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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sports and Society: You can't trade your best player

Professional sports are for the fans. So let’s bring some democracy to the party.

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I don’t think it should be allowed for a team to trade their best player unless it is approved by a popular vote of all fans. I’m not kidding around.

This idea came to me when the entire baseball world was discussing if the Los Angeles Angels should or shouldn’t trade Shohei Ohtani, potentially the greatest player of his generation and one of the most multitalented athletes in history.

Most of the pro-trade crowd had the same reasoning: Ohtani would be very likely to walk in free agency. The Angels have neither the money nor the ability to win baseball games to entice him to stay. It’s better to get something for him now than have him leave for nothing, right?

Wrong, if you asked the Angels brass after they refused to deal Ohtani at the trade deadline. Instead the team chose to make a series of moves to hopefully make a late playoff push. What happened? The team fell apart, Ohtani tore his UCL and the Angels missed the playoffs again. Whoops.

Hindsight is always 20/20, so it’s easy to blame the bad season on the Angels for not trading Ohtani. The season amounting to nothing will feel particularly bad for fans if Ohtani just ends up with the Los Angeles Dodgers and calls it a career. But I ultimately agree with the team’s decision to keep him, so long as the Angels fans do.

When a team is considering trading their best player, fans should have the final say. I’m not saying that we need to turn sports into a fan-controlled republic, but fans’ perspectives should be taken into account if they might have to experience the unique trauma of losing their superstar.

I am a survivor of the Mookie Betts trade of Feb. 10, 2020, a date that shall live in infamy in the often-tortured history of the Boston Red Sox. That trade was so painful, so horrifically sad, that I do not wish that feeling on my worst enemies.

I knew that Mookie would be traded for months leading up to the actual day, but getting rid of the best player we’ve had in 50 years felt like someone had taken away 5-year-old me’s beloved stuffed tiger and given it to my cousin — then this cousin signed Mr. Tiger to a 12-year, $365 million contract, ensuring that I would never be getting it back.

Mookie came back to Fenway Park for the first time since being traded this year, and he played like a baseball “Terminator” hell-bent on making Red Sox fans everywhere cry. But I didn’t want to cry, I wanted to go back in time and demand a vote.

Because of Mookie, I will never bash a bad team for not trading their superstar. If the fans wanted to keep Ohtani, the Angels were right not to trade him. Sports is a Sisyphean effort to get your team to the finish line, even if most of the time it’s a losing effort. Sometimes, you just want to lose with your own guys.