Let's acknowledge that Major League Baseball isn't completely stuck in the past. It's gotten its share of modern upgrades, from 24 new ballparks in 25 years to the gift-that-keeps-giving excellence of MLB Advanced Media to even (cue sarcastic tone) instant replay.
But one thing that still needs a modern upgrade is the personality of the game itself. For this, the trick will be to allow players who'd rather play a kid's game than a gentleman's game to do so.
A good way to start would be by giving bubbles a chance.
You see, there's this thing that the Los Angeles Dodgers do to celebrate home runs. When the guy who hit the homer returns to the dugout, a battery-operated bubble-blowing machine gets turned on, dancing commences and fun is had.
What you see is a bunch of dudes acting like kids playing a kid's game. It's hard to watch without also feeling like a kid, and it's become hard to talk about Dodgers dingers on social media without referencing bubbles in some way.
These are things that should please MLB. As such, it's only natural that the Dodgers were told to knock it off.
That's the story according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, who reported Wednesday that MLB Executive VP/Master of Discipline Joe Torre "advised" the Dodgers to retire the bubble machine.
Since the bubble machine was present (and ultimately active) in the Dodgers dugout Wednesday night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, either the Dodgers ignored Torre or simply defied him. But regardless of what kept the bubbles blowing, that Torre's request even happened says a lot.
Cue Jesse Spector of The Sporting News:
Indeed. Whenever the line is drawn between "gentleman's game" and "kid's game," baseball all too often perpetuates its old-fashioned reputation by siding with the former. Typically for the sake of upholding the notion that the game must be played "The Right Way."
Granted, some parts of the unwritten "The Right Way" code shouldn't change. Running up the score in blowouts. Sliding with your spikes up. And especially—looking in your direction, Arizona Diamondbacks—not trying to hurt guys with retaliatory beanballs.
But then there's the stuff about respecting the game. Beyond that apparently applying to dugout bubble machines, its other applications mainly concern players who dare to show a little personality.
Chris Archer just got bent out of shape over David Ortiz admiring a long home run. We've also seen Madison Bumgarner join a list of people who have ever taken exception to a Yasiel Puig bat flip, and Gerrit Cole actually picked a fight with Carlos Gomez over a bat flip. A couple years ago in 2011, we even saw John Lackey drill Francisco Cervelli merely for clapping after a home run.
Not that it's all pitchers versus hitters. It can go the other way too, such as when Jarrod Dyson whined about Chris Perez's tribute to John Cena in 2012, or when David Dellucci didn't appreciate it when Joba Chamberlain acted like, well, Joba Chamberlain in 2008.
The message: Respecting the game means showing good sportsmanship, defined here to mean playing the game without emotion. Because, you know, it's clearly too much to ask to define true sportsmanship to mean having the ability to let such things slide.
It doesn't have to be that way. Just imagine if it were the other way around. Imagine a version of baseball where displays of emotion serve to entertain rather than to provoke.
Actually, you don't have to imagine. We've seen it happen.
Take what happened a couple weeks ago, when Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, ahem, borrowed Fernando Rodney's arrow-shooting celebration after getting to him:
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