Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals is known for getting the baseball world talking, mainly with his play on the diamond. However, a couple weeks ago he had the baseball world talking, but this time not for his play. Harper told ESPN the Magazine that “baseball’s tired.”
Here is the full comment in which Harper made:
“It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair.”
Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays has been in headlines lately, stemming from his infamous bat-flip after a three-run bomb in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS last fall. Now it seems silly that months after that occurred, with a new season rapidly approaching, this is still being discussed, but here we are.
Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage did not mince words in regards to Batista and his bat-flip.
“Bautista is a f—ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage told ESPN. “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,” Gossage said earlier this month.
Batista didn’t engage in the war on words, but was disappointed by the comments. Cespedes responded by saying when pitchers strike batters out, they are allowed to celebrate and he feels the batters should be able to do the same thing. Harper had similar comments and even used an example. He said that Miami Marlin’s ace Jose Fernandez will stare you down after striking you out. Harper doesn’t think there is anything wrong with that.
“Jose Fernandez will strike you out and stare you down into the dugout and pump his fist,” Harper said. He continues, “”And if you hit a homer and pimp it? He doesn’t care. Because you got him. That’s part of the game. It’s not the old feeling — hoorah … if you pimp a homer, I’m going to hit you right in the teeth. No. If a guy pimps a homer for a game-winning shot … I mean — sorry.”
Harper said if a player is pumping his fist on the mound after striking him out that’s fine and he’ll try and get him next time. He said that’s what makes the game fun and he is right. Baseball is a competition that these athletes are trying to win.
Back in the old days of baseball, the unwritten rule was if you got carried away with celebrating, a pitcher would send a fastball at your head to send you a message. Today, the game has changed and player safety is something to take into account. With all the concussion lawsuits the NFL is facing, the MLB needs no part of that.
Johnny Bench, a Hall of Fame catcher, added his two cents to the mix and was in favor of the old-school way of baseball. He thinks that if Harper or any batter for that matter want to flip their bat after a home run, the pitcher should be able to throw at the batter in his next plate appearance.
“You can flip your bat because we had guys do that, there was a couple of times that they would do that and they would run the bases and they’d do it and the next time up there was chin music and if you want to play that, that’s fine. I mean, bring back the excitement, okay, well bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch, so it’s all part of the more excitement, because I know a lot of the old timers and a lot of people that watch baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music,” Bench said.
That just isn’t going to fly in the game of baseball today. Will it still happen? Absolutely, but not as much as it once used to.
Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who has flipped a bat or two and admired a long fly ball that sailed over the fence is one the side of the new school in this war of baseball philosophy.
“This game is competition. This ain’t no baby-sitting. There ain’t no crying. When somebody strikes me out, I’m not up there crying, like, ‘Boo-hoo . . . this guy’ . . . No, no, no. There’s none of that. There’s no babysitting in baseball. There’s no babysitting. If you’re going to take it like a baby, I’m going to take [you] deep again. How about that? Take it like a man and make better, quality pitches the next time I face you, and then you get [me] out, and then you do whatever the hell you want. This is competition,” Ortiz said of the matter.
Another Hall of Famer – Philadelphia Phillies great Mike Schmidt – has added his comments regarding the new school versus old school back and forth.
“Why do so many players today feel the need to embellish their success with some sort of hand signal to the dugout? What got more attention in last year’s postseason than a bat toss by Jose Bautista? Pointing to the sky is child’s play compared to that moment in the postseason on national TV. A flagrant disrespect of the opponent like that would have gotten somebody hurt back in the day,” Schmidt wrote in a column for the Associated Press.
Let’s not forget that Schmidt celebrated his 500th career home run with some flair. The magnitude of the situation warrants a celebration like he did, and that should translate to today’s game. However, Schmidt and company do not like how players celebrate homers these days.
“Back in the day” baseball isn’t current day baseball, no matter how much the baseball purists want it to be. Players have more flair these days like Harper said. The NFL, NBA and NHL players celebrate after scoring or making a big play and people love it. When it comes to baseball, it depends on who you ask or what your baseball philosophy is in regards to how someone feels about celebrations of home runs with bat-flips. The MLB is desperately seeking another boom period in baseball to get more eyes on the product and more butts in the seats. Guys like Harper, Bautista and Ortiz are great for the game today in the generation it is now played in. Just because a player wants to celebrate hitting the ball over the fence – you know, the overall objective of a batter – that doesn’t mean he is disrespecting the game. Most players enjoy the competitive banter and back-and-forth. They are all out competing for the same ultimate prize; a World Series trophy. Pitchers and hitters are in constant battle to determine who wins ballgames, so if one celebrates after getting the better of his counterpart, it will only drive whoever came out on the losing end of the particular battle to do better the next time.
These are grown men playing a game they have loved since they were children who want to have fun. Emotions run high during the course of a nine-inning game or a 162-game season and when players let those raw emotions out, it brings attention to the game. Some of the old-school players think that baseball shouldn’t change from the time they played, but that just isn’t going to happen in this day and age. Young players are looking to showcase their God-given baseball abilities, so what does a little celebrating do in the long haul? Marketing is a huge aspect of being a pro athlete these day. Everywhere you turn, you see a pro athlete on a commercial endorsing products and that is what draws fans, especially young impressionable fans to the ballparks. Unfortunately for the MLB, they need to step up in this phase of the game.
You can have flair and celebrate home runs while also respecting the game. Why would a player not want to celebrate after hitting a ball that is coming 90+ miles per hour at them over the fence? They say hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do, so why not celebrate launching the ball and helping your team? If pitchers are allowed to get emotional after striking someone out, then why can’t the hitters get the same treatment?
The debate of new school vs old school won’t end anytime soon. As long as players like Harper, Ortiz and Bautista are flipping bats and celebrating the game in their own way, old timers like Gossage, Bench and Schmidt will have a comment about it. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and always makes for great debate.