewing tobacco, as it can be a lethal habit (see Tony Gwynn’s death and Curt Schilling’s cancer battle), I do lament yet another instance where adults are no longer allowed to make choices for themselves. I can only imagine the politically correct set this summer in the bleachers with their binoculars out to police that the bulge in the player’s cheek is chewing gum and not chewing tobacco.
In rare display of pluck and individuality, Washington Nationals reliever Jonathan Papelbon, the Washington Post reported, planned to wear a cut-off muscle T-shirt to a preseason press conference that read “Obama Can’t Ban These Guns.” The T-shirt had arrows pointing to his bare arms. As the story goes, he was talked out of doing this by the Washington Nationals, which is certainly their right as they are a baseball team, and political sloganeering does not fit their business model. But ask yourself, can you imagine the outrage and cries of censorship from the media if, let’s say, Jonathan Papelbon wanted to wear a political T-shirt extolling the virtues of the LGBT community or the Black Lives movement and was talked out of it by the Nationals? All of which underscores that although we are all welcome for the moment to enjoy freedom of speech and expression, on a practical level, conservatives are forced to be much more thoughtful and deliberate regarding what they can say in public than liberals.