A bit long, but a good read:
Baseball fans have a different relationship with baseball players than
do fans and players of other sports. For instance, can you imagine Jamie Moyer playing the most important position in football or basketball at the age of 46? Can you imagine Dustin Pedroia winning the NBA or NFL MVP? At the same time, I can't imagine myself on
a offensive line, staring down a 300-pound defensive end who's three
times faster than I am. I can't imagine myself dribbling, running and
dunking over a 6'8" forward (or guard!).
But I can imagine myself scooping up a groundball in the hole and throwing out the runner at first. I can imagine myself running down a ball in the gap or swinging at a major league fastball and actually hitting the ball, maybe for a hit. It's an illusion, of course, but the skills of a Major League baseball player are somehow accessible to us. This makes the baseball player a different kind of sports hero, one less removed and more personal.
This is one of baseball's strengths and, I guess, one of its weaknesses. The strength is that the bond between baseball and its fans may be more personal than that of other sports and its fans. The weakness is that we take the personal aspects of baseball players more seriously, and we react more emotionally to the way they conduct themselves on and off the field.