The regular season is still several weeks away and Bryce Harper is already making headlines across baseball. Not for an amazing throw or catch, or even a mammoth homer out of the ballpark. Instead, Harper is being talked about for his recent comments on baseball’s unwritten rules that involve one of the game’s touchiest topics: emotion.
In recent seasons, certain players have taken some heat for showing emotion on the field after making a game-changing play. Guys who have taken their sweet time rounding the bases after a home run, such as David Ortiz, or pitchers who have pumped their fist in celebration of a big time strikeout, i.e. Jose Fernandez, have had a negative light put upon them by opposing teams and fans alike.
Because of this, Bryce Harper (who has also been criticized numerous times for his emotional gameplay) took a very verbal stance recently, opposing those who feel individual celebration and emotion have no place in baseball, saying, “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself . . . 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.”
I’m not sure I agree with Harper in going as far as to say baseball is a tired sport. I for one think baseball is more exciting than ever, with players getting seemingly more and more talented each season, and subsequently posting some unbelievable numbers. But I do agree with him that it’s time for emotion to find a place in baseball, assuming the situation calls for it (I don’t want to see celebrating after a bases-empty single), as it is a natural reaction as a human being to have some sort of emotional display after doing what is essentially your job as a big leaguer: to help your team win.
What’s become tired to me is isn’t the sport, as Harper suggests, but players allowing their feeling to be hurt so easily because the opposing team’s batter took too long to circle the bases on a home run or stood and watched the ball for too long, resulting in them being plunked in their next at-bat as a form of retaliation. That’s what is making baseball a tired sport.
Not surprisingly, however, some players don’t agree with Harper’s words (or my opinions). San Francisco Giant’s reliever, Sergio Romo, stated, in response to Harper’s comments, that there is undoubtedly ways to show emotion without showing up the other side. But I find that hard to envision. Inevitably, there will always be someone who views another player’s celebratory action as uncalled for, no matter how innocent the intention may have been. That’s the way the world works, so players might as well just do their thing and not care what anyone thinks.
But while guys such as Bryce Harper obviously couldn’t care less what people think or say about them, I imagine they do care what opposing pitchers do in retaliation. In the recent past, as previously touched upon, it’s been common “tradition” to get back at a team who had a player celebrate a home run or big play by drilling another player — usually the superstar player — with a fastball. Giving every player the okay to be themselves and celebrate would hopefully cut down on these over the top retaliations.
Baseball has long been a sport of tradition, and while I’m all for that, I think baseball also needs to grow with the times. There is a rule in the official Major League Baseball rule book that states that players aren’t allowed to fraternize with opposing players at any point before, during or after the game; yet players are laughing and joking with each other from the time they take the field until the last out. The game has historically changed with the times, and we have reached a new point in that timeline.
Recent changes to the written rules have seen second basemen being protected from takeout slides, as well as advanced instant replay rules being put into place to help get calls correct. In my mind, it’s time for the unwritten rules to be looked at as well. I don’t want things to go as far as players dancing after every base hit, but I don’t think things will reach that point. All that players such as Harper are asking is that they be allowed to show off their talent while having fun with it all.
Emotion takes baseball players back to their little league days when baseball was simply just a game. That emotion is needed in baseball, not because “showing up” the opposing team is a good thing, but because baseball is a much better sport when players are being genuine with who they are and the way they are feeling.
As Bryce Harper put it, it’s time players showed their “flair”.