What’s The Deal With Admiring Homers These Days?

Yesterday, the Cubs won another game against the Cardinals that can, at the very least, make the Redbirds a little more nervous about falling out of the division lead. The loss puts them further from obtaining home field advantage against the Dodgers in the NLDS as well.

The end was tremendous; with one out in the bottom of the 10th, Anthony Rizzo swung and crushed a pitch from reliever Pat Neshek, stopping to admire his blast as it landed in the right-center bleachers for a game winning home run.

Oh, that’s not how it happened? Well, maybe Rizzo admired his blast and then had to hustle like crazy to make it to second base, after the ball was lodged in the ivy and center fielder Peter Bourjos took the ill-advised tactic of reaching in to grab it instead of throwing up his arms. Rizzo moved to third and then scored the winning run on Welington Castillo’s odd game-winning single, which might normally have been a fly-out/line-out to the center fielder, except Bourjos was playing shallow. You know, to help get under the ball in case of a tag-up at third base on a fly-out. When there were two outs.

Suffice to say, the bottom of the tenth was odd. But the main focus, for the sake of my writing, won’t be the fielding alignment error the Cardinals displayed and the long-term head scratching that should be going on regarding Mike Matheny. I want to focus on that lazy Anthony Rizzo, dogging it on what could have been a triple, barely chugging into second base.

When I call Rizzo lazy, it’s in jest. I don’t think anyone that views the team from either the outside or within regards him as such. However, this isn’t the first time he’s admired a blast (the game-winner in his first game off the DL comes to mind). Either way, it doesn’t really bother me and it shouldn’t bother you. It’s a part of the game that reaches a decent majority of the players.

I can’t relate to cranking a game-winning home run specifically, as I was never all that good at baseball. I suppose I can mentally imagine like it’s rec league basketball, and with just a few seconds left and my team down two points, I launch the open three-pointer. As teammates and defenders crash the lane for a potential rebound, I stand still, arm hanging in the shooting position, preparing to bask in glory.

Then the ball goes over the backboard and everyone stares at me wondering what I was thinking. But in the moment, I felt like I deserved a few seconds to admire my work. So it must feel for Rizzo or any other player absolutely ripping a baseball off the sweet spot on the bat. Can we really blame them for feeling accomplished? Isn’t it human nature to stop and admire our work with a sense of pride, before reality kicks in and asks us to complete the task by running?

Even when he has admired his work, Rizzo doesn’t get dogged by the media or the fans. But what about Starlin Castro? Well, when he does it he’s being lazy or showboating or not having his head in the game. It’s totally different when it’s Castro. I mean, he has a history of doing this all the time, right?

Wrong. He may have had a brief few moments in the past where concentration was an issue, but outside of him destroying a ball 400 feet a month or so ago and admiring it, prompting David Kaplan and others to light their torches and grab their pitchforks, he hasn’t had a problem with admiring his hits. So why do we treat him differently?

I can’t give you real insight, because the media members are the ones that fuel fan angst against guys like Castro. Remember the way Bob Brenly used to jump all over Alfonso Soriano or Aramis Ramirez back in the day? I can specifically remember a game in which Ryan Theriot smashed a double high off the wall in left-center that he paused to admire, likely because he was amazed he hit a ball 375 feet. Any mention by BB? Nah.

What I can give you is my own assumptions, and based on the conversation I witnessed on Twitter, many of you feel the same way I do. I wouldn’t go as far as to call some of the media members racists, or even to say that they go after certain players because of race. There are plenty of white guys, Bryce Harper comes to mind, that can’t get the media off their backside. But there is no denying that when it comes to verbally attacking a guy for perceived lack of hustle, media and fans jump at Latin players first.

I’d say the most likely reason for this is because of the cultural barriers. Just look at the way the media fawns all over Rizzo (and with good reason, considering his status as an all-around great guy). People close to the organization have regarded both Rizzo and Castro as major leaders in the clubhouse, but when it comes to post-game interviews or interest pieces, Rizzo is the headline most media outlets want.

He’s personable, relatable, and handsome. Castro mumbles, speaks English as a second language, and doesn’t give the best interview. It’s natural that media members get all warm and fuzzy and give the good guy the benefit of the doubt and not the guy they hardly hear from. In that light, I wouldn’t describe it as specifically racist.

But there is no doubt that racist descriptions exist in all sports. An example I like to use was the mid-2000’s Bulls. Kirk Hinrich was described by commentators in nearly every game as “scrappy” or “gritty” or “smart.” Never “athletic,” which I heard used to describe Luol Deng on a few occasions. For those that don’t follow basketball, Hinrich was a really good athlete but Deng, despite being 6’9”, really wasn’t all that athletic.

Even further, Hinrich often dribbles in circles and makes dumb passes. Deng reads passing lanes well and often comes up with steals, as well as being a good defender against superior players. Which player would you describe as “smart?”

Overall, while the racial stereotypes exist within sports and aren’t going away soon, I think people are more positioned than ever before to call it out when they see it. Thanks, internet. But until such time as we eradicate racial stereotypes or lazy journalism, let’s just let guys admire their hits without going off the deep end. Is that too much to ask? Nah.

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