Our venerable elder, Chad Dotson, has succeeded in reminding me that baseball as it is is not baseball as it used to be, and perhaps should not always be as it is:
This is an exchange from Ted Lasso, and although the show is fictional, the situation is real and it is not spectacular at all. Although the context is European football, AP’s Jeff Wallner points out that yes, the peculiar form of American gender equality commitment is excessive excessive extra credit:
The worst feeling in the world, as an American, is that a British person points out that they have competed with us in everything but tea imports. Normally this kind of realization sees me in a storm of defensiveness, but there was no denying 1) the idiocy of this system 2) the completely humiliating fact that I have just now fully realized what an idiotic system it is. So instead of “Shut up and get out of the way of my roaring Corvette powered by a wild horse and powered by a space engine”, my reaction to Jeff’s British friend was: Yes. Why? Why do do we do this?
I remember hearing that baseball was described as the most American sport because it does not matter how terrible your team is or how richly appointed the other team is – everyone gets three outs for nine rounds. Period. Lovely, yes?
But come the draft, the more you suck, the closer you get to the front of the line. It makes little sense in any sport, but least of all baseball, where talent is quickly spread over eight to twelve other people. You do not win a whole handful of World Series with Johnny Bench. You win a whole handful of World Series with Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Friends.
Worst of all, this quiet incentive to blow bits on the baselines doesn’t even work. The middle layers remain intermediates and the horror layers stick to atrocities unless the culture throughout the series changes or the Great Slot Machine of Free Agency somehow clicks into triple seven. In European football, on the other hand, teams can falls out of its division if they do not get it.
Draft amateur players in the current suck-first-form were well in place when I was born, so for all of us born after Watergate, it’s the way it is because … that’s how it is. It is fair. Shouldn’t we be fair?
While the incredible luck of snatching a one-generation player can change the fortunes of a football or basketball team, there are not many examples of a single player making such a big difference to the diamond. After all, I’m old enough to remember 700WLW’s “See You in the Series” commercial after Ken Griffey Jr. joined the Reds, and even though Junior we had was not quite Junior Seattle, we all hoped that at some level that at least some of his Juniorness would spread to Todd Walker and Elmer Dessens. No. As every Mariners and Browns fan can tell you, for hours Fair doesn’t work that way.
We do not run our Olympic trials on this logic. Following draft rules, my chopped thumb around the Christmas track at Fountain Square should give me top seed on the ladies’ single figure skating list. So why is it okay that paying customers just accept everything Karl Marxing that goes on at a professional level?
It is strange that European practice is referred to as “relegation” when it actually promotes competition and skill. Ever-growing wild card opportunities aside, pro-sport is one of the few statistics-based, emotionless forces left in Western culture. You will never meet a more steel-eyed crew than a fanbase who has grown tired of watching relief throws spin around to see the ball become a souvenir for the one sitting in the home track. On properly run teams, managers and people in the front office are no less educated in what works and does not work – and are willing to act accordingly. Ask someone who is desperately trying to get out of A-ball.
The rest of us just play the rest of the schedule in lifeless, half-empty stadiums, and we have to start asking why.