Old School Rules, New School Culture
Baseball has a rift. For years it was unseen, mainly because it barely existed. The “old school” unwritten rules of baseball dominated the mindset of its players. Run hard to first every at bat. No showing up the pitcher. No player is above the team. The rooks have to pay their dues. These rules were followed by most, and maybe every now and then, one player would rail against this unspoken code, just to be swiftly corrected by a heady veteran or a 90 mph fastball to the back.
Now, the sports landscape is dominated by players who have unimaginable combinations of pure athleticism and technical skill. LeBron James and Calvin Johnson are just a few that transcend the marriage of natural gifts and learned ability. In baseball, there are a few players who show this gift. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are certainly headed there. Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Cabrera ring a bell. With these amazing talents come diverse and intriguing personalities, that if allowed to flourish, would be wildly entertaining to behold.
Yet these players are confined by baseball’s archaic rubric. “Play the game the right way”, as the grizzled vets are apt to say. I’m all for committing to the team dynamic, especially since there’s so many pieces involved in a baseball game…but why can’t these players show some pizazz while they do it? Why can’t there be some flashes of personality? Why is that so hard for baseball to handle? A player can crush a beautiful, majestic home run…but if he looks at it, he can prepare to be drilled on his next at bat. Case in point, take Tuesday’s game between the Nationals and Braves. Harper hits a DEEP home run (that ball would’ve been out of any park, including Yellowstone) and what does he get for his trouble? Drilled in the thigh the next at bat. Then the Braves had the audacity to tweet smack (“Clown move bro.”) which launched a tweet battle between both teams’ PR departments. Perfect juxtaposition of old school vs. new school. Horrible old school that someone resorted to drilling him, hilarious new school that a tweet war started over it.
Highly Paid People Get To Do This.
Baseball is fighting a losing battle against being relevant. With every vet that stifles the outburst of individuality that fresh new talent brings to baseball, the further baseball falls behind giants like football and basketball. If baseball doesn’t correct this soon (and by soon I mean, in this generation of players), there won’t be a baseball to worry about. It’s OK to believe in the powers of team unity and having respect for the game…but it’s also OK to have a face of the game (baseball sorely needs one) and players that have fun antics that make you want to watch them. Baseball needs the team dynamic, but it needs a little Tony Plush (a.k.a. Nyjer Morgan) too.
I just wonder if the old school of baseball will ever let that happen.
Tell Chris what you think:
Chris is a Indianapolis-based writer who is both old school and new school. With a name like Swagger Jackson, he has to be.