If you love professional sports, then you probably enjoy the athleticism that the players display. Maybe you played baseball as a kid, for instance, and now that you’re an adult, you have to appreciate those who are good enough that they can do it at a high level. When a batter connects with a hundred-mile-per-hour fastball and hits it out of a ballpark, or you see a sparkling defensive play, it brings you out of your seat.
Passion matters just as much as athleticism, though. Think about someone like the late Kobe Bryant and his displays on the court after he sunk a game-winning shot. A fan base often loves seeing the raw emotion come pouring out of a player.
It can also work against them. Let’s consider Case Study Number One: Nick Castellanos and his theatrics this past week.
The Flexing Incident
Last week, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day occurred. The Saint Louis Cardinals headed to Cincinnati to face the Reds, a well-known National League Central foe.
Early in game two of the series, the Reds’ Nick Castellanos took a fastball in the ribs. He felt that it might have been retaliation for hitting a home run the previous day, after which he flipped his bat toward the dugout ostentatiously.
Castellanos took first base, and later in the same inning, he scored from third on a wild pitch. He slid into home and skimmed over the plate ahead of a tag by Cards’ pitcher Jake Woodruff, the same one who drilled Castellanos with the pitch.
Castellanos barely avoided a high-speed collision with Woodruff. Any younger player watching might have winced and thought about concussion possibilities when the two players narrowly missed one another. Close to 70% of student athletes play sports with concussion symptoms during their school days, and this is precisely the sort of play where this can happen.
More importantly, though, Castellanos stood up, pounded his chest, and flexed over Woodruff. He shouted, “let’s go,” along with an expletive.
Yadier Molina, and Cardinals’ catcher, took exception to it and got in his face. The benches cleared, and there was a lot of pushing, shoving, and posturing by both teams.
The Reds and the Cards
The Reds and the Cardinals have a lot of history together. The Cards have dominated the National League Central for the past couple of decades, while the Reds have seldom been relevant during that time. The Reds don’t like the Cards coming to town and pummeling them year after year, and maybe Castellanos had that in mind when he acted the way he did.
Meanwhile, longtime Cards’ catcher Yadier Molina has a history of his own with Cincinnati. Back in 2010, he got into a brawl with former Reds’ infielder Brandon Phillips.
After the incident, Castellanos said that he has nothing but respect for Molina, who is a multiple-time World Series Champion. He said that in the moment, his emotions got the better of him.
Major League Baseball looked at the incident and handed Castellanos a two-game suspension, which he is appealing. The league also fined several other players on both teams for violating social distancing guidelines.
When Does Emotion Become a Detriment?
This incident is not that uncommon. Every year, there are multiple benches-clearing brawls across the majors. Often, a pitcher hitting a batter is what kicks it off. The batter might think the pitcher meant to do it, but there’s no way to prove intent.
The real question is whether Castellanos’ behavior helps or hurts the Reds. Obviously, if they’re without his services for two games, that hurts them since he’s a big bat in the middle of their lineup.
Flexing and posturing are a part of the game. You could argue that it helps some teams if it happens at a critical moment. The other players feel like they have to protect their teammates, and they also appreciate the emotion that comes pouring out of them.
Still, you might wonder whether there is a line that players shouldn’t cross with these displays. That is particularly true right now when the league has social distancing rules in place to try to counteract the pandemic. The teams should not get into benches-clearing brawls because of possible Covid-19 exposure risks.
You might feel that Castellanos helped the Reds or that he hurt them. Time will tell, but maybe it’s worth noting that the Reds won that particular game, and they haven’t lost another one since that happened.