Several former major league baseball players, including Goose Gossage, have spoken out about the current state of baseball, saying they don’t like the showmanship and look-at-me theatrics of some of the game’s top stars.
Cap Ripken Jr., however, doesn’t see a problem.
“I think it’s good when more people are watching the game on TV and in the stands, and we’re trying to get more kids active in playing – and Major League Baseball is playing a good role in that,” the Hall of Famer said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “So overall, you look at it and say, ‘Okay, it’s flourishing. It’s good.’ How the game is played or what makes some of the older guys cringe a little bit or makes Goose make a comment, it’s interesting to me. Even when I first started playing, it was considered much more of a sport than a form of entertainment. I looked at myself as a sportsman. You were part of a sport that people liked to watch. You weren’t the person out there that was the entertainer that you’re selling tickets to come see. But over time, as the game has grown and the salaries have grown and marketing has gotten better, I think athletes do look at themselves as entertainers, and part of the entertainment value is what they do on the field besides playing. Some of the choreographed handshakes or some of the things that go on, you insert fun. But a lot of that stuff is attention-driven.”
When Jose Bautista flipped his bat after belting a series-winning homer last postseason, many people thought it was a raw display of passion and emotion, while others thought it was showy and disrespectful.
“How you act on a home run, the bravado that Bautista showed when he hit a home run and threw his bat down – old-school guys think that there’s no place in the game for that because you’re embarrassing players,” Ripken explained. “But I still think back, Dennis Eckersley pointed you down and struck you out and had this flamboyance. Reggie Jackson was one of these players that had a unique home-run trot and could watch his home runs go before he got out of the batter’s box. So I think elements of what we’re complaining about in the big leagues and saying it’s old school, I think it’s always been around. But players do see themselves a little bit more as entertainers.”
That includes Bryce Harper. The 23-year-old has led the make-baseball-fun movement, and he seems to have a lot of support from younger players and younger fans.
“Everybody has a personality in sports, and I don’t get offended,” Ripken said. “I don’t want people to suppress their personality because I think that’s part of the joy of watching. So if Bryce Harper is an intense guy, (so be it). I think he’s learned his lesson a little bit about how to play the game. Before, he was running into all kinds of walls and he was going all out on all plays and he needed to use a little bit better judgment. When you run into so many walls, you keep yourself out of the lineup. The best value that Bryce Harper can bring is being in the lineup every single day and letting that talent just go. So I find him to be a really smart, good guy, but other players that play against them, it kind of pisses them off sometimes. It bothers them a little bit, his intensity and the way he goes about it. But I just accept that as the way he is.”
Ripken, who played his entire 21-year career in Baltimore, has enjoyed watching the next great Orioles infielder, Manny Machado, who Ripken said is “right up there with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.”
“This kid is just getting better each and every day,” Ripken said. “Home-run guy, hits in the middle of the lineup, drives in runs, and his defense and his rocket arm is wonderful to watch. So I love the fact that the young players are being celebrated. My advice (to the young players) would be don’t suppress your personality. You are who you are. Go show that.”