Memorial Day is supposed to be a special occasion for Americans. It’s the unofficial start of summer, the pool is opened, but most importantly, is a day to remind ourselves and thank the brave service men and women who serve, have served, and sacrificed their lives to protect this country. Some celebrate this day by attending a baseball game on the long weekend, a nice way to spend the day off and honor America’s pastimes, traditions, and values. In Fresno, California, many attended the doubleheader between the Washington Nationals’ triple-A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, and the San Diego Padres triple-A affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas. In between games, however, the jumbotron at Chukchansi Park showed a video which completely took away from the true spirit of Memorial Day.
It was a video montage of generic military-related items, played over a speech delivered by former President Ronald Reagan. However, towards the end, the video cut to a segment featuring “enemies of freedom” (which is disrespectful in its own way). They showed pictures of Kim Jong-Un and Fidel Castro, but at the same time, showed a picture of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the firebrand freshman lawmaker from New York who has become a major figure in the Democratic Party. This video, coming from an organization directly linked with the Nationals’ one, is completely and utterly unacceptable and disrespectful. Here’s why.
First – it’s a baseball game. We use sports as a way to connect with one another. It’s how we create alliances and rivalries between cities, but in the end, it’s all in good fun. Now more than ever, people have been using sports as a way to get away from the tiring headlines each and every day. To forget about what he said and what she said about that policy or person, and to just enjoy yourself while taking in the majesty of sports. Why should politics be brought up at a baseball game, when many attendees are there to relax? And even more importantly, why are the Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, trying to influence political beliefs of others by airing a clip dehumanizing a sitting congresswoman?
Secondly – it’s Memorial Day. The holiday isn’t just the time we use to sell cars or mattresses, rather to really reflect on our nation’s heroes and veterans. We don’t use Memorial Day to give our disdain to those whom we have fought against in our history – we use it to honor the lives lost as a result of said conflict. We visit the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington Cemetery, we hold moments of silence to honor those we have lost, and we take the time to reflect on and cherish the values we hold true to as Americans. In no way should Memorial Day be used as yet another time where we break ourselves collectively into political factions; it should be one day a year where we settle our differences and honor active military servicemembers and veterans.
But lastly, and I feel as if this is the most important takeaway from the ordeal, is the lasting divisiveness we currently face in our politics. The current divide between Democrat and Republican in this country is so vast, that there are publications and videos calling a sitting congresswoman an “enemy of freedom,” and that there are people who have the audacity to play the video in front of a large crowd of people at a minor league baseball game ON MEMORIAL DAY. These claims are not just unique to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, too. Many Democrats and Republicans are constantly called such names on a normal basis, and it’s not okay to have that in any civil political discourse. The person who made the decision to play that video is a victim of this vile political atmosphere in which we live in, as are all of us. Obviously, since she was featured in this clip, the far-right organization that created or doctored this video to have it played in Fresno has a grievance with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. But what these people do not realize is that the people of New York’s 14th Congressional District elected her to serve them in office as their congresswoman. What she does in Congress is what she believes is in the best interest
of her constituents, the people whom she represents. I had the honor and opportunity of speaking with her recently, and she seems genuinely concerned about making the quality of life better for the people in her district, one which has a median income of just above $50,000. Any elected official in any part of the country is the same way. While there will always be dissenters to what any elected official says or does, the official is acting in what he or she sees as the most pragmatic and effective way to stimulate the economy, increase jobs, and promote social equality for the people in their district.
This political divisiveness can actually be analogized to as a baseball game. We’re supposed to cheer for one team and boo the other one. If you look back at some of the most important parts of American history like slavery, Jim Crow laws, or the Cold War, this analogy can be applied there. This principle can explain some of the creations during the 21st century, including extreme partisan gerrymandering in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland, the refusal to not hold Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, and, yes, this video played in Fresno. It’s absurd that we have to live in such a time where respect for a member of Congress who hasn’t even passed a single piece of legislation yet is seldom rare to come by. I identify as a Democrat, and although I am unable to vote until 2022, my parents and extended family also identify as Democrats. Although the current President gets an exception for very possibly conspiring with a foreign entity to win an election (as evidenced in the Special Counsel’s report), I or no one in my family would ever call a Republican congressman an “enemy of freedom” for simply having a difference of opinion on some issues.
