Baseball Needs More Jabas, Less Whining
The wailing you hear isn’t an annoying baby behind you in the bleachers, it’s annoying baseball players. It’s guys who get their back up when an opponent displays a scintilla of enthusiasm, exuberance or joy.
You might have heard it emanated from the locker-room of the Cleveland Indians yesterday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, not long after 22-year-old Joba Chamberlain, New York’s indomitable and popular set-up man, helped preserve a 6-3 victory by putting down the Indians with 13 pitches in the top of the eighth.
Chamberlain, a cult hero in the Bronx, ended with inning by striking out Indians left fielder David Dellucci. Chamberlain punctuated the K with a roar and a fist pump as he bounded from the mound.
Two nights earlier, Dellucci had won another battle. Facing Chamberlain, again in the top of the eighth, he crushed a three-run, pinch-hit homer to give the Indians a 5-3 win.
Chamberlain took it hard, and many were eager to see how he would react and perform in his next outing.
Given that backdrop, anyone could understand Joba’s reaction Thursday. In my view, it was less about conquering the batter who’d beaten him two days earlier, and more about bouncing back from a crushing moment with a triumphant one.
I’d have roared and pumped my fist, too. At the very least.
But Dellucci didn’t like it. His post-game reaction? Waaaaaaaaaaa!!! That’s a succinct translation of this: “If he wants to yell and scream after a strikeout and dance around the mound, that’s what gets him going,” he said. “My home run was in a much bigger situation, a much more key part of the game, but I didn’t dance around and scream.”
Enough already. I understand the need for some of the new taunting legislation that permeates sports. Specific in-your-face antics are, to coin a baseball phrase, “bush.” They also tend to lead to escalation and, as the father of two kids, both of whom play sports, I am on the record with them as reserving the right to emerge from the stands and drag them off the field/court/whatever by the ear if they do any such thing.
And they know I’ll do it.
When they celebrate a big moment by pumping their fist and screaming with joy, hey, Daddy’s right there with them.
Happiness and joy are natural human reactions.
Except in baseball, where they are too often construed as disrespectful to an opponent. Brawls have begun over a guy acting like a joyful kid. Batters have been targeted by managers for a brush-back or even a beaning if they (or a teammate) act too happy after a big hit.
Some players have been unfairly labelled “immature” if they exude excitement. (See: Jose Reyes or Lastings Milledge, to name just two.)
Baseball needs to get over itself and such arcane notions. It should embrace enthusiasm rather than take it as a personal affront.
Some days you get the game-winning homer; some days you strike out. That’s baseball.
Chamberlain’s popularity in the Bronx stems not only from his talent and success but also from the boyish passion that oozes from the moment he leaves the bullpen.
Baseball needs more joy — more Jobas — and less whining.