Major League Baseball has an issue with culture. Despite the national pastime’s ingrained influence, with its spoken and unspoken rules threaded throughout the American DNA, the game hasn’t evolved as basketball and football.
Ask who’s banging on the court or the gridiron, you’re going to hear current players, even up and coming players like Duke’s prodigy Zion Williamson, who’s expected to go number one.
When it comes to baseball, the average Joe might be able to fire off guys like A-Rod, or Big Papi, but the thing is, those guys are retired. Sure, a real baseball fan can rattle off a cadre of players they love, but in this instance, we’re speaking surface-level fandom. Baseball is losing its stake in what it means to America and there’s no one to blame but the front office of the MLB.
Mike Trout, arguably the best player in baseball recently signed the biggest deal in American professional sports to the tune of a cool $400M+ and yet he’s not a household name. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred pointed the fact out during a press event in 2018 thanks to Trout’s desire to not be the face of every commercial like Peyton Manning or the dude who will literally take a buck for anything – Shaq.
Your grandfather’s ball players aren’t today’s young crop of kids. The MLB wants someone front and center, but not too much, like saying, “let’s screw, but missionary only.”
The unspoken rule of “respecting the game,” is an archaic throwback to the golden era when players kept their heads down and their mouths shut.
It’s considered gauche to show excitement on the field for a home run or fanning a batter with bases juiced, only in the safety of the dugout can one celebrate their victories, but always modestly.
Meanwhile, over in NFL and NBA universe, the smallest of run stoppages or rebounds, or getting dunked on results in top of the hour highlights on Sports Center. People love swagger, we love seeing the bad guy get under people’s skin, especially when it’s on their team. Say what you want about Yasiel Puig, the man is entertaining, bat licking and all.
We’re long gone from Broadway Joe in the fur, acting like a dime store pimp. Players are flashier than ever, they want to make statements, indicative of the millennial desire of “impact.”
Enter Tim Anderson, the White Sox shortstop who never wanted Manny Machado to join his team this past offseason – Anderson was busy putting in the work to show the league that he’d arrived after two mediocre seasons.
And as the 2019 campaign is off to a dog-ugly start for the Pale Hose, Anderson, along with teammates Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez are the lone bright spots on a horrid White Sox squad. Anderson has proved he’s the real thing who could win the hearts of fans who haven’t loved a shortstop since Ozzie Guillen.
Right now, Anderson is beating the ever-loving fuck out of the baseball, batting .422 with four home runs. He’s outperforming the elite at his position – even Machado.
Anderson belongs to a core who have hustle, they’re cocky, and want to win. The White Sox clubhouse present one another with a massive rapper chain with an old school White Sox logo when they hit a dinger. They interact with the cameras sweeping the dugout for any sliver of emotion. This squad is decidedly different than anything we’ve seen on the south side.
This era of player is challenging what rules can be broken, but also what traditions are antiquated. When Tim Anderson dropped a bomb against Royals pitcher Brad Keller, Anderson let both teams know what time it was. He screamed, he flipped his bat and trotted the bases like a man proving himself. And for his bravado and bat throwing, Keller responded to Anderson, plunking him in the ass with a 92-mile-per-hour fastball.
New school showmanship had a head-on collision with the old school buttoned up modesty.
Anderson reacted, both benches cleared and despite no one throwing a punch, Anderson was tossed. While jawing at Keller, Anderson is accused of calling Keller, a white dude, a “weak-ass f—ing (n-word).”
Tim Anderson was suspended for talking shit.
Tim Anderson is one of only 63 black players in the MLB. He’s also the only Alabama-born man on the White Sox roster. You’d think MLB would be crazy excited at the prospect of a young black man at the top of his game playing in a major market – but, no. They suspended a player for acting emotionally both with the home run and subsequent bat throw and then getting mad about the pitch straight at his keister.
When asked about how the whole thing went down, Mario Smith, radio host on Lumpen Radio added, “He’s doing his best to represent, to play with a little flair. He’s one of 63 black players in the whole league. Think about that number, it’s not enough people to fill a section in Sox Park. No one says anything about the cats from the Dominican when they celebrate over everything little thing. Harper throws a bat, and it’s not a problem, same with Jose Bautista, but Anderson does it and it’s a thing. Hypocritical bullshit.”
After the benches cleared, umpire Joe West tossed Keller who threw the “culture-saving” ass pitch along with Anderson for mouthing off after taking the hit.
Bullshit meter: off the charts.
Literal campaigns to excite fans based on bat flips, big moments, and shit talking were pumped up this offseason with #LetTheKidsPlay. But, the minute someone mouths off acts human, they’re labeled a problem by MLB standards. The notion of “letting the kids play” is nothing more than a fluffy, bunny soft ad campaign.
Smith, who’s a black southsider added, “it’s the Serena Williams thing; by yelling she’s “angry” but Tom Brady does it, he’s “competitive. Look, man, emotions run high on the field. Suspending a guy over a “racially charged” word is garbage. He probably didn’t even remember saying it after he said it. What happens in between the foul lines stay there.”
While Major League Baseball will feign a weak “no tolerance” policy for racially charged language, it’s laughable. Considering the league is run by some incredibly white people, how a black player uses language reflecting historical and personal experience shouldn’t matter to Joe West – it’s not his job to play baseball cop for anything that doesn’t involve strikes or balls.
Trash talk is unenforceable. While the league sells these kids breaking the rules by flipping bats, ready to cause a ruckus, it’s problematic? Can’t have it both ways MLB.
Today’s players are more familiar with The Show and YouTube than Duke Snider or Johnny Carson zinging big timers. Their culture is one of attitude, showmanship and making jaws drop. These guys were kids when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire we’re battling to save the game from the clutches of the post-strike slump.
Baseball is going to have to come to terms with a change in demeanor. We like bat flips and we like big game moments much better than modesty – that’s not what sports are about, they’re fireworks and bravado.
Whatever path they choose, be it one realistic about the youth culture, which baseball is a distant third in American dominance. Otherwise, keep it as a slowly unraveling museum piece, but whatever it is, Tim Anderson will gain fans on the south side of Chicago, we love a good shit talker, it’s in our blood.