Friday, February 26, 2016

What is more self-aggrandizing in baseball? Bat flips or retirement tours?

One of the cool things about having a lot of baseball fan Facebook friends is being able to test out ideas quickly. Like my theory of baseball celebrations. I had a hunch that if you did a Venn diagram of MLB fans who disliked Jose Bautista's bat flip and the like, and who say things like "Act like you've been there before," there would be very little overlap.

Generally speaking, the types of people who dislike individual in-game celebrations such as flamboyant home run trots and closers going nuts at the end of the game say things like "Act like you've been there before." (But many of those players haven't been there before, like Joey Bats finally making the playoffs after a long career. Thus, their happiness.) and "Play the game the right way." (Although left unsaid is who gets to define what the "right way" is.) 
These comments mean: Don't show any emotion. Don't draw attention to yourself. Be as sober as a church mouse. (In case you haven't figured it out already, I am NOT in this category!  I like players being human and showing human emotions! Unless it involves celebrations against the Yankees, and then I'm totally opposed. Heh!)

Anyhow, my theory (really, a hunch at first) was that these traditionalists would be the kinds of people who would be fans of players who have had long enough careers to do retirement ceremonies. It seemed to me that somebody who would be excited over, say, Derek Jeter's retirement tour, would be the type of person who liked Jeter because he Played the Game the Right Way. On the other hand, those of us, like myself, who like the spontaneous show of emotions in the game may not like the way that these retirement tours have been so formalized and commodified. 

As I wrote in this space (and got tons of grief for) in 2014, I was sick of Jeter's retirement tour by the All-Star Break, And my disdain for it only grew as it got even more over the top over the year.

We recently had a funny discussion on Facebook about it, over the fact that Mark, the president of my running club, who also works as a background actor, was in one of the Jeter commercials. When Josh, another background actor and our club's publicity director, told me that, I asked if El Presidente was in the Gatorade "My Way" ad. Josh said that wasn't the ad, and described it this way: "There was another commercial that showed [Jeter] even more reverent if you could believe that." As soon as I heard that description, I immediately knew he was talking about the Nike "Re2pect" commerical. So if you thought those were real fans in the stands, I've got news for you: they were actors, and at least one of them -- our friend Mark -- is a Mets fan! Heh.

Anyhow, that is basically what I found on Facebook -- that people who like the one thing generally don't like the other, and vice versa. And, at any rate, very few Yankee fans want to cheer for David Ortiz in his last game at Yankee Stadium. I predict that Ortiz will face a bigger public backlash on his tour, especially if either he or the Sox are doing poorly.

The thing of it is, these retirement tours not only about worshiping a particular player, but they also can hurt team goals in a way that a bat flip never did. If Joe Girardi had been able to move Jeter down the lineup, would they have made the playoffs? Maybe so. But instead, the team was all about a season2watch, not a team2watch.

The two retirements I admire the most are Paul O'Neill's and Mike Mussina's. Savvy Yankee fans serenaded O'Neill in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series (even Red Sox fan Sully from Sully Baseball was impressed by that.) And Mussina, of course, decided it would be his last year, left it all on the field, won 20 games, and then announced his retirement.

What's the showbiz adage? Always leave them wanting more? These retirement tours do the opposite. They make you sick of the player. And they've become pretty joyless affairs over time. The last truly "wow" gift was Rob Gardenhire saving Twins' bats broken from hitting off Mariano Rivera, and having them made into a rocking chair. After that, the gifts have become boring, as have the ceremonies in each city. And I'm sure I will rolling my eyes all year at Ortiz's farewell. Oy.

Where do you stand on this issue? Tell us about it!


Uncle Mike said...

I have the perfect response for when Ortiz is introduced at Yankee Stadium II: Yankee Fans should get up and silently walk out, head for the concession stand or the bathroom, and not return until the National Anthem.

The Fenway Sports Group, having already seen this with the recent Liverpool 77th minute protest, will get the message, and so will Ortiz. He's full of himself (among other things), but he's not stupid. He'll understand that we're saying he's forfeited any right to our re34ect.

The Omnipotent Q said...

I'm betting most Yankee fans will be respectful towards David Ortiz at his last game at Yankee Stadium. Most Red Sox fans were respectful towards both Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter in their last games there at Fenway. Any mass acts of disrespect will reflect badly upon Yankee fans as a whole. But I'm not betting he'll get any "standing ovations."

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