The Writearound: Are young baseball stars helping or hurting the sport?

Joe Leathersich: So, I want to talk about the affinity baseball has with “tradition.” This is a game that has not changed significantly compared to other sports. What makes me bring it up is how upset everyone got over Yasiel Puig’s celebration - sort of saying that this kid needs to earn his keep and that he’s cocky. What do you guys think of the new wave of athletes? Taylor Frank: I think the problem goes beyond some ill-founded hatred for kids being arrogant.

Nick Preller: I personally love Puig. But is having a young cocky star new to baseball? Every generation has one, so I don’t see why people are freaking out over Puig.

TF: I agree. Even if that star isn’t necessarily cocky, they are always polarizing. Look at guys like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, just to name a few. People either loved them or hated them for the way they played the game, but regardless they brought attention to the sport. In that sense, all publicity is good publicity.

Nate Joseph: Players like Puig are hated by the older crowd. Younger people who love baseball and know the game realize that players like him do not hurt the ratings or anything, but he hurts the clubhouse. Players like Mike Trout are more liked because he is all baseball unlike Bryce Harper. Players like Harper and Puig add excitement. Trout is a team player.

TF: From baseball’s beginning until 1919, the game was constantly changing, and it was good for the game. Since then, there has been very little change to speak of. If baseball wants to keep up with the NBA and NFL, they need to go the way of Harper and Puig.

Rebecca Fitzgerald: I think this topic brings up the argument about whether sports are about the actual competition or entertainment, and it’s not one or the other, but rather, how much?

 JL: That is interesting. But it’s hard to distinguish the difference, I think. I agree it’s not one or the other, but doesn’t better competition bring more entertainment?

RF: I think it depends on the fans. Personally, I don’t find mixed martial arts entertaining, but it’s still competition. The exception is with the young athletes who naturally bring that excitement to the game, regardless of the sport.

NJ: The real thing is how much flash each player brings. In every sport you have players who play for themselves and others who play for their team. This is why Puig has gotten such negativity. Also, when looking at the NFL, you see that players show off more than any other league. Why is that? Is it their nature or the sport?

TF: I would argue that baseball is suffering from a lack of competition. The [St. Louis] Cardinals are going into their fourth World Series in the last decade, and many fans are not happy about this. Ratings will suffer even more than usual. I think the reason you see players in the NFL and NBA show off more is that those are more individualized sports. In baseball, unless you are the pitcher, you have four or five chances to be in the spotlight per game, and the best of all time only take true advantage of that spotlight a third of the time.

JL: I like this point. There is [more] “pretentiousness” to baseball than the NBA or NFL. I think about this kind of thing when I watch tennis. Why can’t the fans be going buck wild and screaming their heads off when they’re at a match?

NJ: The thing with baseball and tennis is that they are traditional sports that have stood the test of time, and the majority of fans don’t see anything wrong with the way that they go about. This being said, the times have changed. Players in baseball and even tennis are becoming flashier and doing more “modern” things you would not see in the past.

NP: I love seeing these nontraditional guys excel in their sports. It’s what everyone wants to see, even if they don’t agree with their actions. People want to be entertained, and these athletes do just that. Even if it is controversial, there is a case to be made about going against the grain and being as flashy as possible. It really only helps them in the long run, as they will become a polarizing figure for their sport leading to endorsements and bigger coverage.