Response: Top-Step Celebrations

Over at MetsBlog, Matt Cerrone posts his opinion on the Top-Step Celebrations.

While I respect Matt immensely, his comparison of the 2007 Mets “exuberance” to the 1986 Mets “cockiness” couldn’t more off-base.

Yes, the ‘86 Mets were cocky, and colorful, but I don’t remember any dancing at home plate.

What I DO remember were a bunch of guys who played all-out, hard-nosed, tenacious baseball. Their competitive fire, will to win, and confidence were the energy behind their “flamboyance.”

In contrast, the energy behind the ‘07 Mets “exuberance” comes from what? The selfish need to showboat? Narcissism? Unexpended effort? Empty braggadocio guarding against the fear of failure?

Enthusiasm is great. Over-the-top, flagrant displays of emotion in the middle of a game is a symptom of a lack of self-control. As was pointed out by another MetsBlog reader, the dancing around at home plate after a homerun is akin to ” … guys in the NFL who do their asinine sack dances when their team is losing by 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter. Like Jim Brown used to say: ‘act like you’ve been there before’.”

Matt Cerrone finished his post with:

… i actually believe this argument is not really about the Mets anyways…instead, i suspect it is a proxy fight between fans who are ‘old school,’ i.e., people who like the quaint pre-ESPN game from yesteryear – you know, like with Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson – against those who are ‘new school,’ i.e., fans, like me, who like a bit of flash and fun with their baseball…

He’s on to something here. I’m definitely of the “old school” variety, and have a hard time with all the flamboyance from these young whipper-snappers. However, I’m not understanding how his examples of the two biggest hot dogs of the 1970s and 1980s — Reggie Jackson and Rickey Henderson — fit into the argument. But as long as he brought up Reggie, I’ll have to say that Jackson’s bravado was probably the beginning of what’s become a rampant epidemic in all the major sports. First came Jackson admiring homeruns, simultaneously with his NFL counterpart Billy “White Shoes” Johnson doing touchdown dances. Soon after, nearly everyone in the NFL had their own touchdown spike or dance (remember the “Smurfs”?). Around the same time, the NBA built its entire image on singular hot dogging — using the slam dunk contest as a springboard (pardon the pun). Through the years we saw the emergence of trash talkers, “Neon Deion”, sack dances, slow homerun trots, and myriad other self-important spectacles. Cerrone calls it ” … a bit of flash and fun … ” but I call it selfish, ‘look at me’, self-centeredness that does little other than expose a person’s repressed fear, self-doubt, and starvation for attention.

Let’s get one thing straight: I LOVE to see Jose Reyes smiling, laughing, and enjoying the game. I love his enthusiasm on the field. But there’s a point where the excitement can be tempered — and controlled.

Players who get too high tend to get too low. The extremes may work in football, but not over a 162-game baseball season. Case in point: the Jose Reyes emotional rollercoaster was a fantastic ride in April, but not much fun in September. Don’t you think there could be some connection between his abysmal performance down the stretch and his emotional immaturity?

I’m not saying that Jose’s overindulgence in homerun celebrations was the reason the Mets lost 76 games this year — that’s a myopic and incorrect analysis. However, his occasional over-excitement — and the Mets’ tolerance of it — is both a symptom of Reyes’ emotional imbalance and a first step toward Willie Randolph losing complete control of the team (if Jose can do it, then Lastings can do it; if those two can do it, then … etc.). With proper guidance, I believe Reyes can learn when too much is too much, and also learn to be more levelheaded emotionally. He doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be the boring, workmanlike drone that Randolph was during his 18-year MLB career, but he can benefit by not getting SO high and later dropping SO low.

Or the Mets can live and die riding the Reyes rollercoaster — hoping the highs outnumber the lows over the course of a season. Assuming, of course, that we buy into the idea that “as Reyes goes, so go the Mets”.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude October 3, 2007 at 4:56 pm
    The idea that showboating and cockiness is a new development in sports is inaccurate. Think about it…who are the two greatest sports icons who ever lived and performed in America? Babe Ruth, Muhammed Ali. Was Babe showing up his opponent when he called his home run? Do I even need to get into Ali? Their cockiness certainly didn’t translate into overconfidence, bad kharma, or poor attitude. It brought them success.

    I’m no proponent of the Mets becoming their own dance team everytime a home run is hit. And like you say, Joe, showing emotion in moderation is good and healthy. I just think it’s unfair to say this flair for the on-field celebration is a recent trend. It may be more widespread nowadays, but it’s pretty much been around as long as competition has.

  2. joe October 3, 2007 at 9:55 pm
    Fair enough — I suppose you have me with the Babe Ruth – Charlie Root incident. But you have to admit the hot dogging really came into its own starting in the mid-1970s — and has become more common in the past 20 years.

    One thing though — out of all the pure hot doggers in baseball (not other sports), how many do you remember being on World Series Champion teams?

    Reggie Jax, yes. Other than that?

    I’m not saying there weren’t any; rather, I’m opening the forum for suggestions. Maybe there IS something to the bravado that is positive. I’ve been wrong before (several times!).