Trenni Kusnierek hinted at it in her very good article earlier today, but I’d like to expand on it a little bit. We all know now that at the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game Robinson Cano was booed by Royals fans for reneging on his word to put a Royal on the Home Run Derby team. Predictably, the media and fans around the country called Royals fans classless and rude while never understanding the extent of the story—most thought the booing came from Billy Butler’s absence rather than Cano’s lie.
It was nice to see some more well informed journalists point out the national media and fans’ error in blame by making a case that it is more treacherous to be dishonest than to vocalize your displeasure with that dishonesty. But I’d like to point out why the sense of outrage took place, and it’s something that Royals fans are all too familiar with.
Kusnierek points out in her article that if the situation were different perception would be different. If a Royals player had done the same thing to a Philadelphia or New York player in Philidelphia or New York, those fans would have destroyed that Royals player, and the national media wouldn’t have said a word about it. The message the national media and fans were really sending to the Royals faithful with their backlash is “know your place.”
It’s perfectly fine for Phillies fans to be passionate for their team. It’s a crime for the Royals faithful to do the same. Why? Because we’re suppose to be the doormats. Doormats do not speak out about being walked out. They do not protest their role as a cleaner of the feet of the social elite. They do their jobs quietly.
At its essence, this is a conflict about the power structure of Major League Baseball, one that seems to hold the major markets up and the small markets in a position to serve them dutifully. A small part of me wants Kansas City fans to be seen as the bad guys in this drama. It says we no longer accept the role of irrelevant in the baseball culture. To me, those boos voiced the frustration of a culture that continually validates inequity. To me, those Royals fans stand as revolutionaries in a rebellion against all the systemic injustices that helped create 27 years of misery.
One of the standard bearers of this system is dishonesty. Major League Baseball has enacted policies and practices that run contrary to the pronounced goal of an equal playing field and a spirit of honest competition. When Cano voiced his desire to put Butler in the Home Run Derby, he was doing something that felt like a genuine gesture of good will. Going back on that statement amounted to a slap in the face from the rich kid whose dad paid his way through Harvard to the kid working nights to put himself through a state school.
I read people questioning, Did Cano deserve to be booed? My question is what would it say about the Royals nation had they remained silent, suppliant? I’m not sure if Cano is a good dude or not. He may be; he may not be. There’s really no way I can know that.. Everyone in the media seems to think he is because he smiles a lot. I’d smile a lot too if I was a millionaire playing baseball for a living. But he does stand as a representative of the New York Yankees who represent all the worst qualities of Major League Baseball. To simply let him lie to the Royals fan base with no consequences would have been to simply accept a place as a second-class organization meant to serve the interests of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. To that I say, boo away, boo more often, and take the frustration even further.