Yasiel Puig was criticized after Game 3 of the NLCS for prematurely celebrating what he thought was going to be a home run. The bat flip was indeed epic, but what was more epic was the fact that Puig was able to make it to 3rd base after the ball stayed in the park, hitting the wall instead of going over it. Carlos Beltran thinks Puig doesn’t know where he is playing, I think Puig can do whatever he wants as long as he hustles hard like he did, and Brian McCann is watching that replay still yelling at the TV wanting Puig to act like he’s been there before.
Puig has only been playing Major League Baseball for a few months – not even a full season. He came over from Cuba, where baseball is by far a different culture and experience compared to the game played in the United States. Most Hispanic countries have a passion for baseball that is rivaled only by college football in America and soccer in Europe with a possibility of Canadian hockey. They play the game with flare and ‘swag’ that is frowned upon in the American way of baseball.
There are plenty of players who showboat and like to put on a show for the fans whenever they do something great. In Puig’s case he showed off for something he thought he had done. If the ball had in fact gone over the fence this wouldn’t be a big issue; he would be scolded by some for the bat flip and showing up the pitcher. The amazing thing is that as he was holding his arm in the air and waiting to trot around the bases, he was still watching the ball and running hard. Puig saw the ball ricochet off the wall and kicked into high gear as he rounded first and second base being able to have a stand up triple.
Many comments I have seen are critical of Puig’s actions. While I also do not think that is okay to do unless it is a no doubter walk-off in an elimination game, Puig immediately defended his flaunting by hustling. If other players who like to celebrate big had done what Puig did in the batter’s box, most would not have made it to 2nd base as they tipped their cap and started ‘the trot’.
Imagine Sammy Sosa hopping, hopping, and hopping some more. He would hop until the ball hit the wall at which it would be too late to make an effort to run to the next base. As much as I love Ken Griffey Jr., he seemed to walk until he rounded 1st base. Most of his home runs were well beyond the fence, but he is another candidate for getting hosed at 2nd base after watching his ball fall short on the warning track.
There have been arguments about foreign players learning to realize they are playing in America and act that way during games. Then there is the argument that the Hispanic players play a certain way overseas and that opponents like McCann need to realize that they are simply acting how they would back home. I’m all for celebrating if you want to, but when the show boaters get mad that other players take offense and mouth off, that’s when I have a problem. Show off all you want, but you better be ready for the retaliation from opposing players who don’t approve. Just because you can do that in your country doesn’t make it accepted by everyone in America.
There is a line between having fun and showing up the opponent. That line is blurred when players from other countries migrate to the Major Leagues. However, it is only Hispanic players that seem to have the troubles transitioning. Japanese players may not speak much English, but their style of baseball is even more conservative than in America. They are used to bowing and having much more honor and respect for the game than what is seen in the Major Leagues. If you watch the Little League World Series on television and watch a Japanese team, they act completely different than the kids from other countries.
Celebrating shows up the pitcher
Warning track power is never a good thing – you don’t get a home run and your teammates nag you about hitting the weight room. WTP is when you hit a ball and it lands at the warning track. A ball like Puig’s isn’t a bad warning track shot when it bounces off the wall like it did allowing him to run around the bases. When the ball is caught by an outfielder, that is when it might have been helpful to do a few extra push ups in the on-deck circle.
For Major League Baseball players, it is important to have fun on the job. Whether or not Hispanic players like Puig, Jose Fernandez, or Carlos Gomez are having fun is up for debate. As long as they have over the top, flamboyant, and pompous celebrations like they do, there should be no surprise when other players take offense and make their unhappiness known. Respect is a big part of baseball at the professional level, and it is a culturally different characteristic that needs to be preached to the players from overseas, especially when you don’t actually hit the ball out of the park.