Father’s Day has come and gone in this bizarre year 2020. With an abundance of absurdities all around us, I seek some semblance of normality. Scratch that; I need it. There is no easy healing for what is going on in the world, but sometimes just a small band-aid can buy enough time to gather your breath, clean the wounds, and move on. Baseball had a chance to help fix the engine that is America and other parts of the world, but instead it has taken a wrench and rendered it worse.
I grew up in western Maryland listening to the Baltimore Orioles on AM radio with my grandfather. Sitting on the porch of his farm house, both snacking on ice cream bars, living the game in our heads as Chuck Thompson described the action beautifully. My grandmother sitting in a swing knitting, crocheting, or doing needlepoint while mosquito coils burned slowly. We would listen for most of the innings before they would retire for the night. I would go to the guest room and listen to the ending. One benefit of being a young child is having energy galore.
During the summers, I would awake early and go help on the farm. Often my job was to pick the raspberries, and it was a sweet job. I got to keep 50% of everything the raspberries sold for! I would save up my money each year from the sales. Each spring, I would purchase the sporting news Baseball Spring edition, at minimum 5 wiffle balls, sometimes a new bat and a new helmet.
My best friend would come over on the weekends (thankfully I had those off), and we would spend all day Saturday and Sunday playing wiffle ball. Not just any wiffle ball, but our 2-person league. Every spring we would each pick 4 teams to play as during the season. I was always the California Angels (my favorite team when Doug DeCinces left Baltimore), Houston Astros, and would rotate the other teams. They usually included the Dodgers, Cardinals, Brewers, Orioles or the Tigers. My companion in this adventure would always pick the Yankees (his favorite), the Pirates, Red Sox, and rotate the Athletics, Orioles, Blue Jays, or the White Sox. I even still have most of the helmets from those days.
Each spring, we would look at the trades, the signings, the new guys, and work out our rosters. We would agree on the players’ base-stealing ability for the rules we had in order for our ‘ghost runners.’ Then we also watched This Week in Baseball, so we could catch glimpses of how the batters stood in the box, because that was important to us. So, at 10 and 11 (he was a year older than I), we learned how to bat lefty or righty so we could emulate the players perfectly. We even had different bats for use. Though typically 3 were your normal bats, taped up slightly differently, we had the home run hitters’ bat that we were allowed to use twice in a game. The sound of that bat when you connected, oh I can still hear it all these years later.
We kept box scores, played 6 inning games, and often would play 2 games a day. Often ending with watching whatever games we could watch, and catching highlights. Even staying up late to catch George Michael’s sports machine. We never did get the hang of pitching lefties, so most of our pitching staff were right-handed hurlers. We played fair, often giving the benefit of a close call to the defender, as it was just one-on-one. We laid tent poles as our fences, also trying to emulate a little of the ballpark we played in. Even going as far as putting up a piece of plywood in left for our games in Fenway. I still remember our typical distances to the fence. Left field was in the 80-90 range, left center was often in the 110-120 range, centerfield was a consistent 115 (the side of the house was centerfield), right center was 100-115, and right field was the oddity anywhere from 75-100 feet. Typically, the short porch of Yankee stadium was 75 feet.
We loved the game. As we got older, we still played, up until he graduated high school and went into the Army. Even that didn’t stop us from enjoying the game. Years had passed, our ability to see more games, get more box scores, and we even picked up a baseball board game, Statis-Pro. That game was a blast, always scared of the Z card, or the home run range of 31-38 for some hitters, or the year Ricky Henderson’s card read: Anytime gets a single from his card, automatically steals 2nd base. Every time you had a pitcher with less than a 2-10 range playing Henderson you were scared.
Through the years though, I would continue watching baseball. Always happy when the Angels were on national TV or playing the Orioles. Trying to go to Camden Yards every time the Halos came to town. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a game at the new stadium. It was awe inspiring. Far better than Memorial stadium was in nearly every way. I would always sit in right field, usually near the scoreboard, smelling the amazing Boog’s BBQ. (and of course, consuming said BBQ).
Then a few years later, the strike/lockout happened.
That tarnished my love of the sport. It quit being a game, and became a business in my mind. Not necessarily a bad thing, businesses are great, but the passion for the sport took a beating.
Cal Ripken was sitting at 2,009 consecutive games, just 122 games shy of breaking Gehrig’s mark. Though an Angels fan, I was still holding a candle for the Orioles in my heart thanks to my grandfather.
