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Gabe Kapler on joking/hazing/bullying in baseball

Nov 19, 2013, 11:09 AM EDT

Gabe Kapler

We talked a bit last week about hazing and bullying in Major League Baseball. Mostly we talked about how people don’t talk about it much.  One of the reasons people don’t talk about it much is because there are not any clear lines between pranks, hazing, bullying and any number of other things that can be either malignant or benign, depending on the spirit and motivation for the incident and how it is received by its target.

Into that wades Gabe Kapler, who has plenty of first hand experience with all of that. He has a thoughtful column up over at Fox Sports.com today in which the gray area of all of that is explored, along with some fun and illuminating anecdotes.  One takeaway is pretty key:

Although I vowed to myself that I would never be the ringleader of any similar incident, I began to authentically connect with the idea that through ribbing, hazing and light illumination of faults, coming of age can occur.

In some cases, this can even speed up player development as toughness off the field can spill over into plate appearances. No way to quantify, of course, but I can attest to feeling more confident after understanding banter and thereby feeling more connected to my teammates; the chest puffed out slightly further is always beneficial on the field. The confidence is derived through fitting in societally, being accepted. I’ve finally fulfilled my rite of passage; now I belong. Now I can go play and know my teammates are beneath me, partially supporting my weight.

That’s key because it makes a good argument for the sort of bonding rituals that, in some instances, can be taken as hazing or even bullying but which are useful if everyone involved understands what’s going on.

It’s also key because Kapler’s particular story involves being messed with after some youthful and regrettable self-promotion on his part.  His experience goes a long way towards explaining why baseball’s culture is what it is and why you don’t see many self-promoters in the game. Or, when you do, why they are so often singled out as “problems.”

Anyway: good read. With some thoughts to keep in mind as the larger conversation about bullying and hazing works its way toward Major League Baseball, as it inevitably will.

  1. The Dangerous Mabry - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    I always appreciate when a guy takes the time to provide insight that legitimately can only come from having been there. And Kapler is thoughtful and clear in his article. I can understand that a little good-natured ribbing might help break down barriers and allow for better relations between players.

    What I don’t understand is why there seems to be a need to “break a guy down” before a team will get behind them. It’s almost as if the sentiment is “We’ll support you, but only once you acknowledge that we control the relationship and not the other way around.” From an outsider’s perspective it seems like veteran insecurity. If you welcomed the hotshot rookie and supported him, rather than breaking him down to try to build him back up the way you want him to behave, would that be so bad? Maybe it would, but it just seems unnecessary to me.

    Perhaps I’m misinterpreting the whole thing. Either way, this is a good read, and gives a nice insight into the culture, whether or not you agree with it.

    • Kevin Gillman - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      Isn’t it the same way with a fraternity though?

    • dinofrank60 - Nov 19, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      Veteran insecurity? This whole episode leads me to believe that guys may be the most insecure creatures on this planet.

  2. tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:34 AM

    It’s not a hard concept….teasing is bullying when the butt of the joke doesn’t like it and you keep doing it.

    So teasing between colleagues is all well and good unless you’re too stupid to see someone’s line.

    • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      Do NOT touch the buckfutter!

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:43 PM

        Precisely.

  3. deathmonkey41 - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Tired of hearing about “Bullying”. While future terrorists are living in squalor and ducking between decimated buildings to avoid being blown up by circling drones overhead, we are teaching our children that anything they don’t like or feel comfortable with is bullying. The complete sissification of America continues.

    • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM

      “The complete sissification of America “

      er…what?

      Oy. Vey. I never understand you people. Citizens of one of the most forward thinking nations on Earth. At one time a nation that lead the way in human rights, civil law, and personal liberty. Through those very processes, a nation that became the most desirable on the planet. And somehow, by doing the exact opposite of what made you all so worthy, you’ve dropped well back of nations that came later, did what you did, but took it all further. And, to counteract this, you espouse more of what you’re doing wrong?

      /scratches head in honest bewilderment
      /goes back to ogling your women

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        We have a lot of regressives in this country.

        I assume it’s because they just aren’t happy, and they think people were happier in simpler times so they long to go back to that idealized place.

        Plus they hate minorities and they would be happier if that was still ok too.

        But his longing to live in a war zone to toughen people up seemed a new dimension, but what do I know?

        Although I did like him describing his fear of terrorists from other countries, and then disdainfully falling the rest of the country “sissies”.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        Isn’t it obvious that a goodly portion of the reasons why certain nations are doing the “pile of rubble ducking” is BECAUSE they DIDN’T “sissify”?*

        Lack of liberty, lack of basic human rights, poor civil law enforcement, reactionarism, dogmatic adherence to outdated practices/religion**: in short, doing damn near everything wrong your country got right early on.

        * Of course, piling foreign meddling by increasingly oil and resource hungry superpowers certainly didn’t help!

