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Latino players vs. The Old Guard

Oct 3, 2013, 11:36 AM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Getty Images

There’s been a lot of talk about Yasiel Puig‘s alleged hot dogging and the Dodgers jumping into the Diamondbacks’ pool. There has been a lot of talk about Brian McCann: Baseball Sheriff and the Braves’ multiple run-ins this year with players they perceived to be acting unprofessionally. Against that backdrop Jorge Arangure writes in Sports on Earth about the impossible-to-ignore fault lines in baseball culture:

Forget about the stats vs. scouts argument: The biggest dissonance in the game right now is between the showmanship of Latino players and the stoicism of the old guard. Some believe it is the fight for baseball’s soul. Some believe that allowing such behavior will irreparably damage the game. It’s a silly argument, of course, but it’s happening.

Arangure argues that, while the culture of baseball and its unwritten rules of deportment are long-standing, they developed in a game dominated by U.S. born players. Mostly white U.S. born players. Given that Latino players now constitute 30% of the baseball population and given that that number is only going up, baseball can and should have to adjust and make room for a different style.

I couldn’t agree more. There is no escaping the fact that almost every controversy about deportment in baseball involves white players explaining to Latino players how to “do things the right way.” Fact is, though, that there is more than one way to carry oneself than the way someone like Brian McCann Chris Carpenter or Tony La Russa believes one should carry oneself. And it’s quite possible to enjoy the game, be exuberant flip bats and do all manner of things that many ballplayers currently consider taboo without also being disrespectful.

  1. garythebat - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Please stop shoe-horning Carpenter and LaRussa into these columns.

    • rhandome - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Carpenter and TLR were two of the most vociferous defenders of The Unwritten Rules; referring to them here makes perfect sense.

      • blacksables - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:07 PM

        So was John McGraw. He’s been dead for 80 years. What’s your point?

      • okwhitefalcon - Oct 3, 2013 at 1:40 PM

        It made perfect sense the first time, it’s predictable and boring the 48th time.

    • dan1111 - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:20 PM

      Sorry, there’s an unwritten rule that they must appear.

  2. temporarilyexiled - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Great topic and points. I’d be interested in hearing about how Latino players police themselves in the leagues where they constitute the vast majority. Is showmanship tolerated, or does it lead to just as many…if not more…fights? We ALL need to get over ourselves. In an environment where the “unwritten” rules are justly laid to rest, the challenge then becomes to draw new lines that allow celebration…without disrespect.

  3. joshtown81 - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    I’m all for a little more showmanship and being excited over doing something spectacular. Having said that, living here in Atlanta, watching Braves games all the time, Mac’s altercation wasn’t about Gomez admiring his home run shot, it was his jawing with Maholm all the way around the base paths that set him off. I’m not saying he handled it well, but I feel like most catchers/teams would’ve stepped up and said something. Gomez was giving Maholm a death stare from the first pitch, and it only escalated.

    On the flip side, it was nice to see some fire from the Braves side, which has been largely absent the last couple of decades.

    • jjschiller - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      Yeah, why we keep classifying Carlos Gomez behavior as “showmanship” and “admiring his work,” is completely beyond me.

      The guy was looking for a fight and he got one. McCann could have acted differently, sure. But he wasn’t just raining on Carlos Gomez’s joyride or something. The guy was looking for a fight, and McCann gave him one.

      But don’t let that get in the way of a great narrative, Craig!

      Wait… doesn’t Craig. “critic of the critics,” pride himself on poking holes in narrative?

      Man am I confused…

      • IdahoMariner - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:23 PM

        i would have thought mccann was awesome if he had just ignored him. or made fun of him, even, for preening and for staring down the pitcher. seriously, gomez, it’s baseball. you are losing this game and this season. get a grip. but no, he just wanted to fight, too. so, no, no winners. only losers.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:03 PM

        You could read the linked article and then you’d know that Arangure does not condone Gomez’s stuff nor does he consider what he did in the class of “showmanship” as we understand it.

    • xmatt0926x - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      ” And it’s quite possible to enjoy the game, be exuberant flip bats and do all manner of things that many ballplayers currently consider taboo without also being disrespectful.”

      Agree. The problem for me arises when it does become disrespectful yet it is totally ignored in the interest of pushing one’s agenda.

      I still am astonished how Brian McCann’s actions keep coming up while what Carlos Gomez did is conveniently ignored. This guy swung and missed a pitch, then did a circle around home plate with a good 8 ft radius while staring down the pitcher while muttering under his breath at him.

      He then hit’s a home run and slowly jogs the bases while again staring down the pitcher the whole way while talking smack. This is showing some kind of zest for the game as opposed to old, stoic white man McCann being too old school? Give me a break.

      Yeah, I could do with a little more flare and emotion in the game but it does cross the line some times, but let’s try to be fair to both sides. Do we need to allow baseball to become a total clown exhibition? Let’s keep some balance.

