By Ray Hamill
For such a cerebral game, baseball has some real idiots.
For example, the celebration police, who were out in force again this week, slamming rookie Yasiel Puig for his celebration antics after a big RBI triple, and reminding us all of the sacred unwritten rules of baseball that for some strange reason no one ever seems to write down, and the same unwritten rules that apparently want to ban all the fun from the game.
If you want to criticize Puig for flipping the bat and momentarily admiring what he thought was a home run before bolting impressively all the way to third base, then criticize him for not scoring an inside-the-park home run on the play, (although God forbid, if he had actually scored an inside-the-park home run, the celebrations might have been completely out of control and the apocalypse would have descended upon the baseball world).
That was a rookie mistake.
What wasn’t was the celebration.
Forget the fact that Puig broke out of an 0-for-11 slump with that hit, or that it was the Dodgers’ first run in 22 innings, or the fact that it gave his team the lead in what was a must-win game and the most important game in Puig’s young career, how can you criticize the man for playing the game with the enthusiastic attitude of a child living a dream?
That sort of behavior is a breath of fresh air for a sport with too many traditions stuck in the 19th century, and it should be celebrated instead of frowned upon.
He wasn’t showing up Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainright, he was merely enjoying the moment, and that was evidenced in the way he directed those celebrations toward his own team’s dugout and not toward the pitchers’ mound.
But he should act like he’s been there before, the celebration police will tell you of Puig, who has had his share of run-ins with them this season.
But guess what? He HASN’T been there before. He’s a rookie, who defected from Cuba just last year. He’s barely played half a season in the majors, and is making his first playoff appearance.
Why is it that baseball is the only sport where celebrating a big moment on the field of play is not allowed?
Why is it considered showing up an opponent if you take the opportunity to revel in a moment of your own glory? Are the pitchers all so sensitive that if we even smile when we score on them they’ll take the only ball and go home?
The Puritans had more patience with Christmas than this.
More importantly, what sort of a message are we sending out to young fans everywhere when we criticize the enthusiastic nature of the way Puig plays the game?
“Go out there and play fair kids, and don’t forget to respect your opponents, but whatever you do, don’t have fun.”
All Puig is doing is playing a game he obviously loves with the enthusiasm of someone who plays a game they love, and anyone who has a problem with that has obviously long forgotten what it’s like to be a kid playing a kid’s game.