Column: MLB was taught a hard lesson in politics — did it learn anything?

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks during a news conference at MLB headquarters in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

WASHINGTON — There’s a brilliant and chilling scene in the movie “Fight Club” that’s stuck with me over the nearly 20 years since the film was released. The main character, who works for a car company, is aboard an airplane, explaining to a stranger about the cost-benefit analyses his company makes after accidents.

If a part fails, they apply The Formula: “Take the number of vehicles in the field, A, multiply by the probable rate of failure, B, multiply by the average out-of-court settlement, C. A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don’t do one.”

It’s morbid, sure, but also illustrative of the cold financial logic we see applied all around American capitalism. And if you found yourself outraged this week about how Major League Baseball could possibly have donated money to the Senate campaign of a white candidate who had just made flippant remarks about public hangings in the Deep South, it’s the answer to why it happened, how the backlash caught the league off-guard, and what to expect in the future.

In case you missed the story, MLB donated $5,000 to Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign just days after her remarks surfaced. The league has actually donated $10,000 to her campaign this year, despite the fact that she represents a state with no major-league franchise. The perceived cause-and-effect timeline of the events, to some, sparked outrage, sending the league reeling on the defensive, eventually announcing Wednesday that it will be changing the protocol of its political donations moving forward, without offering specifics.

MLB teams’ public-facing presentations are, increasingly, reflective of the diverse urban environments in which most of them play more and more these days. The Nationals have hosted a Night Out for the entire 14 years the team has been in D.C., which has grown into the largest LGBTQ event in sports, drawing 3,500 people this year. Every team celebrates Jackie Robinson Day. Many have Hispanic Heritage Nights, or Jewish Heritage Nights, or any number of other celebrations of the diversity that lives in their backyard.

That’s not to say that baseball fans are necessarily more progressive, as a…

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