Hey MLB–It’s OK To “LET THEM PLAY!”
Finally! I’m actually surprised it took this long.
We have our first minor faux controversy of the playoff season as the Cardinals and Dodgers do battle in the 2013 National League Championship Series.
Talk about the “Cardinal Way”! It’s not really playoff baseball around these parts until one of our opponents pulls a Jeffery “One Flap Down” Leonard.
Remember 1987? Cards vs. Giants in the NLCS.
If you were around St. Louis back then or lived anywhere within earshot of the Cardinals radio network based at our sister station 1120 KMOX, of course you remember! It’s what made that series, and beating the Giants in 7 games so rewarding. Watching that series and the give and take between the Birds and “One Flap Down”, I never had so much fun hating an opposing player. Yes, he was a dope but in the end, it was a harmless diversion. Everyone survived with their dignity intact and the Cards went on to the World Series.
Most fans won’t remember the details of that series but they will remember “One Flap Down.”
Fast forward to 2013. Game three of the best of seven series. Apparently the Cardinals, and specifically Pitcher, Adam Wainwright and Outfielder, Carlos Beltran were none too pleased at some of the celebrating the Dodgers were doing during their 3-0 win.
Wainwright didn’t appreciate Dodger first-baseman Adrian Gonzales celebrating at second base (and apparently yelling at him as well) after knocking in the Dodgers first run in 22 innings.
Update: Wainwright claims that he was misinterpreted by “bad reporting”after the game and that he wasn’t so much upset with Gonzales cheering himself at 2nd base, as he was with him yelling at him from 3rd base a few pitches later.
“I saw Adrian doing some Mickey Mouse stuff ,” said the Cardinal pitcher after the game.
Meanwhile, Beltran’s issue was with the Dodgers 22-year-old shooting star, Yasiel Puig, a Cuban refugee who nearly died trying to escape Castro’s Cuba in order to pursue his dream of playing baseball in the United States. Seriously , check out this guy’s life story. Suffice it to say, he’s seen a lot more in 22 years than most us will in a lifetime.
Puig joined the Dodgers midway through the regular season and immediately became the talk of the league with his towering home-runs, incredible throwing arm and an attitude or “way of going about his business” on the field that angered many opponents (and a few teammates) along the way. Most however, wrote it off as just a young guy from a different baseball culture trying to find his way as a big league rookie.
“He’ll learn” was the common response.
But Puig violated one of baseball’s treasured “unwritten rules” Monday night. He decided to pose as if he were Babe Ruth at home plate, after hitting what he thought was a fourth inning home-run . It turned out, hilariously to nearly everyone watching , that the ball hit the outfield wall and bounced back into the outfield. Puig, who is blessed with combination of power and speed that maybe only “Bo Knows” , raced around to third base anyway, unleashing a heap of flailing “Pump up the Volume” arms and fist-pumps to the frenzied Dodger crowd.
This didn’t sit well with Beltran.
“As a player, I just think he doesn’t know how to act,” he added, “He really doesn’t know. He must think that he’s still playing somewhere else”.)
As a life-long Cardinals fan, I’m torn on this.
Yes, Puig’s posing at home was excessive, but he really only embarrassed himself by doing so. It’s worth noting that he’s a 22 year-old kid (yes, I’m old enough to call him a kid) playing a game he loves with joy and passion–two traits that seem to be in short supply around MLB. these days. Especially amongst the “play the game the right way” crowd.
Much like “One Flap Down”, over a quarter of a century later, I didn’t care for it personally, but it did get me more engaged in the series. It just means that beating the Dodgers (and Puig) will be just that much sweeter.
Seriously, when did major league ball players become so sensitive anyway? It seems like every wave of the arm after a great play, every split second spent at home plate after hitting a ball out of the park, every fist-pump is seen by someone as a perceived slight.
There are so many “unwritten rules” in baseball these days, it must be hard for anyone, much less a young guy from a foreign country who doesn’t even speak the language yet, to know all of the inner-workings of why you should never, ever “show up the other team.”
And at all costs, let’s not be hypocrites here. We Cards fans didn’t seem to have any problem during Saturday’s win over the Dodgers at Busch Stadium when our 22 year-old phenom, Michael Wacha, threw a fist in the air and hopped off the mound after striking out, who was it again?
Oh yeah, that guy. Puig.
Here’s the deal as I see it—both are not only acceptable but good for the game! Young, supremely talented ball players reveling in their moment of triumph. It’s not “showing up” the other team, it’s illuminating their own.
And in the end, if you as a player have a problem with it, there’s an easy solution.
In the case of Puig, just strike him out next time.
Just don’t be afraid to celebrate it.
As the great William Devane and Houston Astros all-time great Bob Watson say in the terrific 1977 film, “Bad News Bears-Breaking Training”
‘LET THEM PLAY!”