My Year Without Baseball


Sitting in the lobby of a Washington hotel having drinks with friends, I glanced at the television and was pulled in by images of October baseball — the playoff season. It was the San Francisco Giants vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. Classic.

“It’s hard not to watch this,” I said to my friends. “I love baseball, but I boycotted baseball this year because of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s politicization of the sport.”

As I wrote about here back in April, Manfred’s decision to yank the All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of his disapproval of the state’s new election-integrity laws was an awful, unacceptable and unprecedented politicization of America’s national pastime. It was a partisan-ideological decision with no place in professional sports.

In response, I decided not to watch a single game this season, on TV or at the ballpark. It pained me, because I love baseball, but Manfred left no other choice to countless fans. We can’t allow ourselves to be patsies and pawns to those poisoning everything with politics and cancelling whatever they disagree with. In this case, cancelling an entire city and state.

Enough is enough. This has to stop.

I was prepared to make that case to my friends in the hotel lobby. Even though they’re politically like-minded, and I assumed likewise outraged by what Manfred did, I expected an argument or some resistance. I got just the opposite reaction.

“I’m finished with baseball,” bitterly responded my friend Robert, a lifetime baseball fanatic. “I haven’t watched a single game all season. I can’t. No more. It’s a matter of principle.”

The last time that Robert and I conversed on baseball, we debated whether his guy, Tom Seaver, or my guy, John Candelaria, was more deserving of the Cy Young Award in 1977 (which went to Steve Carlton). We both can rattle off the starting lineups for the great ’70s teams: the Big Red Machine, the Pirates’ “Lumber Company” team, the Dodgers, Yankees and amazing A’s.

But Robert, like me, is fed up. The other three people at our table had the same position. Not one watched a single game this season. Manfred had boycotted an entire city and state over politics, and we all responded by boycotting Manfred and baseball. As we discussed our individual thinking, we conceded how it hurt the innocent — i.e., my team, the Pirates; Robert’s team, the New York Mets; and my friend Steve’s team, the Washington Nationals. But we agreed Manfred left us no other choice.

And yet, as we discussed the situation further, here’s what really struck me: I told my friends that when I wrote about my decision in my Trib column in April, a reader ensured me that I wouldn’t regret my decision — I would learn to live without baseball.

Well, the reader was right. I’ve moved on and with much less pain than I anticipated.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred taught me two important things: First, I couldn’t support baseball this season because of his egregious political weaponization of the sport; and second, I can live without it. He taught it to my friends, as well.

Our protest may sound like sour grapes, but truly, it’s a matter of principle. This junk must stop. Enough.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Dr. Paul G. Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College. His latest book (April 2017) is A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. He is also the author of 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. His other books include The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

Used with the permission of The Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College.

The views and opinions expressed herein may, but do not necessarily, reflect the views of Grove City College.