While my Angels were the worst team in baseball, we had the Expos as the best. The EXPOS! That team had some outstanding players, especially that outfield of Alou, Grissom, and Walker. That was exciting for a baseball fan.
Then it all went to hell.
Even when they came back it didn’t feel right. Sure, we got the explosion of the home run race in ‘98, Ripken passing Gehrig in ‘95, and the amazing pitching down in Atlanta with Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. There was just enough baseball heart that kept beating to keep me interested.
No longer was I playing wiffle ball, I was happily not single, playing hockey, but still would fire up my computer and play baseball games such as High Heat or, in more recent years, Out of the Park Baseball.
Baseball has always been at my core. With salaries inflating beyond incredible, the business side seemed to win more and more. But the on-field product was still pretty dang amazing. The old codger in me now would bitch and moan how stolen bases have gone the way of the dodo, how launch angles have become a thing, how we no longer have great pitchers, that they are now great throwers.
Analytics changed the game, not saying for the worse (though in some ways yes! But I’ll save that for another day). The season that was 2020 had already become tainted before it ever started. It should have been an alert for all of us just how messed up the year would become. The trash can scandal of the Astros, Red Sox, and as found out later, possibly the Yankees. Three great teams during this time. The contentious negotiations with the MiLB (Minor League Baseball), and off-season remarks about the future contract has given many a shared opinion that Rob Manfred hates baseball and its “piece of metal” World Series championship trophy.
The league just felt different to someone that would stay up late on the East Coast to watch his Halos play, even if that meant going to bed at 2 and getting up at 7 for work.
This stoppage however, something is different. Sure, there is a ‘pandemic’ going on. Some people are scared, some are not, some have to work while others are told to stay home. Tensions in the street have erupted. Oddly, baseball has been played through nearly everything outside of the commissioner, owners, and players stepping on their own feet.
Some may scream “COVID-19!,” but all reports are that the league and the players are close to an agreement on all accounts for health and safety purposes. It’s money and games played they are squabbling about. Trying to see which side blinks first while we fans are left with blank stares on our faces. We are approaching July and the NHL is about to have playoff hockey. HOCKEY will start up again before the Joy of Summer takes the field!?! Though with 11 recent cases, there may be wavering on the July 10th start up. Think about that. Gary Bettman and the NHL, notorious for really crappy PR, may be playing important games in summer and MLB is sitting at home. I never thought I’d see that day.
It is for this reason that I part ways with Major League Baseball as a fan. It’s been a good 40+ years, but I know an abusive relationship when I see it, and we fans are being abused.
The desire shared by many on the right to defeat Donald Trump in 2016 does not exist today. After his nomination and (especially) his election over Hillary Clinton, the most strident NeverTrump (NT) people on the right went full Democrat while the Democrat Party itself and their supporters in the media went completely off the rails. Many on the right who did not vote or wrote in a candidate in 2016 now appreciate certain of Trump’s accomplishments in office. Though they may still find him distasteful as a person, at least a large subset of these will likely cast their votes for the incumbent in November.
The hard-core NeverTrump former ‘conservatives’ created a pro-leftist movement which tried with all its might to curry favor with the original leftists, who used (and still use) the former ‘conservatives’ kowtowing hat-in-hand appeals to leftists as some sort of ‘proof’ that their own Trump Derangement Syndrome is justified and reasonable. Meanwhile, democrats in government and the media openly and viciously scorned (and still scorn) formerly NT conservatives who did not vote for Clinton in 2016.
While Justin Amash is toying with the idea of declaring his candidacy as this election's ‘principled’ option, his reach will not extend past his own circle, which appears to have shrunk considerably since he abandoned the Republican Party. Also notable is that both the Democrats and NT former Republicans expressed dismay at Amash's announcement. Democrats fear a Libertarian candidate will steal votes from Biden, and NT has already firmly severed its connection to any conservative values. They all want to defeat Trump with a Democrat. That would only leave the Trump-skeptical Rs who haven't swung left (as the NT movement did) who might vote for Amash. One problem Amash faces is that no one wants to get burned and embarrassed again. 2016 was the year that third party voters would rather forget. This road was traveled with Evan McMullin, who turned on any conservative values to become fodder for left-wing politics. Republicans aren't interested in protest votes that churn out inevitable opponents to Republican values. Another issue for Amash is that third-party voting Rs may be resistant to helping Ds after witnessing the scorn with which all Republicans were treated after the election. Republicans are less likely to aid Ds in the current climate than 2016, not more.
