“Respect the Game?” Phooey.

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I went on SportsDash on the NBC Sports Network this afternoon and talked about how, as long as players aren’t being truly rude and in the face of the opposition, there is nothing wrong with celebration. Bat flipping. Exuberance. Some occasional strutting. The sort of stuff I’ve been going on about for a  couple of days here. As soon as I came back upstairs from the little studio in the basement of my fortified compound, however, I got these two messages:

Setting aside the ridiculousness of a couple of La-Z-Boy warriors telling me that I can’t opine on the game if I didn’t play it at a high level, I am just so taken with that last bit. The bit about how Carlos Gomez must “respect the game.”

Like so many sports topic and phrases that seem to exist only in the world of talk radio and “Around The Horn” — whether someone is an “elite quarterback” or whether a basketball player is “coachable” spring to mind — the phrase “respect the game” is as ridiculous as it is meaningless. It’s a cliche that allows its user to pour in any amount of subjective criteria, smatter it with a healthy helping of bullcrap armchair psychology and turn a matter of opinion or aesthetics into some quasi-objective assessment. I sorta messed with the hashtag #RespectTheGame on Twitter earlier today, but if you scroll down past my shenanigans, you’ll see a lot of self-serious (and almost exclusively young, white male) baseball fans speaking about how important it is to respect the game. Repeating that phrase more like a religious incantation than an actual idea.

Of course, when asked to explain those concepts, it’s hard for their proponents to avoid tautology. Johnny Utah is an elite quarterback because he has won Super Bowls and that’s an elite accomplishment. Joe Shlabotnik respects the game because of the way he goes about his business. How does he go about his business? Well, respectfully. Tyrone Shoelaces is a coachable NBA player because he has not yet physically assaulted his coach. Utah, Shlabotnik and Shoelaces are all one failure or gaffe away from losing their elite, respectful and coachable status, of course. Suggesting that these concepts are conveniently malleable.

I actually played football at a higher level than I ever played baseball, so I suppose by some people’s logic I can talk more intelligently about football, but we know that’s not true. I can talk about baseball, though, and I’ll observe that, in baseball, there are a lot of players who have disrespected the game before Carlos Gomez came along. At least in what I presume to be the judgment of guys like my Twitter correspondents up there. Even some guys who, when it’s convenient for the speaker, are held up as examples of Game Respecters Par Excellence. Guys like this:

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Pete Rose. There’s a guy who would never toss his bat and strut out of the box. He totally respected the game. Or how about the Lords of Baseball during its Golden Age?

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More recent Hall of Famers?

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Baseball legends?

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Greater baseball legends?

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Even greater baseball legends?

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The greatest baseball legend of them all?

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The fact of the matter is that baseball is a 150+ year-old game with a grand history of showoffs, jackoffs, clowns, rakes, rogues and irregular characters. I adore a straight-shooting player like Al Kaline, but I thank God for Mark “the Bird” Fidrych. I have nothing but respect for the eternally polite and accommodating Harmon Killebrew, but Rickey Henderson made baseball exciting for my entire childhood and beyond. For every upstanding player that the Respect the Game crowd can point to, I can point to another one of those clowns, rogues and rakes. And I can point to people who find that stuff a lot of fun. Or, even if it’s not intended to be fun, somewhat interesting.

Baseball is in no more need of being respected by any one player than the sun is in need of being respected by cosmic dust. Baseball is way bigger than any of these guys and can survive — or even benefit from — these guys who are alleged to be so lacking in respect. Guys who don’t take everything so damn seriously all the time. Guys that sometimes lose their cool. Guys who use baseball as a vehicle for humor or for ego or for showmanship. Guys who do these things to get butts in the seats or their faces on magazines. Baseball has always survived them. At times, it has even embraced them. The game has never been weakened by them. Indeed, it is often made stronger.

So color me unimpressed with the latest calls for Carlos Gomez or Yasiel Puig or whoever the talk show warriors’ next punching bag happens to be to respect the game. The game has been disrespected by way better and way more disrespectful than the likes of those guys and will be disrespected by many more in the future.

And I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Braves 3, Reds 1: I was at this game with 12,948 of my closest friends, many of whom were disguised as empty seats. We had a good time, though. Ozzie Albies‘ leadoff homer allowed me to launch into a jag about how bad his contract extension is, Yasiel Puig‘s fifth inning two-base error that allowed what proved to be the winning run allowed me to launch into a jag about the pros and cons of Puig as a player and the Braves victory allowed me to talk about my mixed feelings as a Braves fan given the front office’s miserly and cynical approach to the club. Which means that I drove a couple hundred miles, got home late last night and I’m sleep-deprived this morning to, you know, be at work. Oh well, at least baseball is pretty.

