Major League Baseball Strikes Out

April 5, 2021 Updated: April 7, 2021

Commentary

The opening of the Major League Baseball season is always a welcome event. It heralds the approach of summer in the northern states. It provides the hope of a fresh start for fans of teams that fell short of success last season.

More than anything else, it’s a sign of normalcy: Baseball is back, and the ordinary rhythm of American culture is intact.

Indeed, Opening Day brought memorable images with it.

Once again, the schedule-makers decided to defy Mother Nature by scheduling my team, the Detroit Tigers, to open their season in Detroit instead of in one of the southern cities. And once again, Mother Nature had the upper hand as the Tigers played their opener during a snowfall. Happily, though, future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cabrera won the game for the home team by driving a ball through the falling snow and over the right-field fence for a two-run homer.

Another memorable play—underscoring the intriguing aspect of baseball that you never know for sure what you will see when you go to a ballgame—was this rarity: Dodgers’ star Cody Bellinger hit the ball over the fence, but the runner on first thought the ball had been caught, so he raced back to first, passing Bellinger in the process which, by rule, put Bellinger out, taking the home run away from him.

Mostly, though, this year’s Opening Day was significant because there were live fans in the stands. No, the stands weren’t full yet, but after a year of the COVID-19 nightmare, seeing real people in the stands was an encouraging sign of the return to normalcy that we, the people, so yearn for.

And then on April 2, MLB obliterated the joy of Opening Day. Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement that the organization was withdrawing this summer’s annual All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest of the Georgia government’s voting law reforms. This shocking development is wrong in so many ways.

First, Manfred uncritically parroted the progressives’ mischaracterization of the reform that it’s designed to suppress voting by racial minorities. Such a statement can only be made from gross ignorance or willful malice. The only votes that the Georgia legislation threatens to suppress are those by dead people, voters who already have voted, and those who aren’t eligible to vote in a particular precinct. There’s nothing racial about it, so to brand the legislation “racist” is a malicious slander employed for partisan advantage.

As The Wall Street Journal pointed out, Georgia’s laws governing who can vote would be less restrictive than Delaware (which President Joe Biden represented for so many decades) and New York (represented by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who, like the president, is trying to sabotage Georgia’s law).

Second, Manfred’s protestations of Georgia’s allegedly undemocratic legislation are grotesquely hypocritical. As reported by The Epoch Times, just the day before dropping the bomb about withdrawing the All-Star game from Atlanta, Chinese state media announced that MLB would continue to be streamed in China. If Manfred was truly committed to democracy, why hasn’t he protested China’s suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, the prison camps for the Uyghur ethnic minority, the harvesting of vital organs from political and religious prisoners, and other totalitarian practices of the Chinese Communist Party?

Third, Manfred violated the rights of conscience of individual players. Who is he to unilaterally decide that Atlanta should be punished for the legitimate constitutional activities of a democratically elected legislature? Any individual player fortunate enough to be invited to play in the All-Star Game should be free to decline that invitation if he’s ignorant enough to believe the lying propaganda about Georgia’s election law reforms.

In the ’60s, the Beatles refused to play in venues where blacks were denied admission (happily causing the managers of these venues to drop their vile racist exclusions). MLB’s commissioner has no right to dictate to players where they should stand on a political issue. In aligning MLB with “woke” politics, Manfred appears to be virtue signaling that he wants to change baseball from a “national pastime” to a partisan pastime. Conservatives, Republicans, and patriots need not attend.

Fourth, what about the contracts in place with Atlanta? Should Manfred have the power to unilaterally break those? If he’s penalizing Atlanta this year, what’s to keep him from restricting MLB events in states that have right-to-work laws or reinforce the Second Amendment? The owners of MLB franchises need to huddle in a hurry and thwart the dictatorial tendencies of the commissioner before it’s too late. And what about the small-business owners who have already invested significant (for them) funds in anticipation of making sales at the All-Star Game? Is it fair to punish them?

MLB struck out last week. Its heavy-handed edict is sad, divisive, scary, and fundamentally un-American. “Wokeness” has spun out of control. Americans need to halt this totalitarian movement in its tracks or we won’t be America anymore.

Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.