Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Anger Management and Professional Baseball

Justin Duchscherer is still out, though not officially on the DL, which means I'm still a douche. He's out due to hip pain, as far as we know, which means I'm still worried about him, though I'm trying not to. All baseball players are human, as mentioned, it's just that Duchscherer is public about it.

I think about baseball a lot because it's the sport I know. It's also one of the few sports (in America) that appeals to me because it's not particularly violent, or fueled by rage. It's not like football, or hockey, and driven by big displays of testosterone and flashy muscles busting around. Even basketball is too much pushing and shoving for me. It's not angry. Now and then there are baseball players with tempers- I loved Jose Canseco was all kinds of bad and that's just one example. My dad and I still joke about Albert "Don't Call Me Joey" Belle. Read about his bad deeds.

And don't laugh, like even I'm almost tempted to do. This is not "boys will be boys" crap. These are grown, very very well paid, in the spot light, hero-worshipped men. I guess it's tempting to laugh: the Phil's Ryan Madson broke his toe last week when he kicked a chair in frustration. He subsequently apologized to his teammates and fans. Jockpost (I have no idea who they are except a top result on a search) mocks Yahoo!'s decision to warn that this is a violent incident: saying that "our world that we are living in is getting even pussier than I thought." Wow.

OK, this is all a sideline, though, to current events. Madson is so last week, Duscherer so last month. Yesterday, Milton Bradley who calls himself baseball's bad boy, made his own drama. Apparently he was breaking that famous rule 9.02 about balls and strikes and his manager told him to cool it. He didn't cool it, and Mariner's manger Wakamatsu took him out of the game. Bradley left the building, whether on his own volition or not is unclear. Like Belle, Milton Bradley is a career trouble maker. Trouble maker, trouble seeker, problem child, or angry man? It's all over the news that today, Bradley asked for help and told kids how he was raised and that his buddy Sweeney was going to help him get on track and that his management was all about seeing baseball players as human. How very.... unbelievable.

My point is that all this rage, while maybe not a mental illness, is an emotion displayed. A no-no in professional baseball, as eloquently described by Joseph Trumino. Trumino writes: "The spectators leap to their feet and cheer; they applaud wildly in recognition of
the skill of the shortstop." Fans express emotion when players make good or bad plays, when managers make good or bad decisions, when teams make good or bad decisions with their rosters. The level of emotion changes with context: early in the season or late, in a "clutch" situation or with two down and no one on base in a blow out. On the other hand, the emotions of players are not important, or worse, distracting:
Players’reaction to booing is usually stoic, or at least non-demonstrative; he is expected to “take it like a man.” Occasionally, however, players have been known to give in kind to the unkindly audience, by shouting back obscenities or simply giving fans “the finger,” which may invite either more boos or derisive cheering or both.
Baseball gives fans a chance to express their emotions in a tightly controlled, emotion free environment: "The world of baseball is ideal culture, a world is projected, a world of individuals acting within a very narrow range of behaviors." I've seen pitchers giving fist pumps on replays- even a happy pitcher showing that much emotion is news.

So what did Milton Bradley do? What has he done over his career, letting out all of his anger so publicly? Does he have "anger management" problems? Are fans just upset that he's "breaking the rules" of their metaphorical relief valve? Are they resentful because he is getting paid a bajillion dollars and seems to be not only ungrateful, but spiteful? Or is he just being human?

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