It seems as if every few years baseball finds itself in some sort of existential crisis. Today it’s sign stealing, a generation ago it was performance-enhancing drugs, before that it was Pete Rose and gambling, before that it was the fixing of the 1919 World Series. In each instance, turmoil tarnishing America’s National Pastime.
The thing is, none of these crises are or were unique to baseball. Football’s New England Patriots essentially did a few years earlier what the Astros seem to have perfected over the past three seasons, PEDs are right now to the NFL what Gatorade was in the sixties, and gambling and game-fixing have been a part of college basketball seemingly as long as there’s been college basketball. So why is it so much worse when it happens in baseball?
In fact, it’s not worse. At least objectively speaking. But it feels worse because even though baseball has long abandoned its perch as America’s most popular sport it is still, curiously enough, intertwined with our national identity more tightly than all the other sports combined.
The metaphor of baseball as America can be strained and overused…