If there’s one thing modern baseball players must be sick of hearing, it’s that they have to “respect the game.”
Never mind that this statement is usually being made by a former player in his 60s or 70s who hasn’t been relevant in the game since he retired, but the whole statement has been so diluted and used in so many different contexts that people don’t even seem to know what it means anymore.
Recently, former major-leaguer Goose Gossage went after Jose Bautista’s bat flip, calling it “disrespectful,” and more alarmingly, also called into question Bautista’s stead among Latin players in the game. Vaguely racist undertones aside, what did Gossage even mean by disrespectful, and what’s his definition of respect?
Major league baseball takes a tremendous amount of dedication and effort to succeed at, just like any other high-level sport. Do you think these players are just half-assing it? Do you think they just show up at the ballpark as home-run hitting monsters? No. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to their craft to make it to the top level, so whenever they do bomb one over the fence, it’s OK to be satisfied. You put in that much work, why not enjoy the fruits of your labour? All those hours in the cage culminated in you hitting a ball 500 feet? Damn right you should be able to celebrate, no matter what some 70-year-old says. Bautista put in a lot of work to get into the position where the bat flip was remotely possible, so I think he respects the game quite a bit actually.
But what about the argument that this kind of showboating sets a bad example for the kids that look up to players like Bautista?
Last time I checked, baseball was a game played by humans who experience real human emotions. Not everyone has complete control of themselves in the heat of the moment, and if you do something great, like helping your team win its first playoff series in 22 years, why shouldn’t you be able to couple that with an equally great celebration? We’re not robots, and the whole “act like you’ve been there before” mentality leans close to simply telling younger players that there’s no place for emotion in the game of baseball. I love seeing these displays of emotion, because it shows me that players are real human beings that I can relate to in some small way.
It’s not constructive for someone like Gossage to make these statements. He’s speaking like baseball is the same game it was in the 70s. Here’s something that may shock you Goose: it isn’t. His whole tirade aches of tired values, hearkening back to an era where someone actually started a game while they were on LSD, and it was OK to try to end someone’s life by throwing a 95 MPH fastball at their ear.
Players honour the game by the work they put in. They bust their asses day in and day out, and they respect the game by putting in all those hours behind the scenes so they can flip the bat on the big stage.
After his initial tirade, Gossage doubled-down on his comments in an interview with a New York Times reporter a few days later.
The reporter reopened the issue regarding bat-flipping and showboating, and Gossage once again proved to be just as out of touch as everyone thought he was. He asked if we really wanted a bunch of Cam Newton’s running around.
Do we really want a whole bunch of talented, vibrant, and dedicated players in the major leagues? I would say the answer is yes.