I grew up a baseball fan. For young me, life was simple because baseball equaled Major League Baseball. I didn’t know there were other leagues, but most importantly I had no idea about what constituted the inner workings of MLB itself.
I’d get home from school, turn on the television or radio, and bask in another bad Chicago Cubs game. Life was good because life was so easy. I hadn’t yet realized one important fact; MLB is not all there is to professional baseball.
I’m not quite sure when exactly my feelings towards MLB started to change and harden. My best guess is that sometime around my mid-teens I started to pull the curtain back to the point where the bill of goods being sold by MLB didn’t match up with what my eyes were seeing. Little instances took place here and there, but nothing truly earth-shattering. I had started to question my fandom, sure, but I would still come home and put on a ballgame and drift away no questions asked.
The more years I tacked on to my bottom-line the more attuned I became to the fact that I didn’t much care for MLB. The steroid era really brought my dislike of MLB the organization to the forefront. It wasn’t that I took issue with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, or Mark McGwire. I understood why they would use steroids. The competitive side of it all made sense to me.
What I didn’t understand was why they were being thrown under the bus by their teams, by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, and by MLB on the whole. Sure, they had cheated, but MLB knew. They knew and rode the wave of the players’ cheating until they abandoned ship and left the players to fend for themselves. It never sat well with me, but I would still come home, turn on a game, and get lost in the sport I loved.
Fast forward a few years and now the players were letting me down. I had chosen to be oblivious to the misdeeds of players in years past. To my undeveloped mind, things like domestic violence and racism didn’t matter as long as the action of the field was good.
In short, I was naïve and as soon as I smartened up a tiny bit I started to question if I wanted to keep reveling in the on-the-field exploits of players whose off-the-field actions sickened me. It was getting harder and harder to turn the game on and just fade away. Did I care more that Aroldis Chapman could throw a baseball really hard or that he had fired a gun at his significant other after attempting to choke her to death?
Then there is the labor side of the house. MLB, and team owners, have taken a hardline stance when it comes to profit versus winning; profit is all that matters. It’s not that profit suddenly started mattering, baseball has always been a business, but it’s that MLB team owners increasingly felt less of a desire to even act as if they cared about winning in the face of saving every possible penny they could. The more that I became involved with labor negotiations in the Emergency Medical Services world the more I realized that the sport I had loved all my life was as anti-labor as they come. I still came home and turned on the games, but now when a player had a great game I wondered how long it would be until Cubs ownership traded him away to avoid paying him what he deserved.
The time period of 2020 to the present day represented the final straw for me. A season of playing games when they shouldn’t have been played in which MLB as an organization and team owners used a deadly pandemic as a weapon against the players in labor negotiations coupled with more and more domestic violence cases, racism, sexism, continued blackout restrictions, owners all but openly colluding to drive down player salaries, and MLB deciding that it was in the best interest of baseball to rip part Minor League Baseball and take professional baseball away from countless communities. That’s one long run-on sentence to convey the fact that I realized I could no longer turn on the games and care, let alone keep watching games from an organization I had come to openly loathe and despise.
That brings us to the here and now and the fact that this is my final article for Beyond the Box Score. I have enjoyed my time here. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a great group of people and to have the guiding hand of some fantastic editors. It hasn’t all been roses and sunshine, Vox Media needs to pay its writers and editors better and everyone at Vox needs to realize that unionization is their best step forward. Still, those aren’t the reasons I’m leaving, MLB is the reason I am leaving. While I still see a reason to write about MLB’s rich history, I have no desire to watch the present-day product and I sure as heck don’t feel a desire to write about an organization that has made their brand of baseball a joyless experience for me.
My parting words are simple; MLB is not all there is to the world of professional baseball.
There are countless leagues all over the world. Leagues that are fun and well worth taking the time to seek out and watch. There are joy and emotion to be found in those leagues and those games. MLB and Rob Manfred want to create a baseball hegemony, but in reality, they are simply removing all the joy that should come from watching the sport of baseball. Go out and find some league somewhere that reminds you of how awesomely fun it is to watch a baseball game. You deserve that, and MLB sure as heck doesn’t deserve your fandom anymore. They don’t deserve mine and that’s why I’m leaving MLB behind.
It’s time to go sit down and watch a pro game from somewhere that isn’t MLB and get lost in the game again.