Edmund Burke once observed that a society without the means of change was a society without the means of its own preservation. Baseball is much like that if you look deep enough. Burke also observed that when it wasn’t necessary for society to change, it was necessary for society not to change. And if you thought societies had a tough time finding the line between the two, just look at baseball.
This season has not lacked for plain fun. See Max Scherzer’s 20-strikeout jewel. Trevor Story’s explosive season opening, Jake Arrieta’s second no-hitter. Bryce Harper’s continuing excellence and “Make Baseball Fun Again” campaign. The you-thought-we-were-kidding-last-year dominance of the Chicago Cubs. (You’re not seeing things, even when you saw the Cubs destroy the Reds 16-0 while Arrieta worked his wonder.)
Yes, I would rather be thinking aloud about such things as Jeff Samardzija’s slightly ridiculous contract. (Shades of Bud Black.) About whether John Lackey’s and (especially) Jason Heyward’s signings with the Cubs really do make them a 2016 World Series entrant. (Berra’s Law still applies, as the 2015 Nationals can tell you.) About how much financial flexibility Michael Cuddyer’s retirement leaves the Mets. (Some, but maybe not quite enough to think about re-signing Yoenis Cespedes.) Or Johnny Cueto signing with the Giants. Among other things.
I didn’t cast my own All-Star vote until this past Thursday, but I’d like to think that I applied a little more intelligence and a lot less up yours to the exercise than seems to have been applied by those determined to stuff the American League’s starting lineup with Kansas City Royals whether or not said Royals (I’ll get to that shortly) actually deserve starting berths.
“We’ll see how it all turns out,” says baseball commissioner Rob Manfred about the All-Star voting that still has eight Kansas City Royals—only one of whom actually does deserve the honour—going to the American League’s starting lineup by dint of the fan voting. “We are responsive and open to change if we get a result that is not consistent with the goals of the system that is in place.”
As of 16 March 2015 the question of whether Pete Rose should or will be reinstated to organised baseball became an official issue one more time. That was the date commissioner Rob Manfred announced he received a formal request for reinstatement from Rose himself. And Manfred was clear enough that nobody—Rose’s sympathisers and opponents included—should read anything deeper into that request or his receipt of it. Yet.
. . . and what would be a little spring training without a few little controversies, actual or alleged, here and there?
■ THE CHANGELING—That would be new commissioner Rob Manfred, for whom it seems everything short of shortening the basepaths (oops! don’t give him any ideas!) is on the table, whether it’s outlawing defensive shifting, coming up with new rule adjustments to (it is alleged) speed up the game, or even returning baseball to the 154-game season. (The American League went to 162 games after its first expansion, beginning in 1961; the National League did likewise starting with its first expansion in 1962.)
Rob Manfred’s first half month in office as baseball’s new commissioner seems a brief introductory term in which he has enunciated thoughts good, not so good, better, and not so much so. At the minimum he seems to have ideas about putting a little distance between himself and his predecessor, which is good, never mind “how much” remains to be seen in full.