When Steve Garvey smacked a clutch home run in the 1984 NLCS to help the Padres force another epic choke job by the historically laughable Chicago Cubs, he circled the bases with one fist in the air. It was a simple gesture for the biggest hit of a series that ultimately sent the Padres to their first ever World Series.
Kirby Puckett famously circled the bases with a fist in the air after hitting a 12th-inning homer in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Puckett's homer helped the Twins stave off elimination and force a Game 7 against the Braves that might be the greatest game ever played.
What about Kirk Gibson's histrionics after launching a walk-off piece off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series? It was as if Gibson were limping around the bases and pretending to start a phantom lawnmower all at the same time.
And of Reggie Cadillac-ed every home run he ever hit - whether in the World Series or the regular season. Reggie also had that distinctive home run trot in which he usually adjusted his wire-framed glasses with a push of his index finger to settle the frames back onto the bridge of his nose.
Who would have ever thought a guy adjusting his glasses could ever be so cool?
Nevertheless, when we were kids we loved all of these shows. Sure, Reggie was a player fans loved to hate - mostly because he was a Yankee - and Garvey seemed to grate on folks, too. But who didn't like watching ballplayers rise to the occasion? Who didn't like a show?
Better yet, who doesn't like to watch people have fun? Baseball is supposed to be fun, right?
So when Jose Reyes ran the bases with one finger raised following his game-winning, three-run blast off Ryan Madson last night at Shea Stadium, the hand wringing was inevitable. You just knew it was coming. A showboat like Reyes running the bases like he was excited about hitting a homer in a key spot...
Reyes is a showboat whose antics irk even his teammates, some blathered. He's unprofessional, others said. Perhaps he should be plunked with a pitch the next time he comes to the plate for "showing up" the Phillies.
Yeah, he was showing up the Phillies by trying to hit a home run. Maybe he should have struck out, gently replaced his bat and helmet in their proper receptacles, poured himself a cool drink from the corporately licensed barrel and found a comfortable seat in the dugout.
After all, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley never do anything showy when they hit home runs. They are the models of professional decorum when they circle the bases...
Come off it!
Then again, the self-righteous blatherings from us media types are part of the show, too. We're all actors in the same game only they jocks like to pretend they are just modest athletes trying to make a living, and the press likes to pretend it is above it all and is merely a conduit to the fans.
Insert sarcastic comment here.
Look, Reyes' act is clownish and a little embarrassing with the array of dance steps, ridiculous handshakes and other juvenile sideshows. But really, who cares? He's a baseball player getting paid a lot of money to play a game. If Reyes had an important job maybe the jitterbug routine would be offensive, but he doesn't. Baseball players are entertainers.
Most people get this. In fact, no one in Philadelphia seems to mind when Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins pull off their tributes to Reggie whenever they really get a hold of one. Heck, even Utley's speedy dash around the bases is a type of showboating. After all, sometimes no style is, indeed, style. Truth be told, I'm surprised Rollins doesn't ratchet up the theatrics to an Ozzie Smith-level of hotdogging with the flips and other stuff.
Better yet, maybe Rollins could do a series of cartwheels around the bases after a home run. Why not? I've seen it before. After a particularly meaningful home run in a wiffle ball game at the ol' backyard diamond on Wilson Drive, my friend John performed a cartwheel as he reached each base. The cool thing about this "trot" was that even as a high schooler (as John was at the time) he was still quite a bit bigger than Jimmy Rollins. So to see a young man like John able to pull off these acrobatics was a sight to behold.
Sure, it was a bit over the top, but it was a really big home run. Still, if Rollins doesn't want to do the cartwheels, maybe we can settle for an interpretive dance or something.
Still, the old-school baseball establishment will continue to look down on fun of any kind because it is "disrespectful" to the game and "shows up" the opposition. Never mind that these are the same people that are descendents of baseball's other traditions such as an industry-wide ban on players of specific races... don't get these same folks started up on Sabremetrics.
Yeah, baseball has (and had) bigger problems than whether or not Jose Reyes enjoys hitting home runs. Heaven forbid if someone enjoys their job.