Emotion in baseball is here to stay

Published 12:03 am Sunday, October 20, 2013

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig thought he hit a home run.

Instead, the 22-year-old rookie had to settle for a triple, but not before igniting a discussion about proper baseball etiquette.

First, it’s important to understand the context of Puig’s hit. It was Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, and the Dodgers had lost the first two games of the series. With the score 1-0 Dodgers in the bottom of the fourth inning, Los Angeles had a runner on third with two outs. Puig crushed a fastball off the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright to deep right field, thinking he had just extended his team’s lead to 3-0.

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But the ball bounced off the right-field wall, and Puig was forced to pick up speed just to make it a triple. The reason he had to turn it up was because he was slow out of the box, flipping his bat and staring at his shot with both arms raised.

After getting a standup triple — and driving in the runner in the process — Puig pumped his fist and excitedly waived his arms in the air, motioning to the crowd to make some noise for the hometown Dodgers.

His antics earned the ire of Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran, who in fairness is no stranger to big hits in the postseason. Beltran said he didn’t approve of Puig’s antics, and the debate began as to whether it’s appropriate for baseball players to show emotion during the game.

Some might say Puig was being disrespectful to Wainwright, “showing him up” if you will, by flipping his bat, lifting his hands and walking slowly out of the box. But it’s important to remember that Puig is a Cuban defect playing his first season in Major League Baseball. The emotion is likely a carry-over from his days of playing baseball in Cuba.

Baseball, more than any other sport in America, has made a point to celebrate the fact that it is stuck in the past. Why else will MLB finally get around to expanding instant replay beyond home run calls next season instead of doing so before now? The desire to integrate modern-day technology to get calls correct has been met with fierce resistance from the get-go — all because having the human element is “the way it’s always been done.”

Baseball players have traditionally kept their emotions in check for much of the game’s history. I can remember the outrage several years ago over Yankees relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain, all because Chamberlain had the audacity to pump his fist after recording a strikeout. Meanwhile, NFL players have been dancing in the end zone for years, with not so much as a peep from national pundits and the everyday fan.

What fans of baseball — and its players and officials — are going to have to understand is, this isn’t our parents’ game. It’s not our grandparents’ game. We live in a generation that likes to show emotion after a big play. People are just going to have to get over it and keep playing ball.