Athletes in Arms: Individuals should not be blamed for the mistakes of leaders

A red graphic used as stock for the sports section.

When I hear the word “baseball,” particularly MLB, all five senses are activated in my memory. What could be more endearing than the smell of sausages and beer mixed with a cacophony of screaming adults? Although I cherish my memories of baseball, that’s all it is to me now: just memories. 

Baseball, traditionally known as “America’s pastime,” has struggled in recent years to find the energy it once created in the country. This year threw MLB a curveball, and the league now sits in between a rock and a hard place, asking itself: What are franchises yearning for more energy supposed to do in a pandemic?

Back in March 2016, Bryce Harper, then playing for the Washington Nationals, was criticized for saying, “Baseball’s tired. It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do.”

The league has made efforts to speed games up to make watching them more appealing, but MLB has still seen declines in both TV ratings and attendance since the early 2000s. The league clearly shows that it has recently shifted its focus to the fan experience, but now in the face of the pandemic, that shift has left no room for consideration about its players and staff. Going into the 2020 season, MLB’s priorities were still stuck on getting fans to the ballpark instead of the safety of players, and now the league must work to correct itself.

In just under three months, the NBA was able to approve a $170 million “bubble” to continue the season that had been shut down in March. MLB had not even started its 2020 season, giving the league ample time to coordinate a strategic effort to hold a season and keep players safe. The bubble has proven to be successful for the NBA, which enters its seventh straight week without a player testing positive for coronavirus. Because of the NBA investing in the safety of its players and the players’ compliance with strict guidelines, the season has resumed without much issue. 

In MLB, however, players are feeling the effects of the league’s lack of precaution and preparation. The league failed to see how important investing in sanitation resources is to continuing a season without a hiccup. Now, because of the attitude of league officials and the shortcomings of MLB’s policies to protect players, ball clubs are frustrated with the consequences of positive cases. Just on the Miami Marlins alone, 17 players have tested positive for the coronavirus this season.  

“If there’s any group that understands the seriousness of what we’re dealing with, it’s our group, because we’ve seen how it’s gone through our clubhouse,” Derek Jeter, Chief Executive Officer of the Marlins, said to The New York Times. “It comes down to discipline. I don’t think there’s any secret formula for a team to be successful through this. You have to be extremely disciplined.”

The discipline in the league should not be on players but on club owners, managers and franchisees — the people making decisions. The players continued their lives like every other American but with more traveling and social interaction. These players were not afforded the option to work from home or in a bubble, so blame should not be placed on them if the coronavirus spreads throughout the league.  

MLB is struggling to grow, especially compared to the NBA. It should have looked to the NBA for a way in which to progress into current times. Instead of being proactive to prevent complications from the pandemic, MLB gives the impression that it was just going to be reactionary once an issue arose.

The same can be said for our country. Individuals should not be blamed for the spread of a virus. Yes, some people continue to be excessively irresponsible. But our country’s decision makers who failed to exhibit leadership when it was needed the most are the real cause of the pandemic’s consequences. When it mattered most, leaders decided that it would be too much to prevent an outbreak, so now we are stuck not knowing what to do next.

Like MLB, the United States had more than adequate time to respond to the threat of the coronavirus and build a plan around it. However, it refused to invest the resources needed and left decisions to be made by individual citizens. Now, individuals are being held responsible for the recklessness of their elected leaders. 

On the other hand, many countries — just like the NBA — invested heavily in safety protocols. Citizens took these precautions seriously and listened to informed advice from national leaders. Unsurprisingly, these investments were effective and countries have begun to recover. 

Now the United States, like MLB, is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Fortunately, MLB may just be losing millions of dollars. The United States, however, has lost nearly 200,000 lives. 

Hopefully, when the time comes, the NFL goes in the direction of the NBA and not MLB — the latter has proven to be the wrong route.