Few things are paid more lip service in sports than the idea of “culture.” Bad teams need to change their culture, good teams often have a winning culture. More often than not, good organizational culture goes hand in hand with good organizational players, but teams absolutely forge an identity for their players. From targeting a specific type of player and then ingraining org-wide values during the ascent to the big leagues, teams consistently produce a certain kind of player. An archetype, if you will.
Brian McCann came up through the Braves system. Atlanta drafted him in the second round out of a high school in nearby Duluth, Georgia – less than 30 miles from Turner Field. McCann will likely test free agency this winter but, for now, he’s an Atlanta Brave through and through.
Just two weeks ago, the Braves were involved in an incident with the Miami Marlins. Rookie phenom Jose Fernandez hit the first home run of his career and, perhaps, overcelebrated this rare feat. Luckily, the arbiters of what is Right and Just in the world of baseball were quick to set him straight, with McCann right in the middle of it.
After the game, Fernandez apologized through the media and his twitter account while the Braves players…said very little.
Fast-forward to last night. Carlos Gomez stepped in against Paul Maholm with hate in his heart. Last time Gomez faced Maholm, the Brewers center fielder felt he was hit intentionally with a pitch. After a brief discussion with Brian McCann. Gomez then took the next pitch deeeeeep to left-center field and set off a wild scene.
Did Carlos Gomez take his personal vendetta too far? Yes. Is physically blocking home plate after a home run just about the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen? Yes. Nothing says “you aren’t bigger than the game” quite like making yourself the center of attention as you attempt delivering that message.
The Braves have notoriously thin skin on this issue. This marks the third time the protectors of the Great White Realm have gone out of their way to prove a point to some young upstart. Maybe it doesn’t work? Maybe there are limits to the impact of stern in-game lectures and ominous warnings of people getting hurt delivered through the media? Maybe they should stop being a bunch of sniveling ninnies on this issue?
It isn’t as though the Braves themselves are a bunch of a shrinking violets. Evan Gattis is completely unafraid to pimp his home runs, whether they come at the expense of a generational talent or a cocky rookie.
And on and on it goes. I could embed a few tweets and blockquote a couple juicy tidbits from the various gamers floating around but we already know the score. Carlos Gomez is sorry and respects the Braves and the game. The Braves just stuck up for their pitcher, who they felt Gomez wronged and showed up or whatever.
At the end of the day, the fundamental issue is similar to what Grant Brisbee laid out this morning: everybody has their line in the sand. The Braves collective line sits a long way from the edge and it is a line they defend with all the yapping and barking they believe it deserves.
Maybe racing up the base line to give Gomez a piece of his mind is how McCann thought to defend that line, after he bellowed “HEY! JUST F$%KING RUN, GODDAMNIT” as Gomez
ambledparaded out of the batters box. Maybe Freddie Freeman believes screaming as a player rounds first base is the best way to diffuse the situation. Maybe Reed Johnson thinks bolting off the bench to get his hands into Gomez’s face was what the situation demanded. I don’t know. I’m not immersed in their culture and I wasn’t on the field.
To me: it’s dumb. And easily avoided. Maybe Gomez finishes his trot and the Braves remember it and file it away for future use. Maybe this donnybrook actually prevented a beanball war. I dunno. It just becomes difficult to understand the Braves side of things when so many tiny infractions set them off, as a group, into paroxysms of rage.
Lucky for the Braves, the series is over. The Braves have too much to lose by continuing this skirmish so close to the playoffs. A suspension or injury is exactly what the Braves must fight to avoid. That said, there is no telling how they’ll take their defense of the Brave Way. As self-appointed leaders and sheriffs of the baseball frontier, there are bound to be casualties in service of the greater good.
And the rest
The Detroit Tigers celebrated clinching the AL Central title last night, producing two indelible images for all times.
Two different colored goggles for Max!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/v62e0rlg2n
— Paul Sporer (@sporer) September 26, 2013
Jim Leyland – undisputed champion of the world
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