Since the end of the weekend, a lot of the talk in Major League Baseball is about Max Muncy’s comments to Madison Bumgarner after the latter complained about the former watching his home run for a while. It seems to happen at least once a year that Madison Bumgarner is yelling at someone for doing something that would violate the unwritten rules. Much of Twitter, which has become the vocal mouthpiece for fans, writers and athletes, seems upset with Madison Bumgarner. They are also upset with the unwritten rules. This in the face of Major League Baseball’s #LettheKidsPlay marketing campaign. However, baseball is stronger with these dueling dichotomies than without.
The unwritten baseball rules are something that have existed for years. They come in many forms of do not:
- Steal bases up at least five runs.
- Show up the pitcher by admiring a home run
- Celebrate in front of the catcher by clapping your hands
- Bunt to break up a no-hitter/perfect game attempt
- Work long at bats in a blowout
- Flip your bat in a form that would be showing up the other team
There are others, but they also begin to merge together. All of them live under the guise of showing respect to the other team. Anyone violating these rules expects to have a baseball thrown at them. Where this upsets people is that a baseball is a lead ball covered by lining. It is a weapon. It is an understandable argument if people would stop doing that. At the same time, a lot of pitchers are incredibly hardnosed. The aforementioned Madison Bumgarner is one. He tends to be a general on the mound. Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann is another one. These things happen.
On the other side, Major League Baseball has opened the door to the idea of #LetTheKidsPlay. MLB has an incredible youth movement in 2019 and several players are much more flashy. Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox is a prime example because the Kansas City Royals (a very hardnosed team) do not appreciate his antics. This has led to at least one brawl and one incident of a pitcher throwing near his head, unintentional or not. MLB has a lot of players who are showing off more. The youth movement is like that. Younger kids find it more fun when their players show off. That is normal.
John Wehner had a -1.8 career WAR. And stuff.
— Evan Grant (@Evan_P_Grant) June 5, 2019
This set of dueling dichotomies, however, does not apply only on the field. The Pittsburgh Pirates TV and radio booths, which reek of staleness, have made no less than two controversial statements about players’ antics or flashiness. John Wehner, a former utility player who hit all of four home runs in his ten season career, took it upon himself to criticize Derek Dietrich of the Cincinnati Reds because he was going on a home run rage against the Pirates. Wehner knew Dietrich’s grandfather, former third baseman Steve Demeter. Demeter who hit no home runs and batted .087 in his career died in 2013. Wehner decided to say that Dietrich’s grandfather [Demeter] would be upset in his grave watching his grandson show up the Pirates.
No more than a week after the Dietrich comments, Steve Blass, retiring at the end of the 2019 season, commented on Ronald Acuña Jr.’s flashy jewelry. Blass insinuated the flashy jewelry would be showing up the other team and that it would justify throwing at the batter. It is not like he’s wearing a big “Pirates suck” necklace around his neck that would legitimately upset players. Acuña had at least necklaces around his neck that he was adjusting that set Blass off. While nowhere near as offensive as Wehner’s comments about Dietrich, Blass’ comments were still unnecessary and a problem.
MLB has a great campaign of the #LettheKidsPlay. However, in many cases, a lot of the players who have turned into broadcasters also have become a less positive thing for marketing. John Smoltz, Steve Blass, and John Wehner as examples, should be broadcasting baseball in a positive light. Smoltz is the big problem with this. He seems to hate everything about baseball right now and gets to work on a national broadcast. How is this good for the sport or its marketing?
MLB benefits from the dueling dichotomies. While some of this result in unpleasantry, the marketing of a brawl or two is good for the sport. Just wait for June 24 when the Mets and Phillies face each other. There should be a good brawl coming.
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