ORLANDO – The noise started in the NBA.
You heard former NBA legends bashing the current style of play – basically that no one defends anymore – and pushing back on all the love Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry was getting.
Now, it’s happening in MLB, too.
The loudest old timer is Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, the former New York Yankees’ closer, first ripped Jose Baustista, the Toronto Blue Jays slugger who had an epic bat flip after a big home run in last year’s postseason. Gossage called him “a disgrace.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Gossage continued in another rant against today’s players on Wednesday. He said that he didn’t want to see a bunch of “Cam Newton’s” running around the field.
Hold the phone.
We get it. Times have changed. There’s nothing wrong with debating the merits of the style of play from this era to past ones. That’s sports, what we do at barbershops, sports-talk radio and especially at The Shadow League.
But to expect current players to play and react to situations the same way players did 30, 40 or 50 years ago, is just plan silly.
Often, that kind of criticism reeks of jealously, if nothing else.
That’s what Gossage sounds like.
Not all former players, a bit long in the tooth are lining up with Gossage. Enter Ralph Garr.
Garr, now 70 and a roving scout for the Atlanta Braves, played 13 MLB seasons and has a career .306 batting average.
“Leave those young guys alone and let them play,” said Garr, who played in the 70s. “They are great players and fun. I, personally, enjoy them.”
Garr gets it.
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating and enjoying a magical moment in the midst of a game.
There’s nothing wrong with saying look at me once in a while in the new world of selfies, and social media. All of that stuff is about bring attention to a person for what they accomplished.
It would be impossible for it not to leak onto the pro ball fields. It’s a part of society.
Brian Jordan, who played in the 90s, gets it. “The kids just want to have fun,” he said. “They are free, they are free to do whatever. The freedom of speech, through their actions excites the fans.”
And before we act as if there we no showman in MLB gone by, Gossage played with a hot dog in New York.
Reggie Jackson, the Hall of Fame slugger, often stood at the plate, watched and admired his home runs. He took his sweet time getting around the bases as well. Hence, he was a me-guy in an era that most didn’t do that. Still, it existed.
Nonetheless, there are still some players that liked the old days better.
“Maybe, the guys feel like the respect isn’t there because everything is changing!” Braves outfielder Nick Swisher said. “Everything is changing so fast.”
Swisher has a great point of reference because his dad, Steve, was a major league catcher in the 70s and 80s and he saw how players approached the game back then. And now, he’s playing in the GenX era.
“I don’t put much in the old school, new school thing because it’s two totally different games, he said. “You can’t even compare the games. Everything is so different.”
Yes, it’s still Major League Baseball. But the players have changed. It’s only natural. “It’s cut and dry,” he said. “It’s black and white. It’s old school game vs. new school game.”
Swisher, 35, is right. It’s a stretch to compare eras, both on and off the field.
There’s a big difference between enjoying the moment and disrespecting the game. We aren’t robots and shouldn’t all act the same.
At one point, some veteran players didn’t like that Ken Griffey Jr. wore his cap backward. They thought it was disrespectful to the game. It wasn’t. That was just Junior being himself, doing what many kids did. It was a fashion trend, not a slight in anyway.
That back-cap wearing kid is on his way to the Hall of Fame this summer.
Former outfielder Marquis Grissom isn’t cool with all the self glorification in today’s game. But he’s honest enough to realize that the moments should be earned through time.
“It’s a difference when a guy has been in the league 15, 16 years,” said Grissom, who played 17 big league seasons. “And has hit 500 home runs. I’m not saying he can flip his bat, but it’s OK if he has a style he’s been accustomed to since he’s been in the game and that’s what he’s been doing.”
Grissom added, “But if you take a young guy, 21, 22 and he hits 30 home runs and all of a sudden starts flipping his bat, I think there’s a problem.”
It’s about earning your place in the game, being humble in the beginning until you establish yourself. That’s an honest take, especially for guys who played in the game and know how hard it is to succeed.
Either way, count me in on the fun and flare of the new school way of baseball.