Baseball's fun police are ruining the playoffs
The sport's hoary code of conduct is a wet blanket on an otherwise scintillating October
The Los Angeles Dodgers love to celebrate. They cheer when they hit doubles, swat not-quite-home runs, and, probably, even when they tie their shoes.
Yet in baseball, pearl-clutching stalwarts of the Old School view that exuberance as disrespect. The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright dismissed it as "Mickey Mouse stuff."
Yes, there's a thrilling postseason going on, but you may not have noticed it for all the blather about the Dodgers, their celebrations, and baseball's unwritten rules.
Braves catcher Brian McCann became the poster boy for the debate this year when he refused to let Carlos Gomez touch home plate after Gomez hit a home run, because McCann felt he watched it sail for a little too long. "McCann yelling at people" quickly became a meme, for good reason.
The Dodgers, though, took the conversation to whole new heights by doing stuff like this:
That's Yasiel Puig, hopping around after hitting an RBI triple. That play started, though, with Puig doing something even more nefarious: Flipping his bat and posing.
Posing! Can you believe it? He may as well have circled the bases, slapping every St. Louis player in the face on the way while shouting the lyrics to 2 Chainz's "I'm Different."
Complaints about the Dodgers date back to their playoff-clinching antics in Arizona last month. The Diamondbacks have a pool in their outfield bleachers, and the Dodgers celebrated a postseason berth by going for a dip in it.
"I would expect them to act with a little more class than they did," D-Backs infielder Willie Bloomquist said after the game. "I doubt the New York Yankees would do something like that."
Bloomquist, a noted party pooper, also took umbrage with the Dominican Republic for having fun while beating the U.S. at this year's World Baseball Classic, accusing them of not "respecting opponents and the uniform."
Returning to the NLCS, the fun police are now spinning a storyline from the contrast between the Dodgers and the supposed Cardinal Way — meaning, a false nostalgia for baseball's good ol' days and "Aw, shucks" Americana.
Here's Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi:
The Baseball Code is changing. Innovators are drafting new versions of the sacred text. A number of these scholars — Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez — happen to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And so the NLCS is unfolding as a sort of cultural collision between the old-school Cardinals and new-school Dodgers. [Fox]
Except the storyline is completely bogus. Every team in baseball celebrates big plays, even the Cardinals. Deadspin put together a hilarious compilation of Cardinals players engaging in exactly the kind of in-game showboating they've decried in their opponent.
Meanwhile, on the field, the Dodgers and Cardinals are playing an amazing series. The five games so far in the NLCS have been decided by one, one, three, two, and two runs, respectively. Game 1 ended in 13 innings on a walk-off hit — after Carlos Beltran gunned down a potential winning run at the plate in the 10th. In Game 2, probable Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw held the Cardinals to two hits — and still lost, to a rookie.
All the talk of "playing the game the right way" and Mickey Mouse celebrations is distracting from what is otherwise a highly entertaining series. The fun police are more focused on fist pumps than home runs.
Puig is the most exciting star baseball has had in some time, specifically because of how he plays the game. If anything, baseball needs more Puigs — and fewer phony rules written in invisible ink.