2016 is Already Controversial

In a year where a certain Republican candidate for President of the United States is trying to “Make America Great Again” by making America hate again, baseball has already had its fair share of controversy.

Whether it’s comments from Baseball Hall of Famer Goose Gossage ripping slugger Jose Bautista and others for their bat flips and emotion, or Bryce Harper playing off of that presidential candidate’s slogan with a “Make Baseball Fun Again” hat in his post game interviews, baseball is seeing people take sides.

Some people who embrace old school baseball and old school America want the game to be played the way it used to be when the times were simpler and the game was policed on the field. It’s possible that those who long for baseball the way it used to be have forgotten how it actually used to be.

People that call the game soft with the new slide rules at home and at second forget how devastating it was for Ray Fosse when Pete Rose ran through his body to try and win an exhibition game.

People forget the collisions that were considered good hard baseball when breaking up a double play led to broken legs and concussions.

This is already a sport that can’t control when 100 mile per hour pitches travel toward players heads – unintentionally. It is also a sport that sees 110 MPH comebackers hit those same pitchers in the head – unintentionally. We can no longer accept ‘policing on the field’. We can’t allow pitchers to try to hit batters intentionally for breaking unwritten rules. We can’t allow baserunners to slide and run into defenseless players.

Baseball now has MLB Extra Innings and 24/7 social media coverage and every game, every inning, and every pregame and post game interview is recorded and broadcast. Beat writers don’t protect players from criticism like they used to, and players can’t get away with dirty slides or controversial comments as easily, just because the game was a day game in the middle of the week that nobody went to.

So when John Gibbons was furious about the new slide rule directly impacting his team losing a close game, his comments veered in the wrong direction quickly and the controversy was instant.

Regardless of Gibbons opinion on the new rule or whether Bautista violated the new rule on this particular slide, he is out of line to say “maybe we’ll come out and wear dresses tomorrow.”

We live in a world where the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities are being attacked and legislation is being written to discriminate against them. We live in a world where women make less money than men for the same job. We have made progress in several areas since the 1700’s when we first became a country, but we are still marginalizing groups and treating people like less then what they are.

Gibbons comments, regardless of intent, imply that men are better than women and that dresses being worn signals a lesser, softer and gentler game that he doesn’t want to be a part of.

He came out yesterday and doubled down on his comments, saying his mom thought it was funny.

This is where the problem gets even more obvious. By finding a female who wasn’t offended, he is admitting unintentionally that he knows some women must have been offended. Instead of accepting that publicly and apologizing for his insensitive remarks, he tried to defend his comments further.

Denial is unacceptable in 2016. Understanding that demeaning women is wrong is essential to anyone who is being asked to be a leader. As a manager, it is Gibbons responsibility to understand that his comments were offensive and that his frustration about the rule gets lost in his sexist comments.

Bautista did grab Logan Forsythe‘s leg. Was it blatant and dirty? No. But was it intentional? Yes. And interference was illegal prior to the new rule, so the point is moot. This is why the rule is in place. Players are going to make mistakes and in the heat of the moment and in the real time, are going to make split second decisions that are now illegal. To say the game is softer dismisses that the game is also safer. In a game where players have retired prematurely from multiple concussions, and in a sport that is more profitable than ever, we must continue to move in the right direction and continue to make this game safer and better for today’s player and for the next generation.

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