      • xmatt0926x - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        I want to clarify that I didn’t totally agree with what McCann did. There is blame there, Just let’s give blame to all and not cut and paste what happened to paint our own convenient story.

      • paperlions - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:01 PM

        The reason no one brings up Gomez is simple…his actions aren’t being ignored, it is just that everyone agrees he was being an ass, so there is no need for debate for discussion, AND unlike McCann or any of the Braves, Gomez admitted fault and apologized.

        In contrast, many have lauded what McCann did and made up BS saying that old school catchers would have done the same thing (something clearly not true as there is plenty of baseball history involving showmanship and bad blood and carping between opponents and no other catcher never blocked a runner from home plate during his home run trot)…and no Brave ever admitted fault. They act like they were in the right, when in fact there were just another side of wrong.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      You wrote the post, Craig. If the dude’s confused, it’s because you confused him. Maybe you could clarify for him or something instead of pulling the “you need to go read, I don’t know what you possibly thought I meant” card.

  4. gerryb323 - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    Deport all latin players?! Now we’re talking CC. Garble…barble….football is awesome! Go merica!

  5. wonkypenguin - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Let’s leave the “Nobody look like they’re having any fun or they get punished” rules to the NFL and just enjoy the fact that in competition, taunting and showmanship can be enjoyable. It’s not “war punctuated with board meetings.” Baseball is the greatest team sport there is with the ability to still be individuals. Leave it alone, Old Guard.

  6. misterdreamer119 - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    baseball needs to spice things up. forget the old school stuff. i mean look at brice harper hes apple pie and hes got swagger and fire. i think its more of an age thing but also a geographical thing. like did you grow up in a diverse community.
    if guys are being straight a-holes thats another thing theyll police themselves.

    • djpostl - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      Problem is the league has made it where if you so much as throw in the general direction of a guy warning s are issued etc…

      There’s a fine line between “be exuberant” and “show people up”. The debate won’t ever go aay because some people are going to view each differently.

    • misterj167 - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      Yeah Harper showed a lot of swagger and style laying on the ground at Chez Ravine. Warning track, dude!

      • clemente2 - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        You win the nonsequitar Internet award for the day! Congratulations!

  7. rhmurphy - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    So like, now we have to argue about moral relativism?

    • petey1999 - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      It depends.

  8. vanmorrissey - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    Love the enthusiasm and emotion of the Latino ballplayer. Not the rage displayed by Carlos Zambrano, but the one’s who show they truly ENJOY playing the game. Enough of the stoicism, it’s a game fellas, learn to enjoy it while you can.

  9. lightcleric - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    Sometimes the old guard is too sensitive but sometimes they’re right.. I remember a number of years back Lastings Millage got excited and high-fived his Mets home crowd after his first career HR and a lot of people gave him flak. Didn’t see the big deal with that, nor did I see the big deal with Jose Fernandez getting caught up in his first HR. Braves were in the wrong there and I say that as a Braves fan living in Atlanta. There’s also something to be said for showboating at home vs on the road where players don’t want to be embarrassed in “their house”.

    What I do understand is people getting upset with things like Puig completely ignoring Luis Gonzalez until McGuire chewed him out, or the incident with Carlos Gomez(who to his credit admitted he was wrong and apologized) although Reed Johnson had no business throwing a punch like that.

    There’s getting fired up and then there’s being disrespectful. Baseball needs to lighten up but the Latino players also need to recognize MLB is not and probably never will be the flashy league the NBA/NFL can be.

    • lightcleric - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:25 PM

      Meant to say NFL “used” to be pre-Goodell, sorry, I suck at proofing :(

  10. makeham98 - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    LaRussa well represents the old school. You never, ever, saw one of his players flip the needle after roiding up.

  11. ohioteamsusuallysuck - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    30% Latino??? Seems to me it’s 30% that isn’t Latino in baseball

  12. sictransitchris - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I always perceived it as more of a youth/maturity thing than a race thing.

  13. Old Gator - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    I much enjoyed that article, and he makes a lot of great points. Of course, he did miss a few, one of which is that McCann and his helpmate with the juvenile temperament, Chris Johnson, are both so clenched that either of them could shatter a broom handle with their sphincters.

    • ptfu - Oct 3, 2013 at 8:33 PM

  14. moogro - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    They show each other up in basketball all the time with hotdogging and flashy dunks. Basketball fans and players hate that style of play, and it often leads to bench-clearing brawls from players nominating themselves to protect the sanctity of the game.

    Just kidding. Really. Teams just do it to each other over and over throughout the game, and fans and players love it. Weird, huh?

    • recoveringcubsfan - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      Nobody cares about the NBA dude. When baseball becomes a me-first-and-only sport, nobody will care about it, either.

  15. nobody78 - Oct 3, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    I love watching Puig play, but MAN he would annoy me if I were playing against him. That would be just as true if he were white.

