September 12, 2011
MLB's Terrible Decision on Sept. 11
I've been trying to figure this out since I first heard about it on Twitter yesterday afternoon (when I happened to be at Miller Park, where a wholly appropriate and moving "God Bless America" montage on the scoreboard may have brought a tear to my eye).
Let me briefly recap the situation as I understand it:
The players on the New York Mets, in honor of the September 11 first responders *and* in in the same spirit as the September 21, 2001, game that New York City remembers so well, wanted to wear FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority caps in last night's tenth anniversary game. They petitioned Major League Baseball for permission, but MLB told them "no". Joe Torre, in his official capacity with the league, said something about MLB wanting all teams to have a uniform tribute (ie, the New Era caps with an American flag on the side) on the anniversary. An ESPN article also made it sound like the players were ready to defy MLB anyway until the Mets management asked them not to for fear of the repercussions the club would face. In the end, the players wore the hats during the pre-game ceremonies and then wore their "approved" caps during the game. According to Mets' pitcher R.A. Dickey's Twitter feed, the hats were taken away from the players (by someone official, presumably) immediately following the ceremonies so that they couldn't be worn during the game.
Okay, maybe that wasn't so brief, but it was the best I could do. As I said, I've been trying to figure out the rationale behind this for almost 24-hours now. Some people seem to believe that MLB's refusal was purely financially motivated, that their agreement with New Era (which includes selling the hats in MLB's official shops for $36.99) was the only reason they declined the players' request. After all, if the the "on-field" caps were never worn on the field, people might not be so excited to shell out $40 for their own version.
Others seem to think that MLB's refusal was based on some form of slippery slope argument, that, by allowing the Mets to wear these non-standard caps, they might be opening the door to other, less-appropriate tributes in the future. Buster Olney tweeted that some executives he talked to understood MLB's point-of-view. One exec told Olney: "What happens if there's an earthquake, and many killed? And then a Katrina-like hurricane in an MLB city?"
Of course, there are many flaws with that logic. First and foremost is that September 11 is an incredibly rare and profound tragedy, unlike anything the United States had seen in 60 years. What's more, MLB has allowed non-standard hats due to tragedies before. After the shooting at Virginia Tech, for example, Nationals players wore VT hats that night. In Pittsburgh in 2009, the Pirates were allowed to wear Pittsburgh Police Dept. hats in response to the deaths of three Pittsburgh police officers. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples. Why, then, is MLB so worried about the precedent being set in this case?
At this point, I just don't think there are any reasons that Major League Baseball could trot out that would hold up to scrutiny. That's not to say MLB didn't have their reasons - obviously they did, and they were probably some sort of amalgamation of a business relationship with New Era, a fear of further teams trying to deal with tragedies, and a desire to honor the anniversary uniformly across the league. It's just hard to see how any combination of those reasons - or anything else they may have been considering - could outweigh the poor PR and just plain foolishness of the final decision.
Bad call, Major League Baseball.