Count Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt among the traditionalists wanting to preserve baseball as a game of respect between opponents.
“Why do so many players today feel the need to embellish their success with some sort of hand signal to the dugout?” the former Phillies third baseman writes. “What got more attention in last year’s post-season than a bat toss by Jose Bautista? Pointing to the sky is child’s play compared to that moment in the post-season on national TV. A flagrant disrespect of the opponent like that would have gotten somebody hurt back in the day.”
Schmidt wrote the article for the Associated Press in response to the ongoing debate over sluggers flipping bats and pitchers showing up strike-out victims. He writes:
Baseball demands a certain level of dignity toward the opponent. It’s part of its charm. Sure, you have to be tough and stand up for yourself, but only when the line is crossed. I’ve been there, I’ve charged the mound, I’ve been in several brawls, they aren’t fun.
So what are today’s players asking? They say why can’t baseball be like football, basketball, and hockey, where emotion on the field brings the fans more into it. Why can’t they spice up their uniforms with Day-Glo accessories, or wear company logos, or use crazy-colored gloves and bats? Actually, last I looked, they do all of these.
It sells licensed products, but it also is the sign of the times. They are free to display their passion and emotion with certain boundaries, and many do. But let it be noted, there are still those who subscribe to the notion of respect, so be mindful. The game is hard, very hard, and being disliked by the opponent makes it even harder.
A debate carried over from last season into spring training regarding the respect players owe each other in the traditionalist’s game.
Reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper says that emotion “makes the game fun” and Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez concurs. “I don’t know in what book they say, you should not watch the ball when you hit it,” Gomez points out. “Or you should not get excited when you strike someone out. They don’t say that in the book.” But Angels star Mike Trout and Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, like Schmidt, strongly condemned the move toward more showboating.