In the 4th inning of yesterday’s White Sox vs. Royals game, twenty-five-year-old Tim Anderson launched a ball to the moon.
Let’s think of the stakes a little bit here. These are two teams at the bottom of the AL Central, it is a Wednesday day game in the middle of the week, and it is April. Reportedly 14,358 people showed up to a stadium that fits 40,000. This is not what you would call a “big-time” ballgame.
And yet, this longball did not please everybody.
Because in today’s game, if you “show up” an opposing player there are repercussions.
What exactly qualifies as “showing up”? Well, since these rules are technically unwritten, nobody really knows. Over the years we can muster any sort of exaggerated celebration after doing the thing you are paid millions to do falls under that category. A loud roar, a forceful fist pump, a flip of the bat, all of these are actions that some baseball players deem as “not allowed”. You CAN’T be happy. You CAN’T have fun.
There were multiple quotes after the game from a few Royals players.
“Keller did the right thing,” Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier told MLB.com. “He aimed for the lower body. Hit him. It should just be like ‘OK, go to first and move on.’ It shouldn’t have been as big of a situation as it was in my opinion, but I could be wrong. I don’t know.”
Well Hunter, THAT is exactly the problem in the first place. The “correct” response in the game to a guy celebrating a home run is to send a 90MPH+ fastball at him? Okay sure, and you said in the lower body, right? Because Keller, who has 12 walks in his last three games, is always super accurate right? Pitchers never miss their spots, right?
The issue is not the location of retaliation, it is the act itself. A batter has no recourse in the situation, no way to defend themselves. They are at the pitcher’s mercy in every at-bat they have, so basically we are letting one position dictate the rules of the game?
Baseball is CRAVING personalities. The game viewership is skewed much older than they would like. The younger fans need flash, they need emotion. Look at the competition: NBA has dunks and long bombs, NFL finally reinstated TD celebrations, NHL has big hits, home runs is one of the biggest draws to the game itself. Do you know any casual fan who is just dying to watch a 1-0 pitcher’s duel? The long ball is king, and the game is punishing those who wear the crown in a way they don’t like.
You know what would be a great way to get back at a guy who just took you deep? How about doing the thing you are supposed to do on your end in the first place: strike him out.
Don’t take the cowards way out. Why would anyone in their right mind respect that decision? Imagine explaining that entire fiasco to a non-sports fan:
Why are those two teams fighting?
Well, that guy hit a home run and celebrated too hard
Tim Anderson, to his immense credit, doesn’t seem to be fazed by the situation. He is going to continue to “give the fans what they want”. He understands that as a young flashy personality in the game he helps usher in new fans to find a reason to watch the 7-10 White Sox play the 6-12 Royals on a Wednesday afternoon.
The highlight clips of him getting hyped after demolishing a baseball may lead even one younger fan in Chicago to go “oh wow, that dude is COOL”. That fan may then decide let me watch the next time that guy comes up to the plate. Boom, a new baseball fan.
Regardless, there are a zillion games every week. A bunch of new highlights crop up every day. The Royals and White Sox weren’t even going to play again until the end of May, this was a passing moment of fun in a marathon of a season.
Brad Keller seems to think his job is to govern the sacred unwritten rules of baseball.
Time Anderson wants to put on a show.
At least one of them gets it.