Cubs 7, Dodgers 6: The Dodgers had a 3-0 lead when the Cubs scored six runs in the sixth inning via two three-run homers, both of which came with two outs. Walker Buehler gave up one to Javier Báez and Scott Alexander gave up the other to Jason Heyward. Talk about not being able to buy a friggin’ out. The Cubs won for the seventh time in eight games. Oh, and this is fun: Pedro Strop got the save for the Cubs. On a night when his car was stolen before the game, he had to talk to the cops about it during the game before he pitched and in which it was reportedly involved in a police chase while he pitched.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 2: Macrell Ozuna hit a three-run homer and Yadi Molina added a solo shot in the Cards’ four-run fourth inning. Adam Wainwright allowed one run in six innings for his 150th career victory. After the game he said, “It means something to me. I’m proud to have been a Cardinal for the whole time of it, too.” Which seemed off to me because my mind still has him having made his debut with the Braves but, nah, he didn’t. He was just a prospect I was wishcasting on and for whom I was merely imagining major league glories at the time Atlanta traded him to St. Louis. But hey, I still have all of those sweet J.D. Drew memories. The Brewers have dropped seven of eight.

Rockies 9, Nationals 5: Raimel Tapia had two doubles and drove in three runs and Germán Márquez allowed three runs over seven, striking out seven. Daniel Murphy returned after 20 games lost to the injured list and then almost went back on it after nearly getting run over by a giant racing tooth, toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. I wish I was making that up.

Royals 10, Rays 2: Blake Snell‘s return from the injured list did not go according to plan: three runs — two earned — on five hits and he couldn’t even get the second out in the fourth inning. Adalberto Mondesí hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs for Kansas City and Billy Hamilton had two hits and two RBI. The Royals snapped their five-game losing streak.

Speaking of “snapped,” I’m taking the kids to Avengers: Endgame tonight. Forgive me if I’m distracted today. I promise I won’t spoil anything tomorrow. But that’s just because I’m taking tomorrow off. If I was working I’d totally spoil stuff because I can’t help myself.

Indians 6, Marlins 2: José Ramirez hit a solo homer in the first, had an RBI single in the third, and hit a two-run double in the eighth, so I guess he’s pulling out of that slow start. Jefry Rodríguez got the start for Cleveland and allowed only one run on three hits through seven. He didn’t get the win, though, as this was a close one, with the Tribe blowing a 2-1 lead thanks to a Martín Prado homer in the eighth before putting up a four-spot in the bottom half of the inning.

Athletics 6, Rangers 5: Chad Pinder hit a two-out RBI bloop single in the ninth to give the A’s the walkoff win. Earlier he made a diving catch to rob Shin-Soo Choo of a hit leading off the fifth inning when the game was tied at three. Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien homered as the A’s completed a three-game sweep. Nomar Mazara hit two homers for Texas.

Padres 1, Mariners 0: Chris Paddack outdueled Félix Hernández, tossing seven one-hit shutout innings and striking out nine. Ian Kinsler‘s second inning homer was the only run scored in the game, which lasted a crisp two hours and five minutes. It’s appropriate, then, that Hernández passed Don Drysdale on the all-time strikeout list during this one, as the game may as well have taken place in 1968 or something.

Giants 4, Blue Jays 0: Drew Pomeranz tossed six shutout innings and two relievers finished the job, holding the Jays to only two hits on the afternoon. That’s OK, though. Jays fans have their mind on something else now.

Phillies 6, Mets 0:  On Tuesday, Mets reliever Jacob Rhame buzzed Rhys Hoskins‘ tower in a way neither Hoskins nor the Phillies appreciated. Last night Hoskins got his revenge, facing Rhame in the ninth inning, he drove a 1-1 fastball over the left field fence for a two-run home run. He then broke out a slower-than-molasses home run trot:

It was the slowest trip around the bases in baseball since 2015, according to the folks who keep track of such things. Hoskins also walked and tripled.

Diamondbacks 11, Pirates 2: Ketel Marte homered twice, once as a lefty, once as a righty, as the Dbacks romped. They’ve been romping for three straight days, actually, outscoring the Pirates 25-7 in the first three games of this four-game series. It’s getaway day today, so I imagine the Pirates are hoping Arizona just mails it in.

Orioles 4, White Sox 3: Stevie Wilkerson of the Orioles came to bat in the fourth, a ball came close to him, he acted like it hit him, the up directed him to first base and he began walking down the line. The White sox challenged the call, it was overturned, Wilkerson came back to bat and promptly hit a solo homer to give the O’s what turned out to be the winning run. That’ll show ’em.

Red Sox 11, Tigers 4: J.D. Martinez hit two singles, a double and drove in a run, Christian Vázquez had two RBI singles and Eduardo Rodríguez allowed only one run over six as the Sox got an easy win. Haven’t been many of those so far this year.

Astros 7, Twins 1: Justin Verlander gave the Astros the strong start they’ve been needing of late, going eight innings, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out eight. Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley each drove in a pair as those two and Carlos Correa all homered.

Yankees 6, Angels 5: The Angels led 5-0 heading into the sixth inning, didn’t score another run and watched a Yankees comeback capped by D.J. LeMahieu singling in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Andrelton Simmons hit two homers but the Angels lost for the ninth time in ten games.