MLB’s hopes for again being the go-to sports healing for September 11th were boned the second they realized the anniversary fell on an NFL Sunday. But they would have been hard-pressed to screw it up more than they did. The Yankees were on the road, the Nationals had a short little ceremony, and the Mets? Well, thanks to the Mets, MLB is getting exactly the wrong kind of press over their 9/11 remembrance—literally grabbing first responder hats out of the dugout to prevent the Mets from wearing them. And yes, before we go any further, the “official” American flag hats the Mets were forced to wear last night are available for $36.99 at the MLB.com store.
Most Americans- and certainly the baseball fans among us- remember how baseball came through after 9.11. Recognizing the game’s mythic place in American culture and its value as a healing force, Major League Baseball provided exactly what was needed to help Americans cope with their sorrow and heartbreak.
Well, yeah, there was that part of it, and baseball did play an important role- in spite of Major League Baseball’s efforts to embarrass and degrade itself. MLB, true to its greedy, hamhanded, tone-deaf nature, managed to almost completely screw the pooch in the aftermath of 9.11- and it REALLY did so on the 10th anniversary of 9.11. You might remember when New York Mets (and Yankees) players wore FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD caps in place of their normal uniform caps to honor New York’s first responders. MLB were not about to allow Mets players to make such an appropriate and respectful gesture. Without the appropriate marketing tie-ins, MLB wouldn’t get a cut off cap sales. The only reason things happened as they did was that Mets players mutinied and wore the caps anyway. They were roundly applauded, and MLB, while not happy, realized that punishing Mets players would result in a public relations nightmare. Yeah, I know; it’s not often that you’re able to use “common sense” and “Major League Baseball” in the same sentence.
That was then. This year, MLB learned their lesson and struck preemptively, sending out a memo telling teams that in no way would the wearing of non-official caps on the field be tolerated. Ironically, the memo came from the office of Joe Torre, MLB’s VP of Baseball Operations. You might recognize the name; Joe Torre (a New York native) was the manager of the New York Yankees in 2001, the same Joe Torre was photographed frequently and proudly wore first responder caps in 2001. Evidently, there’s something about toiling in MLB’s head office that renders one tone-deaf and unable to consider a gesture that doesn’t inflate MLB’s profit margin.
Sunday night, the New York Mets- Chicago Cubs game was nationally televised on ESPN. After TV cameras showed Mets players wearing first responder caps, MLB sent a representative into the team’s dugout to collect all of the caps. But, you can be certain that the caps officially sanctioned by MLB were available for purchase on MLB’s website.
Say what you will, but at least the Lords of Baseball are consistent. Consistently clueless. Consistently tone-deaf. And consistently unable to recognize and understand when some moments are bigger than petty concerns about their profit margin. May there be a sky box in Hell reserved for those who run the national pasttime.
And you wonder why I call Commissioner Bud Selig “Satan”….