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Ballparks are adding spaces for players to let out their anger

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Remember that time David Ortiz destroyed the bullpen phone in the dugout at Camden Yards? It was an understated dangerous moment for everyone else in the Red Sox dugout. An angry 6’3, 230-pound man was furiously repeatedly swinging a bat within feet of his teammates against the phone, causing the bat to break into shards.

What if there were a designated space for players to let out their anger? Let’s say, a safe space? Some ballparks are doing just that, as James Wagner of the New York Times reports.

Miller Park has installed an Everlast heavy bag in the bathroom of the visitor’s dugout. Mets second baseman Neil Walker said, “I’ve beaten that bag up a few times,” referring to some frustrating moments against the Brewers as a member of the Pirates.

Turner Field, too, has a punching bag, installed in the visitor’s dugout tunnel. Wagner spoke to clubhouse manager John Holland, who said, “We’re trying to minimize the damage.”

Wagner notes that players have other methods of dealing with frustration. Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur prefers to throw his bat at a wall. Cubs starter John Lackey not only yells at himself, but has taken his anger out on tables and chairs for which he’s had to pay clubhouse assistants.

Other players, like Yoenis Cespedes, are more zen. “I go sit down and think about what I did wrong so that the next time I can do better,” Cespedes said.

Athletes taking their anger out in violent, unhealthy ways is nothing new, so it’s great that some steps are being taken to reactively deal with it. However, my other response to Wagner’s article is: why are men so angry? It’s not just athletes. Men overwhelmingly commit the majority of violent crimes. That may be, in part, because we teach boys not to show weakness, and to respond to perceived slights by violence. Why do you think it’s embedded in baseball’s unwritten rules that if a batter shows up a pitcher, that pitcher should retaliate by throwing a 95 MPH fastball at the offender’s ribs?

What if, instead, we taught boys that it’s okay to feel sad or embarrassed or angry, and that it’s okay to talk about it? To that point, we have also socially demonized seeking help for mental health. What if we taught them that violence, no matter what — whether it’s directed at a person or an inanimate object — is an unhealthy response?

Maybe ballparks wouldn’t need to install punching bags in bathrooms to that angry players don’t put their teammates’ safety at risk, the way Ortiz did.

Giants nearing deal with Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin
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The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.

Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.

The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.

In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.