Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout stated Wednesday he’s not interested in showing up an opposing pitcher despite comments from fellow sensation Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals about baseball being a “tired” game.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times passed along comments from Trout, who explained he would be upset if he was a pitcher and a hitter showboated against him. It isn’t a stance meant to stir up controversy with Harper or anybody else, but rather, it’s just the way he sees the situation.
“We mess around in the cage and stuff,” Trout said. “During the game, I just hit the ball and go. I go out there and try to respect the game. I go out there and play. My parents always taught me to be humble.”
Baseball’s so-called unwritten rules have been the source of a polarizing debate since Harper made comments about the lack of emotion allowed in the sport.
The 23-year-old reigning National League MVP told ESPN The Magazine earlier in March that players should have more freedom to express themselves in order to energize the game:
Baseball’s tired. It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that’s Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig—there’s so many guys in the game now who are so much fun.
Harper used Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez as an example. He loves how the starting pitcher, who’s a division rival, isn’t afraid to stare down a hitter after a big strikeout.
New York Yankees legend Goose Gossage doesn’t see it the same way. The 64-year-old former pitcher doesn’t think Harper shows enough respect for the game, per ESPN 1000 (via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post):
What does this kid know? This kid doesn’t know squat about the game and [has] no respect for it. Here he is making millions of frickin’ dollars; that’s great. I’m happy for all the players and all the money that they’re making, because it’s hard-earned by all the players that came before these guys. Ninety percent of these guys never went through a strike, a work stoppage. They don’t know the blood sweat and tears that has been spent on what these guys are making. All we wanted was a piece of the pie. Marvin Miller did that, Curt Flood, from on up. My career started out on the first strike in 1972, and it ended in the last one in 1994, when we lost a World Series, which should have never happened, but it did. … We fought for everything these players are getting. So let me tell [Harper] something: Go look at the history, figure it out, and quit acting like a fool.
While it’s been viewed mostly as a generational gap, Trout’s comments show it doesn’t break directly down those lines.
Trout and Harper are two of the players leading baseball into the next generation. Finding a way to reinvigorate the game is a legitimate source of debate because of fading television ratings, but the Angels outfielder clearly doesn’t think more showmanship is the way to go.
That said, it’s hard to argue Harper’s main point of baseball needing more energy. The entertainment value increases when a player like Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, who’s also been verbally attacked by Gossage, flips his bat or Hernandez barks at a hitter after getting an important out.
The main question is whether that’s a sign of disrespect or merely competitive fire showing through. Trout and Harper are likely going to play each other in a lot of key games over the next 15 years, especially if they eventually land in the same league, and those contrasting styles will be on full display.
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