        ** In a great twist of irony, this is precisely what your nation seems to want to do now!

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        /goes back to ogling your women

        You should spread your ogling to other countries as well, variety being the spice of life and all that.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        Thank Dog for The American 5th Amendment. I don’t have to answer this.

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        You’re Canadian, it doesn’t apply!

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        I don’t have diplomatic immunity so I’m sayin’ nuthin’.

      • deathmonkey41 - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:00 PM

        Hey, you can jump on the latest craze and cry “bullying” at every turn, but I won’t be there with you. I guess eventually the next “The War On [enter latest cause]” will appear and everyone can beat their chests about that.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:29 PM

        No one’s asking you to be anywhere with us. We just disagree with your stance is all. What’s more, none of us seem to be calling this a “War on anything”. Personally, I’m more a “reasoned debate” kind of guy. And, as far as this issue goes, your reasoning is terrible.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        I betcha he joins in if it’s a War on Deathmonkeys. As I think of it, that would be rather sad. I’m opposed to a War on Deathmonkeys. It’s not right. It’s all grinchy and stuff.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        I’m for it. I say, wage wars on Deathmonkeys. Its a way to toughen them up. America doesn’t want any nancy-boy Deathmonkeys. America doesn’t NEED and nancy-boy Deathmonkeys!

        We make them spend a few months dodging the drones, eating dirt, living off road kill and scrapple. It’ll do them some good. They’ll be so tough even their snot will have muscles. Then we can truly say “This country doesn’t tolerate or harbour any sissified Deathmonkeys! We waged war on them and beat them like the Canadians beat us in 1812! USA! USA!”

        Or something.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:52 PM

        LOL When I first read that, I thought it said “snapple” instead of “scrapple” and I thought: why does it always have to be about tea?

        Anyway, don’t hate. Deathmonkey’s is people. They might be soft, but I won’t have you bullying them. Put down your blubber club there. All I am saaaaaayyyyyyinnnnng, is give peace a chaaaaaaance.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        Commie.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        I know you are, but what am I?

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:07 PM

        I’m a pinko liberal. There’s a difference. We pinko’s drive faster than you commies.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:09 PM

        Nobody drives as badly as the Quebecois…except maybe Kansans.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:09 PM

        Elderly Kansans

        /shudder

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:48 PM

        Sarah Palin thinks deathmonkeys are dispatched by Obamacare to kill elderly people.

        And I have to be honest….I’m not sure I would disapprove of that system. It would at least be entertaining.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:54 PM

        The mind boggles at the thought of flying Deathmonkey-drones unleashing their arsenal on the elderly drivers who get in my way on Florida roads. I like this idea. Your Ms. Palin has the occasional good plan, y’know. Y’all should elect her to something.

        Hey Deathmonkey! Y’all fling poop? If so, get your arse in the air and deal with some of these people! Warning shots across the bows of their SUVs and Grand Marquis. If they persist in driving too slow and staying in my way, ramming speed! Their sissfied driving will not be tolerated!

      • deathmonkey41 - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:09 PM

        tbuckfutter- you hit every weak talking point except mentions of Fox News and some hilarious utterance about “Teabaggers”. I’m kind of disappointed in you. You’re slipping.

        Oh wait, I’m sorry, by saying you’re slipping- is that bullying?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:17 PM

        I guess eventually the next “The War On [enter latest cause]” will appear and everyone can beat their chests about that.

        You mean like the absurdity of a certain newstation that likes to complain about the apparent “War on Christmas?”

    • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      Wah! Wah! I’m tired of hearing about bullying! Wah! Wah!

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      While future terrorists are living in squalor and ducking between decimated buildings to avoid being blown up by circling drones overhead, we are teaching our children that anything they don’t like or feel comfortable with is bullying.

      You do realize that many of those kids who “complain about bullying” are ex post facto accounts after the kids have either killed themselves or shot up schools, right? Are they being too “sissy” for you? What exactly would you have those kids do?

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:20 PM

        Man up. Or sack up. Or cowboy up.

        Or whatever other dumbass buzzword is popular at the time of his advice-giving.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM

        I love that none of those euphemisms involve my ovaries or fallopian tubes.

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        I’ll euphemism your ovaries and fallopian tubes.

      • deathmonkey41 - Nov 19, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        I’m not saying that bullying doesn’t exist. I’m saying not every effin’ thing in the world is bullying.

    • moogro - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      I wouldn’t want bullying on top of all that.

    • nategearhart - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      Logic fail, strawman, AND a good dose of irony. Well done.

    • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      I love that your “proof” that we are sissified includes reference to us bullying other peoples by attacking them with drones. Also, I reject your admiration of future terrorists as tough badasses. I do not aspire to that. If you do — if you think terrorists are worthy of emulating — I worry about your worldview. FYI, the American Dream is not to live in a war zone; it’s to achieve a level of comfort thanks to hard work and equal opportunity — that’s the opposite of living in a war zone. So, are you unAmerican, or what?

