(And most of these guys are millionaires.)
I love baseball, especially its traditions, among which is a steadfast resistance to machines making play calls. No instant replays. The umpire’s call stays, no matter what, and a blown call remains a blown call, even if it determines the outcome of the game. That’s a very good thing. Football was diminished when video recordings came to rule the day.
But the spitting? The ceremonious, public, incessant, revolting and seemingly all-inclusive spitting?
Think of any game that is played outdoors. You will not find any where spitting is so rampant, to say nothing of voluminous. Even the collision sport of football is not host to the expulsion of saliva from everyone in cleats (unless they use their helmets as recepticals). So why baseball? Is it the inviting grass? Is it a throwback to the days when players had a fondness for chewing tobacco, where gagging was inevitable if one did not release some of the juices inherent in the practice? Or is it an extension of the general disregard for hygiene that players enjoy exhibiting in the dugout.
Hard to know. Some say for batters it’s a way to release the tension while awaiting a 95 mph fastball, but when have you ever seen a big time tennis player awaiting a blinding serve ease the moment by lofting a prize lugie three feet in front of the baseline? Has Kobe ever prefaced a free-throw by making a small puddle to the left of his sneakers? Can you imagine Phil Mickelson lining up a potential eagle putt and pausing just for a moment to contribute a sample of his DNA on the green at Augusta?
Only in baseball. Only on national television. Only when the camera is in closeup.
Andre Ethier of the Dodgers is currently the leading batter in the National League in at least three categories. Were spitting a competitive entity, he’d likely be at the top in that, as well. The routine goes something like this (in honor, I guess, of Reggie Jackson): Approach the batter’s box. Spit. Settle in. Spit. Take a couple practice swings. Spit. Wait for the pitch. Swing and miss. Spit. Next pitch is hit to right field. Run to first. Reach the bag and pause with hands on hips. Spit.
What would that be? Half a cup? Is dehydration next?
And so on, down through the entire lineup, turning, you’d think, the batter’s box into a swamp.
O.K. I can live with grown men turning the dugout into a dump with crushed soft drink cups, pieces of paper, sunflower seeds, and yes, gallons of saliva. You’d think that guys who can snare blazing ground balls and hurl same with amazing accuracy to the proper base could deposit debris to a nearby trash can with equal elan, but it never seems to happen ( the dispair of passing the age of 14 can be a daunting thing). But there it is. Except for the needless shots into the dugout we don’t have to see it.
But spitting out in the open? Come on. Can a quick whiz on the grass near the expensive seats be that far into the future?