Daggers
June 30, 2020

Ian Desmond just pantsed the entire MLB

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Scott Taetsch

What more can we say about the state of baseball in America? After the worst offseason in MLB history—a prolonged sabbatical including a global pandemic, a labor war, and some of the most juvenile, self-serving bullsh*t this side of Capitol Hill—it finally looked like the clouds were parting. Teams were set to report July 1st. A new Opening Day was scheduled for July 23rd. Even the players would reportedly receive full prorated salaries. Sure, a 60 game season was going to generate one heck of an asterisk, but that was an October problem, not a July one.

But then coronavirus cases in previously coronavirus lite zones like Florida, Texas, and Arizona began spiking and news of the player dropouts began rolling in. Then on Monday the Rockies’ Ian Desmond stepped to the plate and absolutely crushed baseball, possibly for good, with a single heartfelt, gut-wrenching Instagram post. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Abridged version here . . .

Oof. If you were gearing up for Opening Day 2.0—if you had the blinders on, the Cracker Jacks ready, and we’re ready to go all ra-ra America’s Pastime just like we were—then this is going to make you feel like a big, old dummy.

At the crux of this are Desmond’s own interests, which are totally valid. His wife is pregnant. He has four kids. Who knows what the government is or isn’t telling us about COVID-19 right now, especially at the state level. Stay home, be safe, take another potential COVID-19 case and that case’s exponential spider web of transmitted cases out of circulation. This is common sense.

Also at the heart of this, however, is Desmond’s identity as a biracial black man in baseball. In 2019, just 7.7% of Opening Day rosters in the sport that gave us Jackie Robinson were comprised of African American players. As Desmond points out, the MLB has zero black owners, one black GM, and two black managers. Even if the athletic talent pool had naturally migrated to the NFL and NBA without a cultural nudge (unlikely), the leadership makeup speaks to a systemic problem in baseball only further highlighted by the recent calls for racial justice in America. Citing the culture of racism, homophobia (*cough* Daniel Murphy *cough*), cheating, and general 1983 garbage still prevalent in the MLB today, Desmond grabbed the dagger.

“If what Dick Lee knew to be true remains so—that baseball is about passing on what we’ve learned to those who come after us in hopes of bettering the future for others,” he wrote, “then it seems to me that America’s pastime is failing to do what it could, just like the country it entertains."

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In fact, if Desmond’s assertions of MLB culture are true, it’s not only that baseball isn’t doing what it could, but actively doing what it shouldn’t, handing America’s youth a microcosm of a sick society instead of an antidote to it. We’ve all seen the Little League brawls, after all.

So with that, the Rockies lose a two-time All-Star for the season and the MLB another percentage point of diversity. Maybe this is for the best. Maybe this is the wakeup call baseball needs. It can put runners on second in extra innings and spend the entire offseason conducting a ‘True Detective’ investigation of teams that conducted accepted levels of cheating in arbitrarily unacceptable ways but it can’t be bothered to face its own baked-in prejudices. Hell, it can even be bothered to limit air travel during a pandemic. So this is it. This is either the nail in the coffin or the ringing of a long-silent bell. The choice is entirely the MLB’s. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but it’s more than most of us get.

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