My friend Gary Whittington has a devastating take on the state of Major League Baseball over at Medium which is worth reading whether you care about sports or not. In a sense what he’s written is an indictment of neoliberals in sports management whose dreams of ever greater profits gave us steroids and disrepute in the 1990’s and who now are cheating the fans with electronic cheating.
Gary calls MLB’s cheating a form of depravity and it surely is. At issue is the recent discovery and disclosure that the Houston Astros rigged the game by stealing signs from their opponents catchers and signaling to their own hitters what pitch would be coming next. If you wanna say “well hasn’t this always been the case” go ahead but the answer is no. Electronic pitch tipping is a real time action and far more advanced than old fashioned hand signals from base coaches.
“The careful planning of this form of cheating makes its depravity complete. Pitchers on other teams lost money in free agency because their performance suffered. The effects of a few timely hits rippled through the destinies of the other 29 teams, and the possible outcomes of untainted seasons entered the cloud of unknowing. This is stealing.”
Indeed. MLB should be concerned about the possibility that tens of thousands of fans like Gary are about to walk away. This is not simple rule breaking. By destroying the honest competition between hitters and pitchers (arguably the best thing about the game) MLB has effectively signaled that the foundation of baseball doesn’t matter.
Gary, a lifetime fan of the Astros, has thrown away his souvenirs and the Astros jacket I bought him for his birthday 12 years ago.He writes:
“Of course, this is not the first time that people driven by ego and greed have gone astray. I suppose that if Pope John Paul II can forgive the man who shot him nearly to death and left him drained of all but a few pints of his lifeblood, I can get around to forgiving the players who cheated. If Altuve was involved, who could stay mad at him? But I plan to spend my time doing other things, and my travel dollars on destinations other than baseball stadiums.”
Albert Einstein once said “logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” For me what MLB is proving is that the sport’s biggest power brokers have no imagination left. Money ball is now corruption ball and as the baseball Czars seek to destroy minor league ball and cover up their misdeeds all at the same time they appear not to care who knows it.
ABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.
(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger