Just when you thought the offseason could not get much worse for Major League Baseball and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, spring training arrived.
Normally, the crack of the bats and sound of the baseball hitting the glove is a welcome sign that winter is nearing its end (even here in Colorado). And, trust me, those sounds are still far more welcome than the the crunch of ice underfoot or the scrape of the shovel as it glides between the layers of sidewalk and snow.
This year, however, the sounds coming out of spring training have been focused more on sound bites than baseball … and that’s never a good thing for the game that we all love.
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On Sunday, during an interview with ESPN, Manfred, however, gave a sound bite for the ages. It’s likely one that will follow him throughout the rest of his time in MLB’s highest office.
"“The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” Manfred said."
Of course, this quote was given in regards to the sign-stealing, cheating scandal that has enveloped the Houston Astros, brought their playoff runs and World Series title into question, and cost three Major League managers their jobs.
But … wait? What? The World Series trophy is a piece of metal? I mean, sure, technically, it is. And the Declaration of Independence is a piece of paper. And the statue of David is a hunk of marble. And the Great Wall of China is a bunch of rocks. And so on. And so on.
There are certain things that mean more to all of us than just their physical properties. And that includes a World Series trophy.
Commissioner Manfred’s “piece of metal” statement? Hold that thought for a minute. Let it marinate in your brain if you’re a baseball fan (and if you’re reading this, I know you are).
Absolutely, the Astros scandal has rocked baseball. ESPN’s Buster Olney compared it to the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal in our exclusive podcast with him. That’s just how deep this latest tarnish on the game we all love all runs.
Baseball has survived strikes and steroids. It has survived scandal before. However, it has survived all of those moments because the fans have never truly given up on the game. They keep coming back to the park for the game they loved, and the generations before them loved as well.
Fans have come back to the game because they cheer for their team to have that magical moment when they raise a World Series trophy high in the air and proclaim to the world that they are the best of the best. They want their team to win that “piece of metal.” And, Commissioner Manfred, they’re paying good money to watch that team secure it or wearing a jersey or hat at home while watching it on TV.
We’ve seen the footage of ticker tape parades in New York to celebrate the Yankees. We’ve watched the joy in the faces of Chicago Cubs fans as the 108-year championship drought ended. We’ve seen the heartbreak in the eyes of the Cleveland Indians fans who lost that World Series to the Cubs, knowing they would have to wait longer for their time on top of the baseball world.
It’s not just “a piece of metal.” It’s more than that to every baseball player, manager, coach, front office executive, and fan. Ask Nolan Arenado or Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw or any other player who has never won a world title if that’s “a piece of metal.” They will quickly put that thought to rest, as will likely every other MLB player who has come before them.
Mr. Commissioner, if you want to save the game, love the game. Love its nuances. Love its flaws. Love its history. Love baseball with the same passion the fans have for it. Yes, it’s a business and it has to be run as such. But that doesn’t mean a love for the game can’t exist within the business framework. The quicker you understand that, the quicker the fans will be ready to once again fully embrace the game they support, keep attending, and, yes, love.
It’s more than a piece of metal. It’s much more than that. It’s a piece of our souls, Commissioner. We fans wish it was a part of yours as well.