Thursday, May 23, 2013
Us vs. Them
I fear that there is one thing that will eventually make me stop following major league baseball.
It won't be interleague play or shaving cream shaming rituals or robot umps. It will be the amount of money that baseball players are making.
I've never been one to begrudge the money that major leaguers make. While my father openly mocks the cash players receive, I understand that they're entertainers and entertainers in successful businesses are paid handsomely. We can holler about the injustice of teachers, doctors, scientists (or, god forbid, journalists) not receiving what they're worth in comparison, but we live in an entertainment, consumer-driven society.
So although the amount of money a long-innings relief pitcher makes in one year repeatedly blows my mind as I bounce checks over a simple monthly bill, I get it. Big leaguers are paid what the market will bear. I understand.
But I don't like what it's doing to everyone else. They obviously can't handle it.
This is not a new phenomenon and not news to anyone, but the otherwordly amount of cash that major leaguers make has turned baseball players' relationship with the general public into an "Us vs. Them" schism.
I've mentioned this before on the blog. It concerns me quite a bit. I grew up during the first stirrings of free agency. The cartoons on some of the first baseball cards I ever collected mentioned the second jobs that players held down in the offseason. I actually remember a time when players were like you and I in terms of trying to make ends meet. Sure, they made a little more than the average Joe and Judy, but they were "regular guys." The money they took home certainly wasn't enough to create any drama on the scale of what just happened with Matt Kemp.
Kemp, as you know by now, generously offered $1,000 per every home run he hits to the victims of the Moore, Okla., tornado. Kemp is an Oklahoman and he also later donated $250,000 separate from the HR donation.
But because people are now completely incapable of preventing every thought in their head from spilling out and practically trampling each other to prove who can be more cynical than the next person, Kemp's spur-of-the-moment gesture -- in the wake of processing a horrific tragedy hitting close to his HOMETOWN -- was termed by some people as "not generous enough."
I was so floored and disgusted by this that I almost had to lie down to ponder what we have become.
You do not question any individual's charitable contribution.
I don't care how much money that person makes or how little that person makes, you just don't do it.
To do so is completely exposing whatever issues you have in life. I don't know if these critics have problems with money or their families or their relationships or their jobs or their ability to function in life or whatever it is. But there's obviously something there that could make them sink so low as to get out a calculator and judge some person they've never met.
But this is what huge salaries in baseball has done. We're pencil-pushing troll-auditors forever evaluating and assessing and judging.
The gulf between Us and Them is greater than ever.
We wonder why players don't take the time to sign autographs (Kemp, by the way, takes the time to sign lots of them).
This is where we are. Fan and player. We don't think of them as "us," and they don't think of us as "them." They're barely people to us and we're barely people to them.
It's class warfare and I don't want baseball to be like that. I try my very hardest to think of players -- no matter how much money that they make -- as regular people, who grew up playing baseball in a league somewhere, just like you and me, who played high school ball, just like you and me, who got nervous, dreamed big, failed classes, stared at the pretty girl -- just like you and me.
I try to keep it to "you and me," because I don't want to think of "us and them."
It's not easy when I see what some high-paid players do, but I try to think of those incidents as a bad apple in society, not "one of them" with a lot of money.
I honestly was proud when Kemp made the home run donation. I admit, for the slightest flicker of a moment I did think, "hey, wait he has only two home runs." But there is no way I was going to openly criticize someone in the fucking month of May because of that one brief thought that stayed in my head -- like it should have -- until now.
It doesn't matter that he hasn't donated as much as Kevin Durant or anyone else. He's doing something. This isn't a contest. Stop adding numbers and go donate something.
By the way, that fancy green-bordered Kemp card was generously donated to me by Crackin' Wax, who busted out some Panini Prizm a little while ago. He also recently encountered a situation where someone was taking advantage of him giving out free cards.
Again, no good deed goes unpunished.
But anyway, I got another Panini card from Crackin' Wax.
Clayton Kershaw, as you may know, is into some very worthy causes.
In fact, he donates money for every strikeout to several nonprofit agencies.
Every time I think about it, I am amazed at his dedication to all this, while trying to compete at the highest level of baseball.
But for those of you who just want to troll, go ahead: evaluate whether he's building enough homes in Africa or helping enough disadvantaged kids in L.A.
I'm sure you'll find something you can criticize.
It's sad that this is the only way you have to feel better.