Showboating

Mets Finally Come Down With Mejia Fatigue

Baseball is more of a look-at-me game than ever before, with players finding constantly seeking new ways to thump their chests on television. After a season of Puig and Gomez and Fernando Freaking Rodney, somebody with some pull finally decided to say something about it.

On Friday night, Mets closer Jenrry Mejia increased the amplification on his postgame histrionics that were already writ large (dude moowalked off the mound to celebrate an eighth-inning strikeout against the Yankees) to the degree that his manager, Terry Collins, finally had to say something.

On his best days Mejia’s act is overblown, but it wasn’t until he pulled out a new move against the Nationals—pantomiming a fishing rod, casting a line toward Washington’s Ian Desmond, who had just struck out to end the game, then reeling him in—that he crossed his manager’s line.

Those who defend such displays intone that it’s just boys being boys and what’s wrong with showing a little emotion. Fair enough. This is why Puig, with his bat flips and his insouciance, has skated thus far. Those flips are just a thing he does almost mechanically, and the opponent (at least so far) appears to be strictly incidental to his histrionics.

But it’s easy to see how things could get personal after Mejia cast his line. This wasn’t an unrestrained display of emotion following a hard-fought victory. This was a calculated display aimed at drawing attention to himself at the expense of the guy he had just beaten. Most big leaguers would like to think they’re above that kind of thing. And most of them are. Desmond claimed not to have seen it, and good for him for taking the high road, although Denard Span told the Washington Post that “it wasn’t called for.”

Collins himself stepped in, telling the closer to back off the shtick. According to various Twitter feeds, the closer agreed. The Nats won on Saturday and Sunday, so we haven’t seen whether Collins’ words got through, or what toning it down looks like to Mejia.

 

 

 

Bat flips, Showboating

Flipping Out: The Response to What is now Officially a Common Occurrence

Puig-MadBum

So baseball has come to this: the Puig vs. the anti-Puig, forces within the game tugging in opposite directions of what is considered to be acceptable behavior. Puig need not even be present, representing as he does the New World Order of celebration for celebration’s sake, in the face of the game’s long tradition of shunning such displays.

On Friday, in a game at Dodger Stadium, Puig played himself, flipping his bat with no small degree of nonchalance following a sixth-inning home run. The role of anti-Puig was played by Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner, the man who had pitched the baseball.

Mad Bum did not like Puig’s act. Even as the ball flew toward the left field bleachers, Bumgarner strolled down the mound toward the third base line, and waited. When Puig passed, he gave him a piece of his mind. Puig responded accordingly. (Watch it here.)

Bumgarner, it appears, is late to the game on the whole New World Order thing. On the Puig Scale, the bat flip barely registered. The flip didn’t say “I’m so great for hitting that home run against you” so much as simply “I’m so great.” Whether you’re a new-school proponent saying that Puig and his ilk are exactly what baseball needs, or an old-school curmudgeon saying that the likes of Puig will be the ruination of Cartwright’s game, there’s no denying one thing: Whatever he did had nothing to do with Madison Bumgarner.

Puig flips because Puig flips. In the current landscape of home-plate scrums following interleague victories in June, this is simply the way things are. Puig’s actions have not been corrected, because the groundswell to correct them simply does not exist. The Baseball Gods have spoken.

The unwritten rules exist in flux, after all, and adapt to the times. This has always been the case. Once, Don Drysdale could knock down Willie Mays for digging into the batter’s box, and Mays would respond with nothing more severe than, “I better not do that next time.”

A pitcher with Drysdale’s mentality would not survive long in today’s game, shunned for his actions not just by fellow players but by the league itself. Not so Puig.

I am a fan of neither his bat flips, nor his attitude in general. But I am cognizant enough to recognize a shifting tide, and what Puig is doing now falls within baseball’s mainstream. He himself has pushed it there.

So when Madison Bumgarner gets upset with that sort of action, as if that sort of action was somehow directed toward him, he’s simply wrong. It’s Puig being Puig, and, like it or not, it’s now baseball being baseball.

Bumgarner, for his part, already had the best possible response at his disposal. He and the Giants beat Los Angeles, 3-1.

Progress.