No, I'm not advocating for players to knock each other out to settle on field differences, but the emotion that is so often criticized in America's game is something we should all want a bit more of.
Here's two things I am going to operate in writing this as being absolute truth:
- Baseball players, and athletes in general, are the result of billions of dollars spent to turn a child's game into a form of entertainment.
- Baseball players, and athletes in general, are human beings worthy of the same societal freedoms we are granted, as well as being equally flawed.
I believe it's fair, and accurate, to operate in a way that makes both of those statements equally true, at the same time. That brings us to the topic at hand.
Is Jose Bautista wrong for flipping his bat against those Rangers in the playoffs? Is Bryce Harper out of line for telling another equally flawed human being to "F*** off!" in an emotionally charged moment? Heck, is Odor even wrong for throwing a haymaker at a guy that chose him at his target for retaliation? In my application of the above two statements, I'll suggest that none of those instances are wrong, while they all may be less than acceptable.
Making it to the playoffs in any sport, let alone Major League Baseball, is a feat that shouldn't be overlooked. A 162 game regular season culminates in a small tournament where the "have nots" must look on from the outside. Having battle back and forth in a series that had plenty of highlight moments, Bautista earned every ounce of his bat flip. Far from screaming at his opponent, the emotion was that of a player that had just risen to the level of the moment.
Someone who's often criticized, Harper gave us another moment in the Nationals latest walk off victory. Having been ejected from the dugout in a contest where his team may very well have yet needed him, it was Bryce's teammates that exacted his revenge. In walkoff fashion, the Nationals ended the contest and Harper was within shouting distance of the umpire. He chose to share his displeasure in relation to an umpire turning a game into something about himself, rather than the two teams on the field.
Then we have the latest example provided once again by the Blue Jays and Rangers. A hit-by-pitch that turned into a slide, and culminated in a punch, gets us to where we are today. Odor and Bautista likely aren't going to be friends after the incident, and they really don't need to be. What they reminded us of though, is that emotion is what charges and fuels athletics.
That brings us somewhat full circle on the two statements I wrote down above. While each of these incidents play into the drama that we subconsciously expect in paying to enjoy a sporting event, they also bring full circle the human nature that we must consider in the fallout. I have no problem with any of these situations taking place, and there's also no reason to be up in arms about a suspension or disciplinary action following the event either.
Bautista reveled in his moment, Harper stood up for himself, and Odor took offense to what had happened. None of them were wrong, each of them was serving part of the purpose in a fan paying for a ticket, and all three of them once again remind us that they are no different than you and I. While it's a silly practice to compare your workplace environment to that of a competitive venue, it's equally sad to suggest an athlete being on a level of model or idolization. You're price to observe, enjoy, and partake in the drama and action on the field of play does not somehow elevate any athlete to being more than they are, a human being.
With such a broad subject, and one of such wide-reaching opinions, I'd guess that I rambled some. For that I apologize. What I hope you'd take away from this is that in baseball, and sports in general, our purpose should and can be two fold. The level of entertainment should be expected and welcomed. Greet emotion with open arms. Ask far players to make umpires accountable, celebrate great feats, and take issue with problems. On the same token, understand they are simply the same individuals as you and I at their core, and expecting them to be anything but is an unfair standard.
Athletic competition is a breeding ground for emotion, and rather than stifle it, we should be open to releasing it. Just realize, there's always going to be what comes next, and that doesn't necessarily mean the moment wasn't justified.