Baseball Is Back / Why You Should Care

Last March, that thing that you probably don't want to talk about came around and ruined, well, everything. Major League Baseball, in the middle of Spring Training, weeks away from the regular season came to a screeching halt, along with everything else in the world. Well it's March 2021 now, Spring Training is underway again, and I want to tell you why it should matter to you, whether you're a baseball fan or not.

Let me preface by saying, I am not a baseball player. I haven't played baseball since the 7th grade, when I traded in my bat for a guitar. The closest thing to a baseball player I'll ever be is batting 9th on my beer league softball team, winning championships with them that I hardly contributed to. Even still, baseball is my favorite sport.

Baseball has been called America's past time. It has been around since 1839 (ish), and has been a fundamentally American sport for the longest time. Testament to its universal appeal though is the wildly popular KBO in Korea, the NPB in Japan, and the numerous leagues in South America and all other corners of the globe. The MLB is by far the most diverse professional sports league in America with 291 players, almost 30% of the league, as of 2020 being from other countries. Why is baseball so universally appealing? I believe it's because the game perhaps more profoundly than you would think, represents our human experience.

The human animal is a complicated one. I have no degree in psychology, but I do have experience being a human; For that reason, I'll deem myself qualified to speak on the topic. People are inherently competitive. We love the idea of glory, winning, overcoming obstacles, fears, and inhibitions. We love movies and books about heroes that defeat evil and save the day because we like to think that we ourselves could be, and perhaps are like that hero.

Baseball, like all other sports is a winnable game. Life too, is in some sorts a game. People win, people lose. Just like life, baseball is comprised of many at bats within a game, many games within a season, and many seasons within a career (or lifetime). At the end of every season, there is a World Series Champion. Often we look around and see people clearly winning. Perhaps it's an old high school friend on Facebook who seems to have a happy marriage, or a friend that has a Tesla to your 97' Honda Accord.

A World Series or a Tesla though is the 30,000 foot view of something much more interesting a complex. With the 2019 season being the most recent full season (and I may have a little bit of animosity for the 2020 World Series winning Dodgers), let's look at the Washington Nationals' World Championship season. The Nationals completed their 2019 regular season with a 93-69 record or a .574 win percentage. Compare that to the Atlanta Braves who had a .599 WPCT or the the LA Dodgers, who they would go on to defeat in the ALDS, with a .654 WPCT. Ultimately, they would defeat my lifelong favorite team, the Houston Astros, who had a WPCT of .660 in game 7 of the World Series.

A team isn't a person, but a group of individuals. So let's break down the individuals. The highest batting average on the 2019 Washington Nationals belonged to Anthony Rendon, batting .319. A .319 batting average is elite, and one of the reasons Rendon would go on to sign a $245 million contract the following season. But a .319 batting average means a success rate of roughly 32%, or a failure rate of 68%. A $245 million man failed nearly 70% of the time he stepped up to the plate in his team's Championship season. That's baseball.

We look so closely at our mistakes in our day to day lives. One mistake often runs on loop in our heads for hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years. We focus all of our attention on what we're doing wrong. What if baseball players or teams did the same? Imagine being a player on the Washington Nationals failing 69 times in one season. Your one job is to win, and you failed to do so on 69 different occasions with thousands of spectators in person and on television. Imagine if Anthony Rendon had beat himself up over his 68% failure rate instead of being pumped up by his 32% success rate. Would the morale of such a team or player be Championship worthy or $245 million contract worthy? Likely not.

The reason a team like the 2019 Washington Nationals can fail so much and go on still to win a Championship is this: They understood that baseball is a game of failure. So too, is life. The problem is we don't often recognize life as such. We think winners always win. When we don't win, we brand ourselves losers. The reality is a 30% success rate in life, just like in baseball is elite. We don't recognize that there are intangibles that can propel us into success despite an inferior winning percentage to many others around us; We don't recognize that those intangibles are ignited by managing to be excited about a 30% success rate.

Baseball being back is important. It's a long 162 game season. It's an opportunity for us, as normal people to watch millionaire elite athletes, the best in the world, fail over and over again right before our eyes. If that isn't deeply inspiring and freeing, I'm not sure what is. Go out into the world today and swing. Go out and try to win. If you strike out, and you will, adjust your grip, work on your timing, or change the mechanics of your swing. If you lose, and you will, rest up and get ready for tomorrow's game. You are not failing any more than the elites are. You've just convinced yourself you are.

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