The evolution of self-congratulation in baseball has been long and storied. Reggie Jackson lingering in the batter’s box. Barry Bonds’s twirls and Sammy Sosa’s bunny hops en route to first base. Earlier this season we had Yoenis Cespedes, who in his third major league game took some liberties while watching a mammoth shot off of Seattle’s Jason Vargas.
It’s that last one that holds the most relevance to today’s story, which features another recent Cuban émigré, in possession of perhaps not the firmest grasp of baseball mores, celebrating his own achievement with a literally over-the-top display that was well-received by neither opponents nor teammates.
When Aroldis Chapman tumbles, people pay attention.
After closing out a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday, Chapman celebrated by doing a double somersault toward the plate. The guy was delighted after getting back on track following consecutive blown saves and an 11.37 ERA over his previous seven outings, and his display of exuberance was unlike any baseball had yet seen. (Watch it here.)
It’s unlikely that Chapman intended to show up the Brewers, but there’s little gray area in baseball when it comes to this sort of thing; rarely is an example of unnecessary showboating so blatant.
“It’s about professionalism . . .” Joey Votto told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s just not how you do things.”
Chapman, of course, has a bit of history when it comes to making curious decisions. There’s the ticket for driving nearly 100 mph with a suspended license. There’s the stripper girlfriend who may or may not have been involved with robbing his hotel room. Both are the mark of a young guy who hasn’t yet achieved full maturity. So, for that matter, is his tumble off the mound. One difference: The first two don’t inspire opposing pitchers to drill him.
Actually, since closers rarely bat, should the Brewers opt to take his celebration the wrong way it’ll likely be one of Chapman’s teammates who ends up paying for his mistake. Which is why members of the Cincinnati clubhouse were so quick to pile on following the game.
“We don’t play like that,” said manager Dusty Baker in an MLB.com report, adding in the Enquirer that “it’ ain’t no joke,” and that “it won’t happen again, ever.”
“You can’t be doing that,” said catcher Ryan Hanigan. Votto, Jay Bruce and pitching coach Bryan Price spoke with Chapman after the game. From John Paul Morosi’s report: “By the time Chapman returned to the clubhouse, the smile he wore on the field was gone. He rested his forehead on a bat as he sat silently at his locker. He declined comment through a team official, saying he was not ‘mentally ready’ to take questions from the media.”
This was important. It told the Brewers that, regardless of how they might respond the following day, the Cincinnati organization was on top of the matter. That kind of thing can make a difference, as evidenced by the fact that Wednesday’s game featured no hit batters. That could have been due to the fact that the score was too close to chance retaliation until the ninth, or that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke spent parts of three seasons as Baker’s teammate on the Dodgers, and understands how his counterpart feels about this kind of thing. Or maybe it’s just that Milwaukee has considerable recent history with its own displays of showboating.
Still, some comfort can be taken from knowing that a situation has been handled; Baker has seen it first-hand. From The Baseball Codes:
In a game in 1996, the Giants trailed Los Angeles 11–2 in the ninth inning, and decided to station first baseman Mark Carreon at his normal depth, ignoring the runner at first, Roger Cedeno. When Cedeno, just twenty-one years old and in his first April as a big-leaguer, saw that nobody was bothering to hold him on, he headed for second—by any interpretation a horrible decision.
As the runner, safe, dusted himself off, Giants third baseman Matt Williams lit into him verbally, as did second baseman Steve Scarsone, left fielder Mel Hall, and manager Dusty Baker. Williams grew so heated that several teammates raced over to restrain him from going after the young Dodgers outfielder. . . .
At second base, Scarsone asked Cedeno if he thought it was a full count, and the outfielder responded that, no, he was just confused. “If he’s that confused, somebody ought to give him a manual on how to play baseball,” said Baker after the game. “I’ve never seen anybody that confused.”
In the end, it was Eric Karros [who had been up to bat when this all went down] who saved Cedeno. When he stepped out of the box, as members of the Giants harangued the bewildered baserunner, Karros didn’t simply watch idly—he turned toward the San Francisco bench and informed them that Cedeno had run without a shred of institutional authority, and that Karros himself would ensure that justice was administered once the game ended. Sure enough, as Cedeno sat at his locker after the game, it was obvious to observers that he had been crying. Though the young player refused to comment, it appeared that Karros had been true to his word. “Ignorance and youth really aren’t any excuse,” said Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza, “but we were able to cool things down.”
If there’s any ongoing resentment toward Chapman among the Brewers, we likely won’t know it until July 20, shortly after the All-Star Game, when the teams meet in Cincinnati. (Then again, if rosters hold, Votto and Ryan Braun will have all kinds of time to discuss the situation as members of the National League squad.)
Unlikely as the eventuality may be, should the Brewers decide to retaliate, and they do it in appropriate fashion, it would be shocking to hear a peep of protest from Baker.