Sunday, July 26, 2020

UPDATE, July 27: The New York Times is reporting today that Trump announced that he would be throwing out the first pitch on August 15 without being invited by the Yankees, or even notifying them, which may be part of the reason for his cancellation.

What did Donald Trump do today?

He avoided baseball, which is probably for the best.

Today, after spending his 266th day at the golf course, Trump announced that he would be too busy to keep an August 15th appointment to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium.

There's actually a lot to unpack here, beyond the fact that Trump's schedule isn't all that crowded.

Despite being a former high school baseball player, Trump is the only president in the last century never to throw out a first pitch. This may be because of a rather embarrassing incident in 2006, when he threw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game.

Have you ever seen this photo before?

It may also go to Trump's obvious defensiveness and anxiety about his own physical condition. Recently, when he needed to lean on another man to shuffle his way down a ramp, Trump was so incensed by coverage of it that he spent fifteen minutes exaggeratedly trying to explain it away at a campaign rally.

Of course, embarrassingly bad first pitches are more common than good ones. Most politicians grin and bear it. But Trump has spent years exaggerating his prowess as a baseball prospect. He's claimed he was second only to Hall of Famer Willie McCovey at a tryout—but McCovey is eight years older than Trump and was already playing in the majors before Trump started high school.

Published reports of the games Trump played in give him a .138 batting average as a high schooler. (That's bad.)

It's not clear why Trump agreed to throw out the first pitch in the first place, but it may have something to do with the fact that major league games in 2020 are being played in empty stadiums. This is ideal for Trump, who never goes anywhere in public where he can't be guaranteed a friendly crowd. He hired actors to cheer for him at his campaign announcement in 2015. He gives commencement addresses at military academies, where attendance is compulsory and cadets can't boo. He cancels rallies altogether if he thinks he the size of the crowd will embarrass him—and his obsessive anger when crowds do underwhelm has been a hallmark of his time in office.

Why does this matter?

  • It's pretty important that a president have thicker skin than this.
  • Even when lies are so obvious no one would ever believe them, it's still wrong to lie.