Forget the vernal equinox. At approximately 1:05 pm, today was supposed to be the official beginning of spring. That was when someone other than the current occupant of the White House would have thrown out the first pitch when the Washington Nationals were scheduled to host the New York Mets on opening day of the 2019 baseball season. Sadly, there will be no national pastime this year.
Mick Mulvaney, who Donald Trump appointed as commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB) by declaring the Official Baseball Rules/2019 Edition which governs the sport does not apply to a sitting president, announced there would be no games until the Supreme Court determined whether the lack of consensus on a designated hitter was grounds for abolishing the sport in its entirety. [NOTE: During oral arguments, Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked attorneys representing the commissioner if, despite the fact there were no games, the beer concessions would still be open for business.]
When asked how he could explain his decision to the 70 million people who attended MLB games in 2018, Mulvaney responded, “Just because some people have a pre-existing affinity for professional baseball, they are not entitled to games for the rest of their lives. There are other cheaper options. College. High school. Intramural. Sandlot. And if you still want to watch top quality baseball, you can hire your own players and build your own field like that farmer in Dyersville, Iowa.”
Trump immediately backed Mulvaney’s decision and promised he and the GOP would bring baseball back. “The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of baseball. If the Supreme Court rules traditional baseball is out, we’ll have a plan that is far better than the MLB.” In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump promised, “We’re going to have baseball for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen.” However, an analysis by the non-partisan CBO (Credible Baseball Office) of the GOP’s draft of the Baseball Care Act of 2019 stated 14 million fans would immediately lose access to professional baseball.
Public opinion polling, immediately following Mulvaney’s announcement, suggests the commissioner’s actions have had the opposite of their intended effect. In recent years, there had been a precipitous decline in the sport’s popularity. Forbes reported 2018 attendance at games had dropped four percent over the previous year. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell questioned the political wisdom of shutting down ballparks, especially when it was revealed the most impacted cities include Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. One Phillies fan was completely distraught. “We finally get a superstar like Bryce Harper and I won’t get to see him. My family can’t afford to go see the Eagles, Sixers or Flyers. This was the only sports option we could afford.”
On January 21, 2021, President Not-Trump signed into law HR1, amendments to the Affordable Baseball Act. Both leagues now have designated hitters. Four cities in the South and Midwest were awarded expansion teams, a provision in the bill championed by the newly elected Democratic senators from Iowa, Nebraska, Tennessee and Mississippi. And the CBO estimates that more people will have access to professional baseball than ever before.
Oh, and President Not-Trump ordered the release of the un-redacted Mueller Report.
For what it’s worth.