Last Friday, New York Mets closer Jenrry Mejia landed himself in hot water by adding extra flare to his signature save celebration. Mejia pretended to use a fishing rod to reel in the final Washington Nationals batter, shortstop Ian Desmond.
Mejia was told by Mets manager Terry Collins to tone his celebration down, not wanting to show up opposing players. Clearly some of the players objected as Nationals outfielder Denard Span said “That wasn’t called for…. no need for that.”
While not saying anything about Mejia’s antics, Washington’s star outfielder Bryce Harper was caught by TV cameras glaring at Mejia from the on-deck circle. Others think it is a bad idea for managers to curb the enthusiasm of their players. As Ian Desmond said, if other players have a problem with the celebrations, they just have to play better.
The celebration stirred up some controversy among the beat writers. In a series of tweets, ESPN New York Mets reporter Adam Rubin stated his belief that Mejia was taunting the Nationals, and many in the opposing clubhouse were not fond of the closer’s antics. However many of Rubin’s fellow beat writers believed there was no controversy to be found.
Mejia is not the first closer to be criticized for celebrating, nor will he be the last. Nationals closer Rafael Soriano received criticism for his un-tucking celebration filling in for New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in 2012.
On July 20th of this year, Seattle Mariners closer Fernando Rodney celebrated prematurely, lobbing invisible arrows at his teammates, after getting out of a jam in the bottom eighth inning against the Anaheim Angels. In the bottom of the ninth, the Angels rallied to win the game. During their comeback, Angels players, lead by outfielder Mike Trout and first baseman Albert Pujols, both players fired arrows at each other to mock Rodney.
After the game, Pujols said there was no disrespect behind the Angels celebration “I've known Rodney for 15 years, so we go way back. And every time I see him, I tell him I'm going to do that to him if I get a big hit against him.''
Many players take issue with the flashiness of these celebrations since it goes against the “unwritten rules” of baseball.
In Game 1 the 2013 National League Championship Series, the St. Louis Cardinals took issue with the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrations after hits. Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright called Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez’s antics “Mickey Mouse”.
This is not the first time the Cardinals took issue with player celebrations. When celebrating their victory over the New York Mets in the 2006 NLCS, the Cardinals chanted “Jose Jose Jose” in the visiting locker room. The Mets used the chant for years with shortstop Jose Reyes, to the tune of the Olé chant, famous at soccer games.
Instead of shutting down characters, like the NFL has done, banning touchdown celebrations, Major League Baseball should be embracing them. Players like Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, Washington Nationals Bryce Harper, among many others need to be celebrated by their fellow players instead of shunned.
Fans flock to these players. If baseball wants to shed the image of being stiffs, these players are necessary to help keep the game young. If other players are complaining, then beat these players and celebrate yourselves.