Speculative decline has been in baseball's peripheral vision for decades now, but increasing revenues, an expansion of national television coverage, and a heightened viewership over the last half-decade would leave you to believe that nothing is wrong with baseball.
But something's always wrong with baseball. And that's kind of the point.
From the twenties and thirties through the forties and fifties, everything from alcoholism to cocaine use to war played major parts in shaping baseball. Ted Williams missed prime seasons to military service. Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all-time while simultaneously boozing and gorging himself out of shape. The great Mickey Mantle struggled with alcohol. Hank Greenberg was short-changed for his religion. Eddie Collins is the 11th-best hitter (by fWAR) and I know absolutely nothing about him, save for the fact that he was one of the White Sox players not accused in fixing the 1919 World's Series. Segregation, integration, greenies, cocaine (again), alcohol, steroids, racial bias, all aspects of and intrinsic elements of a game that is now approaching the century mark on its Modern Era (whose definition is also, appropriately enough, under debate).
There is not an issue in 21st century America that baseball was not present for. September 11th. The Boston Marathon bombing. Black Lives Matter. All have been discussed and influenced around the context of baseball and its response. The game shut down. The game came back. In the same ways that we did, as a community and a nation, the game shut down. The game came back.
It is a new world for Royals fans. I have never experienced a spring training where my team plans on raising a World Series flag on Opening Day. I was three months shy in '85, coming about the following winter and experiencing the bulk of Kansas City's sorrow and misgivings about baseball and its import.
The championship parade - when 800,000 individuals came together to celebrate a team that had given them nothing for nearly two decade - revealed what we have always secretly known. That Kansas City is a champion itself is a lesson in baseball's asymmetric balance. Small-market teams don't win, except when they do. Everything's wrong. Everything's right. Forget it, Jake. It's baseball.