Baseball Players are Big Babies

When Lou Piniella was a player for the New York Yankees, he once flung his batting helmet in the dugout in anger and grazed the head of his manager Bob Lemon.

 “But that was a ricochet,” said Piniella’s Yankees’ teammate Fred Stanley, defending his buddy.  “It bounced off two things first. It was not an all-out assault.”

Just the same, Lemon started wearing a helmet in the dugout after that, just in case.

Piniella, now the manager of the Chicago Cubs and two years removed from his last serious temper tantrum when he kicked dirt on the shoes of the third-base umpire (who acted all offended as if somehow this was unexpected), finds himself in a little bit of an awkward position.

This week alone, Piniella has had two players ejected and two take their bats to the new drink dispenser in the dugout as if it was a giant orange piñata. These incidents shockingly did not involve Milton Bradley, a player who once had to be physically restrained from running up to his team’s TV booth in full uniform to yell at a broadcaster who said he lacked self control.

On Wednesday, Piniella’s pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, put on a show that had one Internet outlet calling it “one of the top meltdowns ever,” strong words in a sport that boasts more babies per square inch than your average daycare center.

 Zambrano, arguing a call that, naturally, was incontrovertibly correct, was thrown out of the game by the home plate umpire and responded by trying to throw out the umpire. When that didn’t work, Zambrano threw the ball into the outfield and then proceeded to attack the Gatorade dispenser.

Piniella raced out of the dugout to help restrain Zambrano, which is required of all baseball managers when one of his players is seriously disturbed, but Piniella could barely contain the giggles as he watched Zambrano give the ump the heave-ho.

It’s hard for Piniella to act all self-righteous when one of his players acts like a two-year-old, since he was the poster two-year-old as a player.

But now Zambrano faces a suspension, which means that just as he’s maybe returning to form after a stint on the disabled list, he will be on the bench again. 

Every sport has its goofballs. Hockey has its goons. But there is still a certain honor there that is not present in the seemingly more dignified sport of baseball. I am watching Wednesday night, as the Chicago Blackhawks line up, as hockey tradition dictates, and shake hands with the Detroit Red Wings after their overtime loss in overtime sends Detroit to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Like they’re taught in pee-wees, they go down the line saying, “Good job,” to opponents who only minutes earlier tried to rupture their spleens.

Hockey is, well, charming as hell.

The Red Wings refused to touch their conference trophy after their victory, because they didn’t touch it last season and they went on to capture the Stanley Cup.

That’s a tradition as well. You don’t touch something as trivial as a conference trophy in hockey, you barely look at it, because it’s not the big one, the Stanley Cup, the one that demands your full respect and attention.

The Penguins touched their conference trophy, though. They put their fingerprints all over it, even carried it around. Why? Because they didn’t touch it last year and they lost to Detroit in the Stanley Cup Finals.

How do you not love this sport?

Baseball players don’t shake hands with their opponents. They act like babies and beat up drink dispensers and reduce their managers to those parents you feel sorry for in preschool when their kid is the biter.

You suspect Piniella will handle things. He’ll explain to Carlos why it’s wrong to try to throw the umpire out of the game and to swing your bat in the dugout.

And if that doesn’t work, Piniella can always start wearing a helmet.

4 Responses to “Baseball Players are Big Babies”

  1. Diane

    But, but it sure looked like Zambrano was right. The Pirate was out! At least that’s what the ESPN replay looked like.
    You’re just a White Sox fan1

  2. Paul

    This fellow is or may be a GREAT pitcher, but he is a disgrace to his profession, and excessively overpaid.

    Being suspended is destructive to the team. And, such actions by a professional!!!!!! What a role model!!!! We sure have come a long way from the days of kids worshiping Ted Williams and Stan Musial and Sid Luckman and Joe Louis, and all the heroes that we had many decades ago.

    AND, Steroids!!!!! Illegal drugs!!!!!

    No wonder the Cubs can’t win another world series and probably will never win one in most of our lifetimes.

    I’ve been a Cub fan all my life and probably always will be, but this season is doomed already.

    Paul B

  3. Kevin

    Melissa, as far as Zambrano’s antics are concerned, I like to think most baseball fans understand that these guys are basically kids in a kids’ game. That’s how I look at it. It might be kind of bunion-headed of me but the only thing about his blowout that bugs me is he will miss a start or two.

    The handshake tradition after a Cup series is one I’ve never quite understood. Mainly because I couldn’t get that compartmentalization that’s involved: they’re beating each other with intent, a goal scored is a dagger in the heart, and 90 seconds later they are shaking hands with the enemy in front of taunting fans. I remember Stan Mikita refusing to take part in the post game parade. He said he can’t shake hands with a guy who’s taking money out of his pocket.

    I don’t know if this is done any longer, but the really big stars used to exchange sticks after a series. I remember Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe doing so a couple times. I also remember Tony Esposito refusing to do so with Gerry Cheevers. In the post game lap, the goaltenders usually spend a little more time with each other, so I guess Tony O felt as Mikita did about offering a hand to the opponent.

  4. Frank

    Very well written. Perfect on what you said, “Every sport has its goofballs.” “Hockey has its goons.”
    Correct on all counts. The suspension will not be good for Zambrano or Piniella, but hopefully as time goes by they will all calm down. Of all the sports I do kind of like the handshake at the end of the playoff games.
    Good article. I liked.



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