  16. gatorprof - Oct 3, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    The generalizations between US born white players and Latin players is too much of a broad brush. You could be old school, white and brash….see Pete Rose. Ditto for old school, Latin and brash….see Pedro Martinez. There are Latin old schoolers who are nothing but class, see Rivera, Pujols, etc.

    People are free to behave how they want, but the “rules” of baseball continue to be enforced. If someone want to behave like a jerk and jaw at people, he will probably be hit in the ribs with a 95 mph fastball.

    • IdahoMariner - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:16 PM

      You had me until you implicitly endorsed the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to physically attack someone for talking.

      • km9000 - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        Sounded more like a statement of fact than an endorsement.

      • gatorprof - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        It was just a statement of fact, not an endorsement.

        I don’t think that Yasiel Puig did anything last night to “earn” getting plunked. I do think that it was likely intentional.

        It is the way that the game is played and probably will continue to be played unless Roger Goodell switches jobs.

    • bigdicktater - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:25 PM

      I found an 85 mph curve to a lefthand batters nuts worked just as well.

  17. tgthree - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    You write, “…it’s quite possible to enjoy the game, be exuberant flip bats and do all manner of things that many ballplayers currently consider taboo without also being disrespectful.”

    I’m not saying I necessarily disagree with you, but I feel like this statement is just logically inconsistent. What’s considered “respectful” or “disrespectful” is determined, in almost all instances (even outside of baseball), by some sort of convention. It’s why, for instance, certain gestures can be considered celebratory in one culture and offensive in another.

    In baseball, the convention is that flipping bats and admiring home runs is disrespectful. Right, wrong, or indifferent, that’s the way it is. So I don’t see how anyone can say “that isn’t disrespectful” as if there’s some objective criteria for that. If the players think it is, then it is.

    I get the point you’re making about how there’s a new group of players with a different opinion of what’s respectful and what’s not, but this wouldn’t be the only instance where “respectfulness” is determined by nothing more than tradition. And that’s not intrinsically a bad thing.

    Again, I’m not sure I have a stance here one way or the other, but I do object to this notion that there’s a way to externally say what is or should be respectful or not on a baseball field.

  18. IdahoMariner - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Tony LaRussa gets mentioned because he thinks it’s ok to physically attack someone, endangering their health, life and career, because he has decided they broke an unwritten rule.

    I am infinitely more comfortable with someone admiring their home run or celebrating stealing a base than with someone getting plunked because of a real or perceived slight. I don’t want to see the game devolve into 50% celebrating with only 50% actual game…but I also get tired of players wasting time enforcing their unwritten rules, usually in a violent manner.

    Outside of the stadium, you are expected to handle it if someone hurts your feelings or gets showy about a personal accomplishment, not launch a projectile at their head (or torso, or leg) at upwards of 85 mph. Yes, people fight outside the stadium, but the point is, it often has legal and social consequences – and should, because that helps us all enjoy a safer environment. Brian McCann “defending the honor” of his pitcher/team because Gomez enjoyed his home run is no better than a gang member who resorts to violence because a rival gang member had the temerity to drive in “his” neighborhood; or those wackjobs who fight any guy who looks at their girlfriend.

    There’s no threat here, people, it’s just a guy being a bit of a tool about hitting a ball really, really far. Or a guy really, really pleased with himself for stealing a base. If he celebrates by trying to fight you or throw something at you, cool, defend yourself. If celebrating starts making games interminable, fine, the league will probably make some rule about excessiveness. Otherwise, just play the f-ing game.

  19. earpaniac - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I’m far from racist, or even the other side’s “all minorities are discriminated against” stance, to me people are people until they prove otherwise. But isn’t the whole “Latino players are into showmanship” and “white people are stoic” thing just a politically correct, different way of being racist? The showmanship thing just sounds like the new generation’s “Hot-blooded Latino” thing we used to hear. I honestly hope people read this, I’d like to think what other people think.

    • clemente2 - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      You are right—many people object to the showmanship as code for “I do not like these uppity people not like me”. Not all, but many. StLouis, for instance. All his peeves run on racial/ethnic fault lines, though he does not perceive it.

      So, good thinking—you should be dubious when complaints run on such lines, and think if the claimed problem is really a problem.

  20. papichulo55 - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Whats the problem? Athletic competition is all about conflict and resolution. Let the ballplayers figure this out. Baseball wants to be a global sport, and changes are to be expected. I will be entertained by it all. I love watching games in the Bronx and Santo Domingo. Big difference, but it aint that difficult to love both.

  21. tvguy22 - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Those damn white guys again.

    • clemente2 - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      Yes, society treats them so badly. Always has. Shed a tear for them, Argentina.

  22. recoveringcubsfan - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    I believe the Simpsons already explained this. Like elephants, some Puigs are just jerks.

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