Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Dawning of a New Age

We're three days into the 2021 season and it is already shaping up to be a wild one. Miguel Cabrera hit the first home run of the season into a blizzard. The Nationals and Mets had to postpone their opening series because we're still in a pandemic. The Rockies had a feral-looking feline visitor on Friday night. And, as I mentioned was a possibility in my previous post, the MLB has decided to relocate both the 2021 All-Star Game and the Draft, opting not to hold it in Atlanta in the wake of Georgia's recently-passed voting law.

A new host city has yet to be announced, although rumor has it that Denver is in the running. Such a decision is not without precedent, as we saw other sports leagues make similar relocation decisions in 2016 and 1991.

Even though it's still Opening Weekend, the All-Star Game is front of mind. The whole Cardsphere just wrote about the '83 Midsummer Classic a couple days ago. Night Owl was a participant in that, and he sort of blew us all out of the water with his post about how Whitey Herzog managed it, which effectively ushered in a new form of the All-Star Game. That, coupled with the news out of Commissioner Rob Manfred's office, got me thinking about the current state of the (almost) annual exhibition game.

Think back a ways to the summer of 2019. Long before the Nationals won that electrifying World Series. Before the pandemic that caused the cancellation of the 2020 All-Star Game. Before the tragic events that led to a rapid increase in our awareness of racial justice issues. Before the legislation in Georgia that led to MLB finding itself in the position of selecting a new city with barely more than three months to do it.

Who was the MVP of the 2019 All-Star Game?

2020 Topps Heritage New Age Performers #NAP-13 Shane Bieber

This guy. Everyone's favorite pitcher not named Justin.

Shane Bieber, featured on this card from 2020 Topps Heritage, part of the brand's long-running New Age Performers insert set, is our most recent All-Star MVP. He won the award in front of a hometown crowd in Cleveland. You can sort of see the commemorative patch on Bieber's hat.

In leafing through the contents of one of several blasters I bought last year, this card jumped out at me. Topps of course goes for a retro look with the Heritage set, but I feel like this card ended up inadvertently being a lot more relevant than they intended.

Because we are kind of in a new age, aren't we? An age where Major League Baseball will move the All-Star Game practically overnight in response to injustice. It wasn't that long ago when anything beyond a press release would be inconceivable. And when the 2021 All-Star Game happens, wherever that may be, we will all find ourselves in a dramatically different world than when we watched the 2019 game.

Shane Bieber might even be on the American League roster again, despite being the one who served up that snowy home run to Miguel Cabrera. Yet, a lot has changed for us all, and there are things that just won't fly anymore.

How many times have we said it? "Baseball is a business." Well, businesses have a responsibility to avoid liability. Surely this will cost the league millions, or at least their insurers. But are we under the impression that the MLB and other leagues aren't going to learn a lesson from this and perhaps be more cautious about site selection for future events? Might it be prudent for them to keep All-Star Games and Winter Meetings and expansion franchises and so forth in locations where the local legislature is less likely to manufacture what could charitably be called a PR crisis?

With similar laws in the works in Tennessee and elsewhere, this might very well affect Nashville's hopes for getting a team. And let's not forget, Atlanta might not have gotten teams in several sports when they did (if at all), had they chosen to continue the practice of segregation.

Just something to consider.

Maybe it feels like this is a brand-new thing, but it's really not. As we can see from the stories of Josh Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Adam Jones, and Masahiro Tanaka, racism is baked into the fabric of America even more deeply than this great sport we all love. It takes different forms, yes. And there's still a long way to go.

What is changing, and what should give us all hope, is who's willing to stand up. There have been great strides made between Babe Ruth, allegedly, to Branch Rickey, to the league as a whole.

In addition to New Age Performers, Topps also includes a News Flashbacks insert set in their Heritage checklists. For the 1971 retrospective, Topps made a few cards about the later years of the Apollo program, the deaths of Louie Armstrong and Jim Morrison, and the advent of Starbucks, NASDAQ, and Walt Disney World.

2020 Topps Heritage News Flashbacks #NF-15 Louie Armstrong Passes Away

In 2070, what will they say about us? Who's getting a card in 2070 Topps Heritage News Flashbacks? Rob Manfred or Brian Kemp?

See you in 49 years.

1 comment:

  1. I sure hope it's not Kemp. Topps... can I suggest the rally cat @ the Rockies game? Kudos to crew that caught the cat. No way I'd be able to catch him/her.