    • cohnjusack - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      Ways you’re more likely to die than terrorism:

      -Lightening
      -Toddlers
      -The Police

      etc.

      I’m not making this up.
      http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/09/youre-68-times-more-likely-to-be-hit-and-killed-by-lightning-than-murdered-by-a-terrorist.html

      Terrorism is awful, frightening and extremely infrequent.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:25 PM

        Which is why we spent a billion dollars training low wage workers to spot twitchy people at airports.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        Ways you’re more likely to die than terrorism:

        -Toddlers

        This is where OG steps in and says children are awful, right?

        /s

        Good point cohnjusack

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        And if I’m not mistaken the only ATTEMPTS at terrorism since 9/11 haven’t even been foiled by the TSA.

      • nolanwiffle - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        I knew that listening to anything composed by Sting could make your ears bleed, but can it really kill you?

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        -The Police

        What? I’ve never heard of anyone dying from listening to Sting!

      • clemente2 - Nov 19, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        historio–I understand your point about the TSA, but it is likely part of the cause of reduced attacks is the knowledge there is an effort. Once and if it becomes irrefutably clear the effort is ineffective, the terrorists may again explore using airports/planes. For now, the ‘waste’ is either a product of normal human inefficiency (which can be worked on at the margins) or comingled with the effective ‘work’ such that you cannot eliminate one without the other going, too. Its the old marketing truism: half of what you spend is wasted, but what half?

    • cohnjusack - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      we are teaching our children that anything they don’t like or feel comfortable with is bullying

      I know! It’s so sad! America is a much better place when we allow people to punch kids in the stomach and call them “faggot” when any time they express their interest in anything non-football related.

      And no, we are not teaching out children that anything they don’t like it bullying. This is called “making up an argument” to win it. That’s like saying “I’m against guns. Clearly all these pro NRA folks want babies in the face.” It’s really sad.

      • cohnjusack - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:45 PM

        Odd. This post did not go up at 1:32, which is why I re-posted it below. Perhaps a cuss word in there means it has to be approved?

        Someone, anyone…how does HBT comments work now when bad ol words are included in the comment?

    • cohnjusack - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      we are teaching our children that anything they don’t like or feel comfortable with is bullying

      I know! It’s so sad! America is a much better place when we allow people to punch kids in the stomach and call them “[anti-gay slur to get around new curse-word filter]” any time they express their interest in anything non-football related.

      And no, we are not teaching out children that anything they don’t like it bullying. This is called “making up an argument” to win it. That’s like saying “I’m against guns. Clearly all these pro NRA folks want babies in the face.” It’s really sad.

      • tfbuckfutter - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        I want babies in the face.

        That sounds cuter than puppies in the face.

      • cohnjusack - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:54 PM

        A’hem

        That should read “shoot babies in the face”.

        Remember kids, your point will come across much better when you include all of the words.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:18 PM

        Mad Lib Tuesday!

      • deathmonkey41 - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Yawn.

  4. cohnjusack - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    I had heard on many occasions this season that Mike Matheny stamped out all rookie hazing with the Cardinals. Rookies will not carry veterans luggage, they won’t be made to put on dresses, they will not be a part of any hazing and they will be treated as nothing other than full fledged members of a Major League Baseball Team.

    Seeing as baseball is a collection of most 25-35 year old millionaires, why is Matheny doing this so abnormal that it is the subject of frequent discussion? I could totally understand (but not endorse) hazing if it were a bunch of 12-year-olds playing. But 30 year old men making the rookie carry his luggage is just kind of pathetic.

    • Francisco (FC) - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:53 PM

      Well, in their defense, some of them act like 12-year-olds from time to time.

      • clemente2 - Nov 19, 2013 at 3:47 PM

        So do the veterans, so that is not a distinguishing point.

  5. raysfan1 - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    When I was in the USAF, it was always part if my orientation to new guys that there is something to worry about if the others in the squadron were NOT hassling them over something. Teasing and harmless pranks are part of the bonding process. There is usually even a joke behind the pilots’ call signs. There is, however, a big difference between that and harming property, injuring people, or even verbal abuse.

  6. dinofrank60 - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Don’t bother people that don’t want to be bothered.

  7. dinofrank60 - Nov 19, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    What I don’t understand is why there seems to be a need to “break a guy down” before a team will get behind them. It’s almost as if the sentiment is “We’ll support you, but only once you acknowledge that we control the relationship and not the other way around.”

    Man, I wish I’d said this!

  8. hbk72777 - Nov 19, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Hey, just because you hazed the Sweathogs , it doesn’t make it right

  9. halfthemoney - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    So, is there a sabermetric that evaluates just how much impact “rites of passage” have on performance?

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