I know you’re all concerned about one major aspect of the Reds. Despite causing Great Excitement earlier in the season, the elaborate handshake action seems to have… dropped off.
Maybe they got tired of such fun. Maybe the front office found it too showy and Something Was Said. Maybe David Bell isn’t thrilled with the concept of several mulitmillion dollar players crashing into each other midair at high rates of speed. But home run and post-game celebrations have tailed off, and most players seem to be contenting themselves with the far more socially staid action of slapping one another on the butt.
How you feel about this important development depends on how you view extended player celebrations.
Let us stipulate that “oh, so the players are just supposed to stand there like robots?” is the strawiest of strawperson arguments. No one’s calling for that. Reaction to feats of strength in one’s profession are part of one’s personality. The appropriateness of celebrations varies depending upon the situation at hand, length and style of the presentation, and statistical performance to date of the celebrator. But even if Mike Trout riverdances his way to first after walking off Game 7 of the World Series, given what we’ve seen in football, the law of social media escalation dictates that at some point, this is going to result in full-scale, three-hour Broadway productions in left field. I largely prefer my joy spontaneous.
Our personal lightning rod for such controversies is one of our new additions. Derek Dietrich’s extended admiration of his handiwork during the first Pirates series was initially an unwelcome surprise; I’m largely on the “this is unprofessional; act like you’ve been there; you got a double; you’re extremely well-paid to get doubles; it’s really not necessary to invite out KISS to perform a tribute montage” team and initially found his campout at the plate overly showy. But players largely establish their own level of tolerance: The second I saw footage of the offended Pirate pitcher jogging backwards off the mound and otherwise producing his own personal music-accompanied Rozzi fireworks celebrations when acknowledging his own successes in other scenarios, I then considered Dietrich’s overly long stay at home plate justified. (This ruling was confirmed when it ultimately resulted in the greatest Rennisance work of the twenty-first century.)
That I initially classified his failure to proceed to first base as a frat move resulted from my lack of familiarity with him; in early April, Derek Dietrich was a random dude with taste in jewelry which reflected the giant plastic charm necklaces of my 80s girlhood, and I fully expected him to at some point appear at the plate with clip-on cheeseburgers, a referee whistle, and perhaps a ship’s wheel with a tiny bell dangling from his now vaunted chain. But one eyeblack mustache and beekeeping attempt later, I now understand that Dietrich wasn’t trash talking as he stood and stood and stood at home plate. He was just planning. In a free agent world, introductions to fan bases must take place quickly.
Dietrich can get away with this kind of thing because Dietrich is here to have terrible Saved By the Bell hair and hit dingers, and ballplayers are, in the end, entertainers. But they’re entertainers engaged in a measurable, wagered-upon test of skill. If the struggling Scott Schebler decided to employ his bat as a lightsaber en route to first after a walk, people are going to raise their eyebrows in his general direction.
There’s every chance that, as a team, these men have decided to cool it on the ten-minute encores until they’re at least out of the cellar or can perhaps demonstrate they can hold anything over a six-run lead for two consecutive innings. But in the meantime, I pat their butts in solidarity.