Even the Rs with the most distaste for Trump's character would concede the benefits of his presidency, including court appointments and pro-life policy, as well as a booming economy (until the Chinese pandemic struck).
The pandemic recovery will be the issue of the election. Amash has no part in this fight. The issues of character which dogged Trump and swung some voters to McMullin or another third party candidate are no longer front and center, most of them having been nullified by Trump's opponents who have proven themselves to have similar if not worse character flaws. Lack of faith in media reporting has hardened and even increased, and the right is not in Amash territory. Republicans crossing over to the Ds is even less likely. The Democrats have had three years to pull themselves together, form a reasonable, responsible party, and present a realistic candidate. They did not do that. This will be purely D candidate vs R candidate - who can rebuild the country? The gloves will be off. And this time, the Rs will be OK with that.
It’s weird for me to advocate the position I’m going to express about China in this piece. As a young and idealistic teenage conservative, I believed what a lot of people in authority said about trade with China democratizing that country: Trading with the Chinese government would make them a partner in world affairs and might even make them a friend. I swallowed that thinking completely.
A lot of politicians, foreign-policy experts, and I were as wrong as wrong could be. Since the United States and China normalized trade relations in 1998, democratic ideals and yearnings haven’t blossomed in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party’s grip on authority is tighter than ever.
What has it brought America? Lots of job loss because of manufacturing heading to China. Lots of intellectual property stolen, either through outright theft, the requirement that American companies investing in China must allow Chinese nationals part ownership, or Chinese students taking advantage of the college system in the USA to take ideas back to their native lands. Gigantic profits for big tech companies and sports leagues that are prepared to be chief bootlickers for the Chinese Communist Party in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
China is now an economic superpower and they’ve not been shy about using international systems to their advantage. Despite their membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Chinese regularly flout the rules. China is engaged in currency manipulation, it has used tariffs to protect its own companies, imposed rules on foreign companies that are anti-competitive, and engaged in dumping steel to hurt other countries’ steel industries.
All of this has made them a handful to deal with internationally as well. China’s incredible growth allowed them to buy whole countries in Africa, assert influence over the administration of the Panama Canal, and build man-made islands in the South China Sea to increase its territorial claim there.
China has been a malefactor on the world stage for quite a while now. They’ve bullied and menaced their neighbors and enabled Kim Jong-Un’s behavior in North Korea. And with American business joined at the hip with China, the U.S. government has done very little to try to stop China’s bad acts internationally.
Now we have a worldwide pandemic that started in Wuhan, China. COVID19 is causing economic ruin and mayhem all over the world. Tens of millions of people are losing their jobs and no one has any idea how or when the world will recover.
Despite the protestations of certain media outlets, the incompetent World Health Organization and desperate Democratic politicians, this crisis is China’s fault.
We’ve heard a lot of variations of “send China the bill” from pundits and politicians on TV here. I’ve seen people like Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) talk about China writing off American debt. Others, including President Donald Trump, mused about China paying for the relief / stimulus packages that were passed into law.
As awful as this crisis is, it presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the United States and the industrialized world to strike back at China’s aggression and malfeasance. Their incompetence, whether intentional or not, has wrecked the international economy and will kill hundreds of thousands of people all over the world before it is done.
The United States, Europe, and the advanced economies in Asia, the Middle East, and South America need to come together to wage economic war on China. No more doing business with them. No more taking their investment money. No more letting Chinese companies buy businesses in their countries. No more outsourcing manufacturing to China. No more lobbying firms or media outlets taking Chinese money, either from official government entities or from businesses owned by Chinese nationals.
And Trump is the one American President with the cojones to convince the world of this strategy. Use every tariff, every sanction regime and, most importantly, secondary sanctions, to get the world to join in this economic war. It is time to put China back in its box. It’s time to reverse all of the gains the Chinese communists have made and end their dream of being the number one power in the world.
The only way China can avoid this massive and richly-deserved penalty is to agree to the following list of demands:
This is a long list of demands and yes it will represent a total surrender by China on the world stage. And every one of these demands must be met or the international community will wage full-scale economic war against China. That is what has to be done. It won’t be easy and there will be howling from all corners that are accustomed to enriching themselves from China.
A world run by China will be one of repression, less freedom, and even more economic stratification than now. This is the moment to stop it for good. This is the opportunity we must take.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.