Play & Pay For the Right Reasons

David Price, a right handed pitcher with a power arm, recently signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox worth $217 million over seven years. I was immediately saddened to hear this news—not because I dislike Price, or think he won’t help the Sox win ball games—but because the increasingly high salaries in Major League Baseball are hurting the game.

Baseball used to be played in parks. Fans used to be able to buy nickel beer, sit in the gentle summer sunshine and watch master craftsmen play a children’s game beloved by the country that conceived it. Baseball was a pastoral game in which audiences could connect with the ballplayers—they could imagine themselves turning the double play at second, tracking down a fly ball in deep left center or hurling a fastball towards the catcher’s expectant glove.

Now, the game is played in stadiums where the ball players are more akin to celebrities than craftsmen and kids spend hundreds of dollars on the baseball cards of those mythical, aloof individuals. In short, the game has changed, and I don’t know if it’s for the better.

The main issue stems from the desire to make baseball a commodity—a capitalistic enterprise that demands huge amounts of capital to pay owners, coaches and players. Players make vastly larger sums of money than those who watch them play and this creates a feeling of distance between the two parties. Fans can no longer imagine themselves as ball players, instead they fawn over the men on the field, imbue them with God-like qualities that turn them into celebrities and rationalize the money they make, despite the cost to the fans and the spirit of the game.

Call me old school, but the game was better when people played it for the right reason: because it’s fun. Because being on the diamond, with the foul lines chalked and extending down to the foul poles and the mound neatly placed in the heart of the infield is heaven.
Bring back nickel beer, natural grass and the blue collar ball player.

—Will McQuilkin, A&E Editor