April 17, 2008

Think Classy, You'll Be Classy

I noticed, during a postgame interview last night, that LaTroy Hawkins -- now wearing #22 -- has a big yellow "RETIRE 21" sticker right above his locker nameplate.

I assumed that was a joke on this whole controversy, at first, and was suitably impressed... because aside from good breaking stuff, a sense of humor is probably one of the more crucial traits in a New York relief pitcher. But no -- per this AP article on the whole fracas, it's actually from retire21.org, a group trying to get Roberto Clemente's number retired throughout baseball ("Ya es tiempo!"). Oh, the irony.

There's even a t-shirt:

On the plus side, Hawkins pitched very well last night at a pivotal moment, as the Yankees slowly and clumsily clubbed the Red Sox to death, 15-9. Not the most graceful game the old Stadium has ever seen.

Meanwhile, there's good news from Shea, on a rare night when both teams were playing (and winning) at home. Jose Reyes seems to have his groove back, after a nudge from Carlos Beltran -- who apparently took three entire seasons to adjust to New York before he could feel comfortable opening up a bit to reporters, bless his mild-mannered soul. Anyway, David Lennon writes:

Carlos Beltran gave us a great story after the game. He revealed that he went to Jose Reyes Tuesday afternoon and pleaded with him to go back to his old ways: the dancing, the handshakes, the smiling, the laughing. No more Mr. Serious.

Since then Reyes has gone 6-for-9 with a double, triple and home run.

“I’m going to be the old Jose Reyes," he said. "I’m going to enjoy my game. I’m going to dance during the game. I’m going to do the handshakes with everybody. I’m going to keep everybody going with smiles in the dugout.”

Here's Beltran: "I didn’t think he was happy. I told him, ‘I want you to be the Jose Reyes you’ve always been. Forget about what people say. Forget what they write about you. Forget about what other teams think. Just be you.’”

Nice! I'll take Carlos Beltran over Dr. Phil any day of the week. The Times has more.

Personally, I'm thrilled -- I really hate the line of thought that says baseball players shouldn't be demonstrative, should try not to show too much emotion on the field. A certain segment of columnists, radio personalities, and fans throughout the years has always wanted athletes to essentially feign indifference at all times; this is supposedly "classy." I think it's just dull.

Granted, you don't want to be obnoxious about these things. But baseball is, after all, a form of entertainment, and it's always more fun when you can tell that the players care (speaking of Paul O'Neill), or when they reveal a little personality. I like Joba Chamberlain's scary-intense fist-pump -- hell, I like Jonathan Papelbon's fist pump. The Mets' handshake routines seem deeply good-natured to me, and if other teams really feel compelled to take offense, well, then that should lead to some good and intense games. You don't want Jose Reyes to dance? Pitch better.

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