Mac Engel

Baseball’s white code out of touch, needs to be updated

Nationals superstar Bryce Harper believes players should be allowed to show more emotion on the field.
Nationals superstar Bryce Harper believes players should be allowed to show more emotion on the field. AP

This will not be well received in the greater Fort Worth tri-state region, but Jose Bautista was right to flip his bat.

Any sane, rational person would have celebrated his three-run homer in the American League Division playoffs last October that essentially won the series.

Only in baseball would his reaction cause an international incident.

Baseball has its problems, one of which is its continued struggle to be in touch with its feelings.

Disregard the recent ramblings by former Rangers reliever Goose Gossage and take heed to Joey Gallo’s former high school teammate — Bryce Harper.

In the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine, the Washington Nationals outfielder ripped baseball’s “code” and the game for being “tired.”

Amen, sir.

The code needs updating to allow players to show some emotion without fear of being hit or needlessly judged. The code needs to be less white. In baseball’s constant struggle to attract new blood, it would help if it loosened up and remembered that it’s just a game.

Baseball’s tired. It’s a tired sport because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do.

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in ESPN The Magazine

Harper wants players to have some fun and show emotion, which baseball historically frowns upon because guys such as Gossage believe it’s 1976 rather than 2016.

Gossage tore into Bautista, and guys who show emotion, as fools. It should be noted that he also said the game is becoming a “freaking joke” because of the “nerds who are running it.”

I’m with Goose on that last clause; it’s not math.

No team should have more pointed opinions on this subject than the Rangers, who had the best seat to watch Bautista’s bat flip.

“At first, I was [mad] about it just because that was a game we should not have lost,” Rangers center fielder Delino DeShields told me. “When I stepped back and I thought about it, anybody would have done something.

“You gotta remember, people were throwing stuff on the field and emotions were through the roof on both sides. When he did it, it may have been a little much, but it’s the playoffs. It’s no different than a closer coming in and closing the door and getting emotional — it’s the same thing.”

The beauty of baseball is its loyalty to history, which also prevents it from adapting to modern society. Baseball calls itself “The Show” yet the irony is for decades its performers have been told not to be showmen and to let their work speak for itself.

[Jose] Bautista is a [bleeping] disgrace to the game. He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes, same thing.

Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage to ESPN

MLB and its players could formerly espouse that approach because the level of competition for the game, for decades, was relatively mild. It’s 2016 and, unless it’s football, every player from every other league is competing for decreased attention spans that require constant stimulation.

Baseball is a great game without a clock that functions in a rapidly evolving world that has an insatiable relationship with time. Baseball needs kids to play and to watch. Kids like that bat flip.

When Bautista flipped that bat, it was impossible not to watch. It’s great theater to watch Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Elvis Andrus tease each other on the field. Rangers pitcher Derek Holland is fun. Barry Bonds made me sick, but it was hard not to watch him stand and admire himself after he popped another signature HGH bomb.

Comedian Chris Rock recently took on baseball in a seven-minute monologue on HBO Real Sports about the state of the game, and specifically the lack of African-Americans in baseball. Rock’s claim is the lack of blacks in baseball is not because of any perceived financial disparity but rather lack of interest.

“Baseball is 8 percent black — that’s an average of two guys per team. And those guys probably listen to Blake Shelton to keep from getting their [butts] kicked by their teammates,” Rock said. “It’s the game — it’s old-fashioned and stuck in the past. Baseball wants everything to stay the way it used to be. The world has sped up but the game is slower than ever.”

The infusion of math and statistical analysis, which work, has made the game a slow crawl in wet tar.

Only baseball in America clings to its roots of playing the “right way,” which is basically the “white way.”

Watch a game in Latin America or South Korea, and baseball is a giant party. An MLB game can be a church service.

68 Number of African American players on opening day rosters last season

No game has been more affected by America’s Puritanical roots than baseball, which subconsciously fights its tradition against the needs of a new, diverse world.

So rather than embrace a little flare, baseball’s code says it’s better to hit people with a pitch rather than accept a harmless celebration.

“I hit a big home run in the minors and I kinda celebrated, and the next at-bat I took one in the ribs,” Rangers third baseman Joey Gallo told me. “I never did it again.”

Has anybody ever stopped to ask how dumb this is?

It’s Rangers vs. Blue Jays, not Iran vs. Israel.

Showing off and celebrating isn’t for everybody, but for those that it is a natural part of their personality, let them have fun with impunity.

Of course some guys can take the celebrations too far, which merit censure, but to discourage the expression of joy is officially counterproductive.

It’s 2016 — so, go ahead, flip the bat and show us you’re having fun.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments