Javier Baez, who has the most flamboyant personality of any major league baseball player, came under fire last week for an incident during a Cubs-Pirates game. During last Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baez pimped a lazy pop-up to shortstop Jordy Mercer, drawing a reaction from the Pirates, and specifically manager Clint Hurdle.

“Where’s the respect for the game?” – CLint Hurdle (via yahoo news)

Hurdle criticized Baez for not having “respect for the game” due to the incident. Baez would fire back at the 60-year-old skipper, claiming that he “busts his ass every day” and that Hurdle shouldn’t “go out there and talk trash about someone.”

While Baez is the most well known culprit, Hurdle also criticized Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras for disagreeing with a strike call.

“There is a day, he would have been thrown out as soon as he (gestured) that the ball was high. Those are things you try to help your young players with as they go through it that’s not respect for the game, that’s not the way we do things here.” – Clint Hurdle (via NBC sports chicago)

While there is a very valid argument that Hurdle still holds a grudge against the Cubs organizations for the series of events that took place in the 2015 Wild Card Game, it seems this isn’t a sentiment just shared by Hurdle. Baez has drawn the ire of many in the past, including Pirates announcer Steve Blass. Apparently Baez’s “flashiness” makes Blass hate the Cubs’ second baseman.

The problem with people like Blass is that, among Pirates fans, his opinion holds a ton of weight. Sports fans tend to conform to the norm, and if a prominent figure in the organization you support has a specific opinion, for better or worse, many tend to conform to that opinion.

I’m not going to come out and say that Blass, or any baseball fan, is racist, because that would be a huge stretch. However, it does seem like the constant moaning and pouting about player personalities disproportionately impacts those from Latin America. However, there are still plenty of people that moan about players like Bryce Harper, which is why I believe this issue is not racial, but rather the creation of mindless “fans.”

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The problem isn’t with players like Baez, it’s with people who hate players like Baez. The hard truth is that, for baseball to continue its long-term success onto the next generation, they need personalities.

We’ve all watched along and seen guys like Floyd Mayweather, Connor McGregor, Zlatan Ibrahomivic, Richard Sherman, and Lonzo Ball (due to no part of his own) become controversial figures, and then grow the profile of the sport because of it. There’s also no coincidence that the league that is currently spending the most resources promoting their players’ personalities, the NBA, is having its best season ratings-wise in history.

Fans crave emotion. Fans crave players who are going to make the highlight reels. The problem with baseball, due to the nature of the sport, is that it’s tough for plays to make the highlight reels. To the general eye, the posterizing dunk is going to be more fun to watch than the 450 home run. That isn’t going to change in the near future.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a player not fitting the robotic mold it seems baseball wants to set for him. I fail to see any problem with a flashy player exerting a bit of personality into a game which lacks historically behind other sports in that category. It’s moronic to think that a player having fun somehow makes him worse in the eye of anyone.

The MLB needs more flamboyant personalities that are going to be shown over and over again on social media. Unless you are a pitcher, a home run most likely isn’t going to make the highlight reels in 2018.

Yasiel Puig’s bat licking does though. Jose Bautista’s majestic bat flip does. Shohei Ohtani screaming as he comes off the mound does.

The reality of the situation is that the state of sports is changing, and it requires more players like Baez. It may make traditionalists like Hurdle mad, but if they truly care about the sport, they must see the necessity to reach the current generation of kids and turn them into baseball fans.

Yasiel Puig can go lick all of his teammate’s bats on the field prior to the game. If it’s not hurting anyone, he should go for it. Not every player should be the cookie cutter mold that a 60-year old guy from Michigan thinks is true.

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