What if baseball worked like monetary policy?
Forget guys like Rob Manfred, Bud Selig, Fay Vincent. What if we put someone like Ben Bernanke in charge? Or Janet Yellen? Or Tim Geithner? Or Hank Paulson? It might go something like this…
A tale of two teams – the Savers and the Debtors.
It’s been a tough year for the Savers. Heck, it’s been a tough couple of years. They’ve been bringing up the rear of their division since they got into the league. They don’t get a ton of respect from other teams that have been around the block a few times, but they kept their heads up high all year long, working their asses off, and somehow they find themselves with a shot to make the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.
The Debtors know what it’s like to live large. They’ve been hanging around the top of the league for years now, with a few championship runs under their belt. They’re a bunch of venerable, if slightly washed-up all-stars, with great brand-name recognition who know where they belong – in the World Series. The regular season is sometimes a tough slog. Mentally, it’s hard to get up for every game when it’s “been there, done that”. There’s a certain sense of entitlement that comes with being perennial fan-favorites who know their way around the league, and the celebrity circuit, for that matter.
The Savers are the underdog team to say the least – you know, that group of rag-tag go-getters that no one expected would even make it this far. They’ve never been to the playoffs before. They know this is their chance. They leave it all on the table. They knock it out of the park. They silence the home crowd (because they’re the visiting team for this game) with a lead-off home run, and they never look back. They pile on the hits. They pile on the runs. It’s 1-0, then it’s 2-0, then it’s 4-0, then 5, then 6. The crowd is stunned. “That sorry group of losers is going to embarrass us on our home turf!” say the Debtor fans.
It’s the top of the ninth inning, and the Savers add another couple of runs just for good measure. They’ve got a 10-0 lead now. It’s in the bag, they’d figure, and well deserved at that. The Savers will roll out their closer for the bottom of the ninth and he’ll shut ’em down, it’s just a formality. Heck, worst that can happen is he’ll give up a few hits – and the Savers have runs to spare. It’s been that kind of night. The Savers have done everything they needed to do. They’ve done everything right. This is finally going to be their year.
The Debtors come to bat in the bottom of the ninth. Before stepping into the batter’s box, the Debtors’ manager pops out of the dugout and runs over to have a chat with the home plate umpire. They talk, and talk, and talk some more. Something’s not right, it seems. Maybe there’s an issue with the field conditions? Everything looks fine, the Savers think to themselves. Maybe the umpires are concerned about an impending rain delay? Skies seem perfectly clear for now. Then, all of a sudden, the umpire and the manager shake hands – and the manager heads promptly back to his dugout, calling his players over with him. No one’s entirely sure what’s happening. Next, the home plate umpire heads over to the scorer’s booth to have a chat. Hmm, what’s going on, the Savers think to themselves. Their closing pitcher is all warmed up. They just want to get this overwith already. They’re ready to put the finishing touches on a great night and enjoy a well-deserved (and long-time-coming) celebration – they’re finally going to get to the next step, experience a taste of how the “other half” lives (you know, those who get to play in the post-season). Then, finally, the PA announcer’s voice comes over the stadium loudspeaker:
“Attention everyone, attention! The Debtors have been granted permission to borrow 11 runs from a future game (yet to be determined which one??) to apply to tonight’s score! Congratulations Debtors! The Debtors win, 11-10!!”
And the crowd goes wild!! What a comeback, they say!! One for the ages!! One for the record books!! You might just say, the greatest recovery since…
Sound familiar? (ok, enough with the hokiness, of course it sounds familiar, that’s the point).
Needless to say, such is the plight of the “Savers” of the past 10-15 years who have seen the fruits of their hard work & prudence be routinely disrespected and devalued, while the “Debtors” celebrate victory after victory of unearned spoils. Whether Wall Street bankers retaining bonuses for driving their companies into bankruptcy, or next-door neighbors getting to live for free in their no-money-down mansions that banks still haven’t bothered trying to foreclose on after all these years because buyers had no skin in the game in the first place (or because they’re afraid that by dumping all those foreclosures back on the market, prices across the board might actually start to reset to a fair – ahem, lower – value).
As it turns out, baseball may bear more semblance to how a fair, just, and moral economy should operate than the economy itself.
A ninth-inning comeback doesn’t usually happen because the home team decides to change the rules in the bottom of the ninth inning. It happens because of hard work, perseverance, a little luck, and sometimes the complacency of the team that previously held the lead. That very capability – for the “rag-taggers” to engineer a hard-fought victory against the entrenched & entitled – is critical to preserve if we are to have a dynamic economy that produces greater wealth & opportunity for all, as a by-product of allowing individual strivers to fairly and justly compete to constantly move the line of the status quo.
For the Savers, recessions are just like those tough long seasons as underdogs. Savers won’t be deterred. They just might surprise you. They just might put together a 9th-inning comeback of their own when you least expect it. As long as we give them the opportunity to keep playing – and to give them a chance to win fair and square.
If Ben, Janet, Tim or Hank take us up on our suggestion to throw one of their hats in the ring for MLB commissioner, maybe we can ask Rob or Bud to switch places and take their spot atop the Fed or the Treasury?
For the love of the game.