Typically, I use this column to share the highlights of conversations I've had with Major League players. The hope is that the reader learns a little something about an athlete's personality, tucks away a tidbit about his private life or just comes away with a different view of a guy they watch on television every day.
Today, however I'm going in a different direction. After a few days of carefully crafting a few tweets, discussing the topic on MLB Network"s "The Rundown" and speaking with some of the most seasoned baseball writers, I've come to a conclusion: The divide between "old school" and "new school" is widening when it comes to how baseball must appeal to a younger and more international audience.
The "look at me" displays of emotion and celebration exhibited on the field are happening too often for my liking. This discussion gained steam last weekend with the latest on field controversy involving Brewers star outfielder Carlos Gomez. It's a discussion that isn't going away and will likely become a hot topic again soon (once the Michael Pineda pine tar situation dies down).
To be perfectly clear, the greater issue of "hot dogging" is NOT about Gomez. His style of play has existed for decades. Some of the greatest players to ever step on the field were hot dogs. In an attempt to appeal to a new fan base, some say, the game needs more flair. I'm all for playing with a personality but show your emotions when the time is right, but have some discretion. That's all I'm suggesting. Don't turn the greatest game ever invented into stage for self-promotion.
I acknowledge, everyone has a different definition of what is appropriate and there is no one way to play the game but my goodness, must players beat their chests and celebrate their achievements before a play is completed? Come on.
Sure, there's a fine line here and no one I've ever talked to wants baseball to be played by emotionless robots. If that were the case we wouldn't watch the games on TV or on our handheld devices. We would just keep an eye on the live box scores and at the games conclusion, go to sleep. After all, postgame celebrations are one of the reasons we stay up late to watch the end of postseason games.
I'm throwing the term "lack of respect" in this column. But I'm not referring to lacking respect for ones opponent because there's no way to read a player's mind. There's no way to know if one player is trying to show up another player. I'm referring to respecting your opponent's capablilites ... respecting the man standing 60 feet away from the batter's box who launches a hard baseball at you at speeds up to 100 miles per hour ... respecting the runner who is sprinting into second base with metal spikes. That was always the great equalizer. It's all part of the territorial battle.
You want to dance out of the batters box? Go for it. You want to celebrate yourself before the play is even over? Do it. But if so, you better be OK with a brush back pitch in the next at bat or a hard slide the next inning. And you better be OK with an opponent voicing his displeasure.
Unfortunately, it seems, that part of the game is disappearing. By no means am I advocating purposely injuring another person, but keeping the opponent honest is part of the system of checks and balances.
Here's what it boils down to for me: Baseball is not professional wrestling. Baseball must be held to a higher standard and must maintain its standing as a thinking person's sport. As exhibited every day by hundreds of Major Leaguers, it is possible to play with emotion and passion while letting ones talent take center stage.