More than ever, there is talk of Latino players "playing with emotion." More specifically, we hear how this has discomfited white players, especially older ones.
Some of it is just youth. Hall of Famer John Smoltz, for example, said, "I lean towards being professional." That itself was in response to Goose Gossage, who whined about Bryce Harper not having respect for baseball.
But most of it is focused on Latino players. José Bautista's bat flip in the 2015 playoffs is now iconic, and ignited a debate that continues.
For U.S.-born white players, this was disrespectful. Exactly why a brief moment of exhilaration was disrespectful is never explained. It goes under the two categories of "unwritten rules" and "this is the way we've always done it." Under these rules, you show no emotion and then fight if someone slips up and lets a little emotion out. Now these immigrants are bringing their foreign ways.
The World Baseball Classic this year may have started a shift, because there was a lot of attention paid to the Latin American teams. But Smoltz again had to put his foot in his mouth:
But Smoltz's comment there, that "a lot of these guys are enjoying themselves, maybe they'll get it out of their system in about two weeks" -- that's pretty much the whole baseball thing right now, isn't it? The whole culture war in baseball, the "keep millennials engaged" business, the how-do-we-keep-the-game-relevant discussion … you can see the whole damned fight in that comment.
And so did Ian Kinsler:
“I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays,” Kinsler said. “That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
Somehow having fun is a problem. But the word "appreciate" is code for "professional." Showing emotion is unprofessional. White players do it right. Latino players do it wrong. But there are good signs. From former player Eric Karros:
“When I played (I was) very old school as far as you don’t show anybody up,” Karros said. “I was a non-emotional guy, very stoic. The irony now as a fan and as a player I like that bat flip. Now, if I were playing it wouldn’t be happening. But I think I’ve come to a point where I kinda like that sort of stuff and it adds some energy.
We can only hope this is spreading. I feel like it will, for demographic reasons if no other. The number of Latino players is increasing, as is the size of the overall Latino population. This could well the last gasp of uptight whiteness.
Let's stop worrying about bat flips and excitement. Anyhow, we all know the best way to put an end to it is to stop giving homers.