Baltimore Orioles: Winning bums or losing gentlemen?
My birthday was last week, and my sister bought me the movie version of a book that I loved in high school: To Kill a Mockingbird. For those who don’t know that story, I recommend it. One of the main characters, Atticus Finch, is the epitome of what a true gentleman should be. As I said on Sunday when refering to Manny Ramirez, I think that baseball is a gentleman’s game. Say what you wish about the 14 years of losing and so forth, but when I see the likes of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and company, I see humble gentleman.
This is my stance, however I recognize that unfortunately it’s a dying way of looking at things. Nowadays it seems that it’s the players such as Manny Ramirez who are the exact opposite of humble who get the accolades. I’m reminded of the 2008 game at Nationals Park when Ronnie Belliard hit a walk-off home run against the Orioles’ George Sherrill. As Belliard finished admiring his shot and started to run the bases, he spat a sunflower seed at Sherrill. Years ago in baseball that wouldn’t have happened because players would have had more respect for each other. Apparently that’s no longer the case.
In the name of playing devil’s advocate, does an arrogant streak make a player play harder? Most of Birdland’s enemies of late are guys that I would classify as showboaters. Using the Washington Nationals again as an example, they have a young slugger named Micheal Morse who pats himself on the head after each homer. Again, something that could be classified as showing up the opposition. David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis seem to be fairly adept at admiring their work. This kind of taps into the unwritten rules’ argument. I find it ironic that whenever this kind of thing comes up many former players turned media personalities generally come out against the unwritten rules. Many say that so long as you’re playing the game within the written rules, you’re okay.
I suppose my issue is that guys who seem to throw caution to the wind when it comes to how they conduct themselves on the field are not only the ones who are often considered winners, but who also get the accolades. To draw a parrallel with the NFL, London Fletcher of the Washington Redskins is a quite leader on the field. He’s not one of these guys that gets up and gets in your face when he hits you, yet he led the NFL with 166 tackles in 2011. He was left off the Pro Bowl roster (and was later named as a replacement for the Bears’ Brian Urlacher). One has to wonder if the same hasn’t been true with regard to all-star game appearances and awards for the likes of Nick Markakis and Adam Jones over time as well.
Last season when the Brewers eliminated the Diamondbacks in walkoff fashion in last year’s playoffs, Nyjer Morgan cursed several times on camera. Morgan has had his issues in the past with keeping himself in check, such as when he threw his glove in disgust (giving Adam Jones an inside-the-park HR against the Nationals), threw a ball at a fan, and caused a fight against the Marlins. In my view I see this kind of thing (along with the swearing on camera) as busch league. Yet as a nation we’re seemingly starting to tune that arguement out.
My point is that the quiet and respectful Nick Markakis is billed as a loser, while the loud and at-times busch league Nyjer Morgan is being marketed as a winner. If this is the Transformers movie, you have Adam Jones staring as Megatron, and Kevin Youkilis being Optimus Prime. In reality, it should be the other way around. Again, baseball has always been a humble game played by humble gentlemen. I suppose that the “winners” would argue that the “losers” are so humble that they let people walk on them. I suppose that there has to be a happy medium someplace, however it’s very difficult to find. Ultimately when I see arrogance in athletes of any sport, I often wonder what Atticus Finch would do or say.
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