Every generation thinks the new traditions and beliefs of their younger counterparts are different and often even disrespectful. This cycle always seems to repeat themselves in sports as well as everyday life. Today’s NBA and NFL players are softer than their predecessors, golfers no longer respect the hallowed rules of no cell phones on the course as they play music and post pictures of their rounds across social media.
Baseball is no different and probably ranks near golf and tennis in their expectations of the dignity you show the game. And, of course, for your fellow competitors. Lord forbid you to look at a towering home run just a fraction of a second too long. Or ham it up in some interviews., seemingly trying to strip players of their personalities.
Before you trash this article (because this has to be just another millennial complaining about how stuffy their elders are) I wholeheartedly believe that certain sports, such as baseball and golf, should have standards of respect and stoicism higher than other sports. Baseball is built on tradition, it’s what draws young and old to the game. Whether it’s the nameless pinstripe uniforms in the Bronx, the ivy out in Chicago or the almost religious recitation of famous records and numbers of players that came before them. Baseball isn’t a prisoner to its history but its intertwined into the fabric of the game.
This love for the heritage of baseball does not mean the game is not capable of changing. It will need to if it hopes to continue to grow and prosper into the future. In addition, accomplishing this change can be done without alienating the more traditional-thinking segment of fans that has carried the game for decades.
All that said, the reactions from the Twins players when Chance Sisco bunted for a base hit to break up a shutout in the ninth inning was unacceptable in today’s baseball climate. For those unfamiliar, it is usually considered poor etiquette to bunt to break up a no-hitter or perfect game. This was neither.
The idea behind these unwritten rules is to respect a fellow team when you are far ahead or behind so to not embarrass the losers and not try to cheap shot the winners. Minnesota players were furious with Sisco’s actions. Brian Dozier of the Twins called upon the Orioles veterans to set the young hitters straight but the Baltimore players did not seem so willing to abide the second baseman wishes.
Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph had this to say:
“The problem is the unwritten rules are written differently by 30 different teams and applied differently by 30 different teams……When they’re not jointly seen eye-to-eye, you’re going to have issues. One of my unwritten rules would be, don’t shift a guy in the ninth inning…This game is about giving and taking…..If you’re going to give something to somebody, you’d be dumb not to take it, in the same way that we shifted a guy over in a seven-run game in the eighth inning, why wouldn’t you bunt? You play straight up and you try to bunt, it’s a different thing. It’s not a no-hitter. Nobody on base. It’s not like you’re bunting in the bases loaded to score a run to break up a shutout. I don’t quite understand the logic. You’re taking away the four hole, but you’re giving up a baseline.”
This scenario represents the disconnect between the old and new. Most of the younger players and fans agree there is need to respect their competitors and the game itself. However, at the end of the day, this is sports, not the DMV. Sports is a competition, and doing anything to win and achieve greatness is how you become a legend. As opposed to a forgotten footnote in the annals of history. As long as the health of the player is unaffected and it doesn’t involve an excessive amount of gloating, it should be acceptable. Players should be encouraged to play at 100 percent until the last out is made.
Sport isn’t just about the competition, but the emotions it brings out of the fans and players alike.
The highs and lows of victory and defeat are what bring most of us to the sports as young kids as we cheer on our favorite players. Most of them seem superhuman at the time. Removing emotion and style from the game that has so many great personalities and moments is not only a recipe for a dying game but a disservice to the fans who so dearly want to connect to their players.
Think of some of the most memorable moments in the sport of baseball; Babe Ruth’s raising his legendary bat to centerfield in one of the all-time most confident moments in human history, Kirk Gibson rounding the bases practically punching a hole in the atmosphere, Lou Gehrig facing the masses at the Cathedral of Baseball celebrating how lucky he is in the face of a slow and painful death, Bill Mazeroski running around the bases like a kid running into the living room on Christmas morning, among others. You know what they all have in common? Each of these moments involves the visible and effusive emotions of the player. That’s what makes them great. Sports are nothing without emotions and personalities. Excluding them from the game doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse.
Today’s players, fans, and even management is slowly starting to embrace the move to a more public display of the stars. There is on the field interviews with Bryce Harper in the All-Star game and Mookie Betts in spring training, as well as player’s weekend alternate jerseys and cleats. In addition, teams are encouraging social media and fan-friendly amenities at stadiums. All of this is part of a push by baseball to draw fans to the games using their athletes.
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Players themselves are starting embrace the personality part of the game, with Harpers “Make Baseball Fun Again,” hats, the customized and fashion-forward equipment and clothing for each player, and fun celebrations between teammates like the Boston outfield dances, the thumbs down of the Yankees, and the Royals incorporating Fetty Wap’s famous 1738 line in post-game interviews. These engaging and fun changes in the game of baseball bring a more exciting game of baseball without compromising baseballs reputation of a respectful game.
If you are one of the few that are against this shift to a youthful game, then baseball was never for you in the first place. Baseball used to be the game of rebellion, players throwing no-hitters on acid, Ken Griffey Jr backward hat, and by god, it’s the sport that crashed the color barrier with Jackie Robinson. Baseball is the sport of forward thinking and change, and recently, many of the fans and players have perverted the rules of sportsmanship to make the game seem much older than it is.
The game is moving in a fresh new direction while keeping the tradition that brings us to those seats along the baselines. Like the famous Terrance Mann said, “people will come.” Baseball will grow with or without those who don’t like to see where the game is going, so hop on board.