Gabe Kapler on joking/hazing/bullying in baseball

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We talked a bit last week about hazing and bullying in Major League Baseball. Mostly we talked about how people don’t talk about it much.  One of the reasons people don’t talk about it much is because there are not any clear lines between pranks, hazing, bullying and any number of other things that can be either malignant or benign, depending on the spirit and motivation for the incident and how it is received by its target.

Into that wades Gabe Kapler, who has plenty of first hand experience with all of that. He has a thoughtful column up over at Fox Sports.com today in which the gray area of all of that is explored, along with some fun and illuminating anecdotes.  One takeaway is pretty key:

Although I vowed to myself that I would never be the ringleader of any similar incident, I began to authentically connect with the idea that through ribbing, hazing and light illumination of faults, coming of age can occur.

In some cases, this can even speed up player development as toughness off the field can spill over into plate appearances. No way to quantify, of course, but I can attest to feeling more confident after understanding banter and thereby feeling more connected to my teammates; the chest puffed out slightly further is always beneficial on the field. The confidence is derived through fitting in societally, being accepted. I’ve finally fulfilled my rite of passage; now I belong. Now I can go play and know my teammates are beneath me, partially supporting my weight.

That’s key because it makes a good argument for the sort of bonding rituals that, in some instances, can be taken as hazing or even bullying but which are useful if everyone involved understands what’s going on.

It’s also key because Kapler’s particular story involves being messed with after some youthful and regrettable self-promotion on his part.  His experience goes a long way towards explaining why baseball’s culture is what it is and why you don’t see many self-promoters in the game. Or, when you do, why they are so often singled out as “problems.”

Anyway: good read. With some thoughts to keep in mind as the larger conversation about bullying and hazing works its way toward Major League Baseball, as it inevitably will.

Yadier Molina responds to Willson Contreras on Instagram

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On Monday, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras showed he was very confident heading into the 2018 season, saying, “I know that I’m going to be better than [Yadier Molina and Buster Posey].” Contreras explained that his goal is to become “the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.”

Apparently, Contreras ruffled Molina’s feathers as the Cardinals’ veteran backstop took to Instagram to respond. Posting a picture of himself with Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, Molina wrote, “Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!” That loosely translates to “respect the ranks,” referring to Contreras as a novice.

Molina is no stranger to using Instagram to air his grievances. He apparently used the social media app to take a swipe or two at manager Mike Matheny last year.

Of course, Molina seems to be misreading the intent of Contreras. Contreras seems to think highly of Molina, having referred to him as being one of the best catchers in the game — even if it was in the past tense. Molina should know, being someone who also competes at the highest level, that having confidence is an important part of the recipe for success. Perhaps this will make for some interesting games during the season, breathing new life into the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.