I’ve never known a political landscape unlike this. I was born in 2004, right in the midst of the Presidential campaign of that year. But just four years earlier, the 2000 election took place, as did the complete chaos that followed it. I’ve seen pictures of George Bush supporters holding signs reading “Sore Loserman” in reference to the Democratic ticket of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, countered by Al Gore supporters holding signs reading “count every vote” while clashing in the streets. I wish that for my future, and for the future of a safe and healthy nation, we stop with all of this fighting. With all of this name-calling and slander. I want to be a politician one day because I feel strongly on many issues and want a platform to make the quality of life better for every American rather than the pockets of corporations. If I were to ever become a politician, than I would try to emulate people like John McCain (once they remove the banner covering his name) and Joe Biden – people who aren’t or weren’t afraid to compromise and have discussions with the other side of the political aisle. I hope that anyone reading this feels the same way, as will the Fresno Grizzlies once they fire the person who played the video on the Jumbotron.
Because in the end, we’re all on the same team. As Americans.
Let’s take a flashback to January 2019. The St. Louis Blues, touted before the season to be a Stanley Cup contender, are struggling mightily and hovering towards the cellar of the league, even reaching dead last in the entire NHL at a certain point. They were dead – fans were calling for their coach, Mike Yeo, to be fired, and rumors were abuzz of potential trades for their top players.
As fans of the Washington Nationals, does this situation sound familiar?
The Blues, after making the necessary moves, ended up going on a hot streak. That St. Louis team, in last place halfway through the season, is now playing in their first Stanley Cup final
since 1970. They overcame all the odds to turn their season around from being another disappointment for St. Louis hockey fans to one which could potentially bring Missouri it’s first ever Stanley Cup.
The truth is that the Nationals are in a very similar situation to that of the Blues in January. Although not dead last in the MLB or in their division (thanks, Marlins), the Nationals have not been good at all. Their bullpen ERA ranks last in the league, and even on days where aces like Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin have outstanding performances, the offense doesn’t pick up the slack. Plenty of Nationals fans are ready for manager Davey Martinez to be fired, and we were collectively disappointed when the MLB app gave us an alert of potential trade destinations for Anthony Rendon last week. The Blues and Nats also have unique post-win traditions, as the Blues play the 1982 song “Gloria” by Laura Branigan following each win, and the Nationals celebrate wins by smashing cabbage in the locker room. Although being in a similar situation as the Blues were doesn’t automatically spell future success, the circumstances are eerily similar. So what can the Nationals do to mimic the success of the St. Louis Blues and flip the script on the season?
The first order of business that the Blues took care of was axing their head coach, Mike Yeo. Yeo was a top coaching commodity, and was picked up by the Blues after he was fired by the
Minnesota Wild. But in St. Louis, Yeo never lived up to the expectations set by management and he had a year and a half of disappointing results. In the Nationals’ case, Davey Martinez was a highly touted managerial prospect who was signed to a three year contract after serving as Joe Maddon’s second-in-command in both Tampa and Chicago. But as in Yeo’s situation, it never panned out for him in Washington and the hire looks like a failed venture. It’s time to fire the head coach, just as the Blues did. Yeo was replaced by Craig Berube, an assistant coach for the Blues who struggled at first but ended up leading St. Louis to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Nationals could make a similar move after firing Martinez by promoting Randy Knorr, a figure who has been with the organization since its founding in 2005 and currently the manager of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, to the helm of the Nationals. He is seen as a likely interim manager if and when Martinez is fired by the Nationals, so it isn’t too outlandish to call for Knorr to take over the Nationals.
By the January benchmark when the Blues started to turn their season around, calls were being made to trade their better players – it was looking like the solid core created by St. Louis’s management was going to be disassembled after two disappointing seasons. However, after the coaching change sparked the team, the Blues team stayed the same, no one got traded, and look where they are now. Trading-wise, baseball and hockey are very different sports. Hockey teams have less extensive prospect pools to tap into, and baseball does not allow the trading of draft picks. However, if the Nationals replace Martinez with Knorr, maybe it’s worth leaving the team as it is today to see if the deep core can turn it around. On paper, like the Blues, the Nats should have started this season (and finished last season) as an elite team. The hitting core and starting rotation needs no introduction, with former All-Stars and award winners at almost every position. Even the bullpen shouldn’t be this bad – Sean Doolittle, Kyle Barraclough, Trevor Rosenthal, and Koda Glover have all had stellar seasons in the past. If the Nationals were to follow the Blues’ lead, they should keep the team as is, and maybe the Nats will heat up and have a successful 2019 season.
In the end, will the Nationals’ season turn out like the Blues’ one? Likely not. That being said, the Blues’ Stanley Cup odds were at +6900 in January, and look at them now. Although some would take this season as unsalvageable, if the Nationals take some of the steps outlined here, they might be able to right the ship and go on to succeed for the rest of the season and bring a title back home to Washington.