Once Upon a Time in Major League Baseball

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve hits a two-run walk-off to win Game 6 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Houston. The Astros won 6-4 to win the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

AP

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve hits a two-run walk-off to win Game 6 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Houston. The Astros won 6-4 to win the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Zach Janis

Dear Baseball,

It’s not often that I find myself thinking in retrospect. With things the way they are, there’s no time to think of anything but moving forward. You just have to keep going sometimes in the wake of bad things and hope they get better, even when nothing tells you they will.

That’s the thing I admired so much about you, Baseball. When things got tough, we turned to you for a guiding light to show us the way. When the Chicago White Sox fixed the 1919 World Series, you swung a hammer so mighty that no one who ever thought to play the game unfairly would ever step foot on a diamond again. In the thicket of segregation, Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers took a stand on your behalf, knowing that even in spite of your governing body’s ill wishes, equality for all was the way of the future. When Pete Rose threatened the purity of the game, you made an example, blocking him from being mentioned in the same breath as the best to ever do it for all time, like those White Sox of eras ago. When it was discovered that players were using steroids to enhance performance, you set a precedent that the game was to be played fairly, suspending anyone who was connected with anything that took that purity for granted.

You policed yourself so honorably that you earned that moniker we all know you by: America’s pastime. We were proud to flood the parks and stadiums, pay exorbitant amounts of money for boiled hot dogs and foamy beer, get boiled alive in the summer sun, all to share our ever-valuable time with you – you, who always seemed to return the favor.

You gave George Bush a platform to reunite a shattered democracy in the wake of the September 11th attacks. You ignited an entire country with one Jose Bautista bat flip. You made kids everywhere, now grown adults, dream of the next time they’d hear “The Giants win the Pennant! The Giants win the Pennant!” You’ve made countless men rich beyond their wildest dreams, but we never stopped to ask how you were.

We took you for granted, Baseball, and now you’re hardly recognizable anymore. You’re washed up, like the Rick Dalton this letter is named after. When I look at you, I don’t see the jaw-dropping, bright-light spectacle that captured the hearts of millions. At least, not anymore.

You’ve changed, Baseball. And I’m not sure if I like it anymore.

You’ve become a husk of the sport you once were, and that’s because you’ve lost your way. You became profit-obsessed, attention-seeking. You issued half-hearted, woefully weak punishments and “system failure” apologies that wouldn’t work on a third grader. You remained quiet when so many of your league’s players were aptly aware of the attempts to play outside the rules. You attempted to bury one of the biggest scandals in sports, in an effort to forget, but you failed to realize that this was well out of your hands before Rob Manfred got in front of a microphone.

You allowed institutionalized rule-breaking in the name of entertainment, eyeball-getting and profit, and that’s a cut your already-devoted fan base will feel for a long time.

And now, you seek to punish those players that vowed their revenge in your name. When you didn’t do enough, players took it in their own hands, and you defended the very players that broke your codes. You claimed there “wasn’t a precedent for this type of thing,” avoiding the opportunity to set one, something beholden of a pitiful, downtrodden organization.

That’s not the baseball I love. And I don’t know if it can ever be again.

Hopefully, you can change. You can hope the players become self-aware and realize the wrongs they’ve committed. You can enact legislation that prevents this kind of systematic rule-breaking. You can ban the players.

The future is in your hands, Baseball, and we can all only hope that you do the right thing. Maybe one day, we can look at you with that heroic glow that you once embodied for people across the world.