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It’s okay to step away from baseball right now

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While MLB toils with how to strong-arm their way into a 2020 season, larger issues should be given the spotlight.

New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Time has been an increasingly stressed-about topic in regards to baseball recently. MLB and the player’s union are running out of it, as they send proposals back and forth with little dialogue exchanged in an effort to restart the 2020 season. Reporters have indicated varying levels of optimism about how far apart the two sides are, but the latest inquiry shows low levels of hope that a deal will be reached.

This impasse hasn’t changed since the first rumblings that the initial agreement between the owners and the players made in March wouldn’t be enough anymore. What started off seeming like a concern over health and safety in the midst of a global pandemic quickly became rooted in money.

While time may be ticking away for an agreement, the time to talk about other issues has only begun. The COVID-19 pandemic has already changed a lot of our expectations for what this year could look like. Society has had to grapple with innovative ways to safely restart major institutions and businesses, while also being mindful of social distancing and maintaining a flattened curve to keep hospitals from getting overwhelmed. Now it’s also coming to terms with the systemic racism that has been embedded in it long before the pandemic emerged.

Protests have been organized in all fifty states across the country, and others have been inspired to lead protests internationally, after police officers in Minneapolis killed George Floyd during an arrest. Floyd’s death is one of many that can be attributed to the prevalence of police brutality against Black Americans in this country, and it has sparked a massive outcry for change. The Black Lives Matter movement has been advocating for reform in the justice system for years, and it appears that the topic is finally getting the attention that it deserves.

Focusing solely on baseball at this time just isn’t possible. Even when the issues that the sport is directly facing are important relative to it’s own history, they will never transcend the conversations and concerns that the country at large is dealing with. We’ve been privileged enough here at Pinstripe Alley to attempt to cover both, as we’ve maintained writing articles about the game and on the team itself while also addressing the measures that the league and the players have taken to speak out about what is going on around us.

There’s been a lot of positive and impactful messages to share, but not all of them have been that way. Bob Klapisch, the same reporter I cited earlier sharing his view of the negotiations, shared a view from Yankees executive Ray Negron in a since-deleted tweet about the protests. Negron claimed that “Everyone out there, protesters, cops, and even the kids making trouble, are Yankees fans. There would be less tension if there was baseball.”

At best, this is a bad-faith statement equating the argument that baseball returning would ‘unify’ the country during the pandemic to calming the anger felt in the protests. At worst, it is an ignorant and foolish statement that does nothing but belittle the people organizing for an important cause. On top of that, it’s using what’s going on outside of the game as a not-so-subtle jab at the players to fall in line.

We’ve already talked about how the owners have been willing to use the pandemic as leverage to get what they want in their negotiations. It would come at no surprise if they were willing to use the civil unrest in cities across the nation to that same purpose.

I don’t know if baseball will resume in 2020. It faces a bleak outlook and not a lot of time to correct that. And while I obviously love the game and miss it, I can’t even say if I want it to, to be honest. A season dictated by the demands of owners that is also negligent of the circumstances around us doesn’t sound very appealing to me.

I understand to many people sports can be a way to de-stress from the serious issues, but to have it in spite of those issues seems morally wrong. So if now seems like a poor time to focus on baseball, if you’d rather focus your energy on contributing to the larger conversations in our society I encourage you to do so. Baseball will be back one day, whether that’s sooner or later. The changes that people are gathering their voices to demand may never come if enough people aren’t behind them.