Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Baseball is more than a game for some, it’s a love, it’s a way of life and a game filled with hatred.

I have been a lifelong baseball fan but the Texas Rangers have always been the team that I have cheered for. I remember the very first Texas Ranger game that I ever went to, in 1972, and can say at the time I had no idea of who any of the players were or what they could do. I can say, however, that I knew exactly who Ted Williams was and what he had accomplished in his career. I was an immediate fan of the Texas Rangers not because of the players but instead because of the Manager. Ted Williams never played one game for the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, yet I admired and loved him anyway. Ted Williams was first a baseball player; some could argue maybe the best baseball player ever, for the Boston Red Sox. In 1973 Ted Williams was no longer the manager, instead it was Whitey Herzog for 138 games, Del Wilber for one game and then it was Billy Martin for the remaining 23 games of the season. Billy Martin, the same guy who later in 1975 would become a “hated” manager simply because he would then manage the New York Yankees, or “The Evil Empire”, as some people tend to call them.

You are probably wondering, at this point, why I am bothering with who were the managers in the first years of the Rangers existence; to me it is pretty simple. At this time in baseball the Yankees and the Red Sox are the two teams in baseball that seem to be “hated” the most, except by their fans of course, and both of these icons were managers of the Rangers. The explanation of the “hate” that I keep hearing is that the Yankees and the Red Sox keep on getting the top players and paying any price almost to get them. The second explanation for the “hate” for the Yankees is that “they are always winning”.

I do not for the life of me understand either one of these two arguments. The Yankees and Red Sox both have put themselves in the position to make money that other teams just have not done or have not been able to duplicate. Why can you “hate” them for that, isn’t the purpose of any business to make money? Isn’t one of the ways to make more money is to spend money on advertisement/products? There is no better advertisement for a baseball team than to sign a marquee player. This makes the fans want to come out and see them play, this brings more money in to the club to sign maybe an ever bigger marquee player the next year. The big signing also does one other thing, it more often than not, improves the ball team. It does not always guarantee that you will be playing in the World Series but it does put you in very good shape to get there. The team that has accomplished this approach better than any other team in baseball is the Yankees. They get marquee players, because they have the money because they make it, and they put a winning team on the field year after year.

Am I supposed to “hate” the Yankees simply because they spend money and win? Am I supposed to “hate” the Yankees because they have won 27 World Championships? Am I simply expected to “hate” any team that wins? The question that I keep asking myself is, why should I “hate” any team for winning, isn’t that what every team is trying to do? I have never heard any team put players on the field and say, I think this year we just want to lose, have no aspirations of going to the playoffs or to the World Series. If you ever heard this from any team every person within that organization would, and should, be fired by the owner of the club.

The “hatred” goes far beyond just being directed at a specific club though. I have been to many games and listening to some of the things that “fans” say about opposing players is absolutely shocking to me. I can remember things that were said, rather shouted, towards Adrian Beltre when he was with the Seattle Mariners. Adrian had been on the disabled list because he was hit by a ball in the groin area and everyone now knows that Adrian does not wear a cup. The “fans” were ruthless in what they were saying to him; now that he is a Ranger all of the “fans” are praising him. If you “hated” him when he was with the Mariners why do the “fans” now all of a sudden love Adrian? This happens with “fans” all over baseball, with players from every team. If Josh Hamilton suddenly went to the Angels would the Angel “fans” keep shouting the entire drug references at him, no they wouldn’t. On the other hand when the Angels came to Arlington with Hamilton on their team would the Ranger “fans” start in on Hamilton with all of the drug references, probably so. I am told that is just part of baseball which I totally disagree with. If you love a player who is on your team why do you have to automatically "hate" him when he goes to another? Nothing has changed about that player except for the team that he plays for.

At stadiums and bars across the country there are fights between people simply because they have a different team that they cheer for. Once again, this makes no sense to me at all. If you are a true fan of baseball you should then be able to appreciate each team’s history and what they have accomplished. You should be able to appreciate the players on the teams because of the way that they play the game and what they have accomplished doing so. If you can’t appreciate the other teams and players within baseball, with the same proclamation of love that you show toward the team that you cheer for, then you do not truly love the game of baseball.

I am a baseball fan first and foremost, the Rangers are the team that I want to see win more than any other team. I cannot however “hate” another team/player for what they accomplish. I remember Jim Colburn with Kansas City, Mike Witt with the Angels (perfect game), and Mark Buehrle with the White Sox pitching no-hitters against the Rangers. As a Ranger fan I was upset that it had happened to them, as a baseball fan I was elated that those pitchers had achieved such of an accomplishment. Just as I appreciated and was elated for Jim Bibby, Bert Blylevan, Nolan Ryan (twice) and Kenny Rogers (perfect game) when they had those same accomplishments. Yes I enjoyed them more when they happened for the Rangers but they were still no more impressive than the ones pitched against them.

There is a good possibility that you may take your child, your grandchild or great grandchild to a game in the future. They may know absolutely nothing about the players on the team at that time but they know everything about the manager of that team because of what that manager accomplished as a player. You just never know, maybe they will come to love the Rangers because Derek Jeter is the current manager at the time.

For me baseball is a love and a way of life. Just like the quote in the movie, A League of Their Own (“There’s No Crying In Baseball”), there should also be no room for hatred.