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Baseball in Arizona: To Play or Not to Play

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Last week Major League Baseball got tossed straight into the middle of the Arizona brouhaha. Adrian Gonzalez of the San Diego Padres told FanHouse, an online sports magazine, that he will not attend next year’s All-Star Game in Phoenix if the new immigration law is in effect, and he wants MLB to boycott spring training in Arizona. “I’ll support the Players Association 100 percent,” said Gonzalez, who has dual citizenship in Mexico and the U.S. “If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I’ll probably not play in the All-Star Game. {I}t’s a discriminating law.”

Even before Gonzalez spoke out, rumblings could be heard from various corners of the baseball field. Sportswriter Dave Zirin called for an Arizona boycott by MLB, and has ceased covering the Arizona Diamondbacks. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen decried the new law. And when the Diamondbacks arrived in Chicago for a four-game series against the Cubs last week,  they were greeted by protesters outside Wrigley Field.

On Mike and Mike in the Morning, the two hosts started a discussion on the controversy last Friday that’s still going on this week, inviting viewers to email their opinions. Comments were all over the map; as usual, a goodly portion devolved into rudeness and personal attacks. M&M took the high road, presenting both sides of the issue, and doing their best to maintain a tone of civility.

Not surprisingly, a majority of viewers claimed baseball isn’t political and should just stay out of the whole thing; their attitude is let Congress stay out of baseball (as in steroid use) and baseball will stay out of Congress. I can understand the sentiment, but I agree with Dave Zirin that baseball already is political – as is the whole wide wide world of sports. Zirin says he wrote his latest book, A People’s History of Sports in the United States: 250 Years of Politics, Protest, People, and Play precisely to show how powerfully sports and politics have interacted over the centuries, despite denial of the connection from both sides.

The thing is, the Arizona law is probably more relevant to baseball than almost any other issue: more than 28 percent of players come from outside the United States. Hispanics (including American born) make up almost 30 percent of ball players overall. It’s conceivable that Mariano Rivera, wearing street clothes during down time at the All-Star game, might be strolling down the streets of Phoenix in search of an ice cream cone, and be stopped by a cop asking, “Papers please?” I can imagine it happening, and it makes me sick. I don’t know if anyone in MLB has thought about the potential for this kind of player humiliation. But Jesse Jackson has:  in a letter to Bud Selig urging a boycott of Arizona he said, “Imagine if players or their families are stopped and interrogated by law enforcement…That would truly be a dark day for Major League Baseball.”

On the other hand, boycotting the All-Star game might not be that meaningful, since about half the teams do their Spring Training in Arizona anyway, and it’d probably be too complicated to move all that somewhere else. Besides, the All-Star game is more than a year away; who knows what’ll happen by then? The law could be ruled unconstitutional and barred from implementation. Or Congress might get off its ass and come up with a better solution to the immigration conundrum. It seems to me that Major League Baseball doesn’t  have to put themselves out as firing targets this early in the game. As former Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent said on the Mikes show, Bud Selig shouldn’t respond at all yet, but just wait and “take the pitch.”

Disaster of the Day Experts and locals are only just beginning to figure out how the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will affect the environment and the economy. Today it was revealed that the spill has tripled in size, and there are serious concerns about Gulf fishing and the seafood industry. This could become the worst oil spill in history, surpassing the damage done by the Exxon Valdez tanker that spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound in 1989.

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2 responses »

  1. …they say they respect the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence but they do not mind passing laws through weak Governors (no one voted for this crazy law) who only care about getting reelected on the backs of undocumented workers. {It} will not pass Constitutional muster, just like Arizona’s House Bill 2779 from two years ago; keep passing them Arizona and the rest of us will continue to challenge them in a court of law … Let’s face it, the Republicans had eight years to deal with health care, immigration, climate change, financial oversight and governance and they failed. …

    This comment, or rant, has been heavily edited because most of it had nothing to do with Arizona or baseball.–MS

  2. @Montana–it should also be noted that no one voted for this governor as well. She was a leutenant governor that assumed the position following Janet Napolitano’s departure to Washington to head up Homeland Security.

    Marcy, I don’t know that a boycott is necessarily the best approach – I like the idea that the Phoenix Suns came up with for their game tonight – their jerseys will read “Los Suns”. This is of course partly in honor of Cinco de Mayo, but, as Suns owner Robert Sarver stated, it’s an attempt to show solidarity with the Hispanic community. This was done with the full knowledge and support of the NBA. As you can imagine, the right-wingers are out in force on that one – the comment sections of the Arizona newspaper websites are filled with racist/hate comments galore. A few have stated that they will boycott the Suns’ games from now on – I don’t think, however, that the Suns will have too much trouble filling those few empty seats. 😉

    It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that 2010 Arizona is becoming comparable with 1963 Mississippi.

    Roxy–I love what the Suns did! That is so great…someone should tell my Yankees to do something like that. The SF Giants have shirts that say “Gigantes,” they ought to wear them in AZ. Humor is always the best approach. Thanks for telling me about it.–MS

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