By: James Fegan

A crime has to have a victim. Otherwise, it is probably just hating. Are you a hater? Let’s not consider it.

Yasiel Puig’s bat-flips have become a topic of debate because 1) we have to try force conversation about the paltry one or two games we can watch all day and 2) while I cannot be sure, as I myself have never been disrespected, not even once, it seems disrespectful. It is boastful and celebrates a ball still in flight, possibly in the process of dropping softly in front of the center fielder, as a fait accompli.

But in the realm of baseball disrespect, which is vast, it feels relatively earned. Puig has, after all, made solid contact and won the essential showdown that defines baseball. Juan Uribe used to bat-flip medium-depth fly balls, and we all laughed it off, because haha, Uribe! So surely there are deeper realms of shade to throw on the diamond and we are just forcing our outrage here. To keep it brief, here are three more grievous examples.

The “I should have crushed that meatball” tantrum

Where the bat-flip is celebratory, it is not necessarily derogatory. Maybe you’re jubilant because you have triumphed over an excellent pitcher and are very proud. Slamming your bat down because you hit a popup is a pretty unambiguous statement of frustration that an incompetent boob was able to get you out. Pitchers actually get mad at this. Post–shoulder surgery John Danks got mad at prime Jose Bautista about it. There is no level of talent disparity where this is not disrespectful.

You’re such a slow runner that I’m going to calmly pat the ball in my glove before throwing just to demonstrate how leisurely this 6-3 groundout is

Comedians and jokesters like myself are always told to punch up, which is what makes an infielder taking time to check his gchats while some stocky DH ambles up the first-base line all the more disrespectful. What is their recompense? Run faster? What a monstrous thing to consider.

Demonstrating that you were doing the sex the entire time you were beating your opponent in baseball

Was Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. actually engaged in intimate relations the entire time he hit for a triple in the Dominican Winter League, to the degree that he was able to vigorously resume full thrusting after the play was over? Despite this compelling video evidence, I don’t believe so. He was merely making a point. A disrespectful point. A sexy, disrespectful point.

Yasiel Puig may flip bats, but he does not have on-field sex. Obviously, I hope he does, because my topic for next week is decided for me.

Shoeless Joe

By: Holly M. Wendt

In preparation for a baseball literature course I’m teaching in the spring, I picked up W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, thinking mostly about a potential assignment I could make with the book, some comparison between the novel and the film it inspired, Field of Dreams.

The novel moves swiftly into its imaginative and yet self-aware territory: The narrator shares a last name with the author; the narrator openly interrogates the strangeness of the iconic dictum that leads him to turn a significant portion of his failing Iowa farm into a lushly grassed outfield for Shoeless Joe; the narrator wonders at his own sudden obsession with J. D. Salinger, the reclusive, blisteringly famous author of The Catcher in the Rye. But where the novel is long on questions, it is delightfully short on explicit answers, and refuses to offer up the mystery’s engine. It is a novel that both requires us to and makes it simple to willingly suspend our disbelief, as John Gardner says a well-written piece of fiction will do. The events are impossible and it doesn’t matter.

Despite the novel’s plot built on pure idealism, it has its stakes. As Ray is trying to explain his long mission regarding Salinger, the quest Ray was given to “ease his pain,” his wife Annie accepts the task’s necessity. She says, “Ray, it’s so perfect here. Do whatever you have to, to keep it that way.” Thus is the fraught seed planted: Ray has permission from the wife he loves to do whatever is necessary. The tension is amplified by a gun (also clearly Chekhov’s gun), which Ray buys out of another unexplained feeling of necessity before he begins his trip east for Salinger. The gun rests in Ray’s trunk for the majority of the book, crossing state lines as he drives from Iowa to New England, bent on taking Salinger to a Red Sox game, and all the way home. At the novel’s end, too, circumstances are indeed dire: The Kinsellas are on the verge of losing their farm and, with it, all of the baseball field’s redemptive magic.

As Ray and Salinger and Moonlight Graham, plucked from baseball history’s obscurity, wind their way back to Iowa, Ray remarks, “Anything taken too seriously becomes a devil. Do I take baseball too seriously?” The waiting gun suggests the same question. The specter of bankruptcy and destitution suggests the same question. It is, perhaps, the central question of the novel, and many baseball novels—indeed, sports novels more broadly—exist in some measure to say yes, idiots, we’re taking this far too seriously. They say so with addiction and abuse, mental breakdowns and terrifying desperation, becoming cautionary tales in one way or another.

In Shoeless Joe, the answer seems to be that Ray—and his daughter, Karin, and Annie, and everyone who can see these spectral players—takes baseball just seriously enough to be saved by it, rather than destroyed by it. The salvation is mythical and it is literal: The farm and the ballfield are preserved.

Here in October, when baseball is at its most weighty, when the seemingly infinite possibilities of April have been reduced to a stark four outcomes, it’s good to have a reminder: Take it seriously, but only just seriously enough.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Your changes to the site will take some getting use to ....if I get use to it at all.
Jason Wojciechowski
Thank you.