Baseball: Dying to Thriving—Thanks to…the Obama Administration?
By Seth Schuster
It is irrefutable that, in recent years, baseball, our national pastime, has waned significantly. Blame increased player salaries, dropped attendance and T.V. ratings, ticket prices through the roof, and—most importantly—declined youth participation in Baseball, from 2008-2012, by a staggering 7.2 percent according to a study done by the Wall Street Journal. Despite the drop, President Barack Obama’s Administration could be unlocking the door to MLB success through diplomatic relations.
Even current players admit to the downturn of their beloved sport. Andrew McCutchen, center fielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates—oh, and a perennial All-Star and former Most Valuable Player in the National League—suggested the decline was due to economic reasons in a recent article in the Players’ Tribune. He described why he believes baseball is dying throughout the country, particularly in areas that are economically challenged. “Things are more expensive. Gloves are more expensive. Bats are more expensive. You know, the price of things is more. It’s just more difficult. Poverty is growing, you know? And so it’s getting tougher.”
Those who put baseball on the back burner complain about the slow pace of the game and loathe its monotony. Many feel it lacks the adrenaline rush of higher intensity sports such as football and basketball, both of which offer bigger hits and a quicker pace. Gone is baseball’s firepower in recent years with the decline of the home run, the game’s biggest and most exciting play. Since the 1990s and the early 2000s, stat sheets show the number of MLB players’ 40 home run seasons plummeting. In the last 20 years there have been as many as seventeen 40-home run hitters in one season (1996), and as few as two in others (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013).
Despite its lackluster numbers, this doesn’t mean baseball has lost its flare for dramatic and media-grabbing attention.
Yasiel Puig is the most polarizing player in Major League Baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder, who hails from Cuba, is one of the best young talents in the game today. Puig made his MLB debut on June 3, 2013. In his first 15 games he tallied 27 hits—second all-time, tied with legendary New York Yankee, Joe DiMaggio. He recorded 34 hits and seven home runs in his first 20 games—the most in MLB history.
Puig finished 2013 with a .311 batting-average, 19 home runs and 42 runs-batted-in. He made the 2013 All Rookie Team and finished second in the race for NL Rookie of the Year. The award was given to 2013 All-Star and Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández—a fellow Cuban. In 2014 Puig made his own first All-Star game.
These competitors aren’t the only Cubans making waves in the MLB. In 2014, rookie slugger José Abreu of the Chicago White Sox took the AL Rookie of the Year and was named to the American League All Star Team. The likes of Yoenis Cespedes, Alexei Ramirez and Aroldis Chapman have dominated the MLB as well. Each player boasts at least one all star appearance, with Chapman scoring three.
It’s not only the All Stars making headlines, it’s the unproven, untested Cuban players, whom MLB teams believe hold the potential to propel the sport’s popularity.
The Boston Red Sox made a splash in Cuban waters this past summer signing highly rated prospect Rusney Castillo to a $72.5 million contract that runs through 2020. The Red Sox continued their Cuban signing spree in February of 2015, when they signed 19 year-old infielder, Yoan Moncada.
On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a plan to normalize relations with Cuba, a plan lacking Republican support. His proposal includes the re-establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two nations that were cut off in 1961, and the authorization of expanded imports and exports with Cuba, thus lifting the long-standing trade barrier. Most significantly, the proposal attempts to facilitate more travel to and from Cuba.
This proposal, a major a diplomatic achievement as it would be, would certainly shake up the world of baseball.
Yes. In the grand scheme of things, a baseball game is quite trivial. However, with the passage of this proposal, it is almost certain that the United States would see an influx of young Cuban talent—talent capable of putting up Yasiel Puig-like numbers.
This is music to a baseball fan’s ears; a symphony of power, athleticism, speed, strength, durability and work ethic.
The MLB has longed for a diplomatic advancement like this. It brings attention—and money to the league.
Since Puig’s debut, Google searches for “Los Angeles Dodgers” has risen almost 60%; likewise ticket and food prices rose 6.2% at Dodger Stadium between 2013 and 2014.
The Cuban players add spark to a dying fire of the National Pastime.
Message to Republicans:
Support the rekindling of relations with Cuba. If not for Obama and the democrats, do it for the game of baseball. Do it for the National Pastime. Do it for ‘Murica.
Seth Schuster is a student at Blind Brook High School in Westchester, New York. He is an avid sports fan, who knows it all when it comes to the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, and Boston Bruins. Yup, that’s right – a Boston sports fan living in New York! Seth’s favorite all-time athletes include David Ortiz, Tom Brady, and Paul Pierce. Follow Seth on Twitter for all your Boston Sports updates at @Seth_Schuster