It was inevitable that, after the league office built a marketing campaign around celebrating players doing celebratory things, the envelope would get pushed. In the link above, it was a kid who didn’t draw much notice given that he was playing in the Single-A Florida State League. Yesterday it was Marcel Ozuna, who carries a somewhat more robust public profile.
Just a couple of years ago, somebody stopping in the middle of his home run trot to take a pantomime selfie, especially during the postseason, would have earned a brushback pitch—at minimum—in future at-bats. When Ozuna did it yesterday (and when half the Braves roster got into the act after Adam Duvall homered three batters later) … well, we’ll have to wait until next season for a response from the vanquished Reds, but anything they offer beyond a shrug of the shoulders will be a surprise.
Really, what else could we expect? This surely isn’t what baseball had in mind when it officially blessed on-field celebrations, but they must have known that when the outlandish becomes normalized, players will search for the next extreme. Now we have touchdown dances mid-trot.
Within that context, it’s difficult to argue with Ozuna. Or with Fernando Tatis … or Manny Machado … or Luis Robert … or Tatis AGAIN, all of whom did some celebrating of their own yesterday.
These guys and the rest of their cohorts are bringing life to the sport, and there’s lots of benefit to that. If an angry Reds pitcher decides to exact some revenge on Ozuna next season, or a member of the Cardinals takes some issue with Tatis today, we’ll deal with that fallout then. Chances are, they’ve already forgotten everything, in which case baseball will get along just fine.
It’s the possibility that a pitcher hasn’t forgotten that would throw the entire machine off kilter. Because how does baseball as an institution handle somebody feeling disrespected by a celebration that the league itself has tacitly endorsed? Suspension has always been the discipline of of choice (with the latest example coming just last week, against Robert’s White Sox), but the inherent tension between old-school pitchers behaving in traditional ways, and the new-school mentality telling them to just get over it, is not going away. (To be fair, some pitchers fully embrace swag of their own.)
MLB, of course, could easily legislate this level of celebration out of existence if that was truly its concern. But it’s not. The league likes the attention, not to mention that there’s nothing inherently bad about guys getting their fun on.
Which leaves the holdout ranks of red-asses to adapt or get suspended. Something will eventually give, it’s just a matter of when.