THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
As a self-proclaimed germaphobe, you'd think I wouldn't go for this. But thanks to the advance in hand sanitizers, I'm completely down with this.
Professional baseball has one major difference from other forms of baseball (outside of the rules of the game, the massive salaries, and a bunch of other things): no postgame handshakes between teams.
If you watch a Little League game, a high school game, or even a college game, you will usually see both teams shaking hands after the final out. There may not be exact handshakes: high fives and fist bumps may take center stage instead, but the thought is there. It's a sign of mutual respect following competition. But if you watch an MLB game, the postgame handshakes only take place between members of the winning team.
In fairness, a lot of handshakes between teams happen before the game. When the visiting team comes out for warmups and batting practice, the home team is usually wrapping up, so pleasantries are exchanged then. You may also see the same thing when players are doing wind sprints and other general exercises just before first pitch.
However, Mike Metheny, who managed the St. Louis Cardinals during the inaugural Little League Classic in August 2017, thinks handshakes should be more common, and he got his wish following the event with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In an article for ESPN, Metheny went on record stating that he has actually asked opposing managers during playoff games that, if his team loses, it would be an honor if that team would shake the hands of his players. The other manager never went for it. But Clint Hurdle, his counterpart for the Pirates during that game, obliged. For the first time in a long time, the Cardinals and the Pirates shook hands and hugged each other following the game. Winning and losing didn't matter: both clubs realized what it was about.
When asked about the possibility of this happening, Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said, "I wouldn't be opposed to it at all. Baseball's not bigger than life. If we can show some kids the proper way to do things, I'm all for it. Ultimately, the game's for them. That's the whole reason we changed the venue and made it in Williamsport. It's for the kids."
Now that's sportsmanship.
If you consider the counterpoint to this argument, there is some credence to the argument as to why baseball players don't shake hands after games. Unlike the other sports, players are very familiar with each other. They play 162 games per year, let alone every day. The last thing some guys want to do after going 0 for 4 is shake hands with the guys who made them look foolish on a steady diet of nasty breaking balls. In fact, some players believe that the contempt that would be bred with said familiarity would cause fights between players on the field.
According to the same article, during 2013, the state of Kentucky banned postgame handshakes due to the fact that more than two dozen fights broke out in postgame handshakes.
Hold on while I cancel my travel plans to Kentucky...
I would buy the raw emotion argument that seems to preclude the tradition in baseball, but then I would ask why the tradition is still done in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and NCAA sporting events? Is baseball above this? They shouldn't be...
It's an interesting conundrum that won't see change for some time, but if we can continue it following the Little League Classic, perhaps that's the first step into a larger world...
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.