The long, hard-fought, deeply silly battle over baseball decorum has been flaring up all year long, and it came to a head Thursday in Arizona, when the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks to clinch the NL West and proceeded to celebrate just like you would expect the 2013 Dodgers to celebrate after beating the Diamondbacks, only moreso. We now have a “controversy” involving the use of a stadium swimming pool, which, if you root for any of the 29 major league teams that are not the Diamondbacks, is hilarious.
All year, Arizona has been leading the charge against the dangerous practice of baseball players visibly enjoying themselves at the Diamondbacks’ expense. It actually started even before the season, in the World Baseball Classic, when the Dominican Republic team cut loose to an extent almost never seen in MLB games, to the delight of some and the disapproval of others. “They’re playing with emotion and that’s fine,” said Team USA infielder Willie Bloomquist. “How you show your emotions, I think, is another thing. It’s just a matter of your view on the game of baseball and what your view is on respecting opponents and the uniform.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Bloomquist was also among the most vocal in his displeasure with the Dodgers on Thursday (“disrespectful and classless”). It’s easy to see how the Diamondbacks might not be amused, especially as they had requested that the Dodgers not return to the field for any further celebration after heading to their locker room … to which the Dodgers responded with a scaled fence, a Nick Punto cannonball and a magnificent Yasiel Puig swan dive.
Indeed, it’s been a long season for the Diamondbacks as a group, who traded away Justin Upton in an effort to improve the team’s grittiness (really), and fell from a 4.5 game lead in July to their current spot 13.5 games behind the Dodgers, with a decent but somewhat disappointing 77-74 record. In June, they brawled with Los Angeles after Arizona’s Ian Kennedy hit Zack Greinke in the shoulder with a pitch, after hitting Yasiel Puig earlier in the game.
Puig is, of course, a lightning rod for The Great Unwritten Rules Debate of ’13. He celebrates doubles, home runs, and occasionally bunts; he has been brash, if not cocky, from the moment he was called up. It’s been enormously entertaining to watch if you aren’t on the receiving end, but opponents have sometimes felt differently. Foremost among these was Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, who has not been at all shy about calling out every player in baseball who annoys him for one reason or another, and particularly Dodgers.
“I could call it disrespectful and classless, but they don’t have a beautiful pool at their old park and must have really wanted to see what one was like,” said Diamonbacks CEO Derrick Hall. Well, at least the organization is unified. Games between these two teams should be… really interesting next season.
For now, though, the Diamondbacks are left grumbling, while the Dodgers will have to find another team to provoke. With this L.A. team in the playoffs, we’ll no doubt be hearing a lot more about “unwritten rules,” respect, “class,” appropriateness, etiquette and where the salad fork goes — variations of the same argument we’ve been having all season now. But with any luck, the games themselves will be interesting enough to stand out over the surrounding noise.
Who would have guessed that Don Mattingly, Donnie Baseball himself, would ever preside over such a voluble, swag-a-riffic team? After all, this is The Man Who Taught Derek Jeter How To Be A Strong, Quiet Leader, per decades-old Yankee lore. However, it’s long been apparent that Mattingly has no interest in trying to tamp down his team’s exuberance. And why would he, really, given the tear they’ve been on for the last few months? As much as the baseball establishment dislikes the Dodgers’ hijinks, everyone loves a winner.
And that’s the thing about this Dodgers team, which, even if you love them, you have to admit is cocky as anything: They are going to get killed if they don’t advance deep into October. Everyone who thought they were sore winners is going to turn around and dump that back on them and then some. Surely the Dodgers know that as well as anyone.
They don’t seem too worried, though.