Anyone watching last night’s 9th inning was treated to an odd sight. Tigers closer Jose Valverde looked fantastic, striking out Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez in succession to finish the game. What was odd was that after each strikeout, Valverde did a little dance off the mound and a fistpump. Take a look at these stills, taken from the conclusion of each at-bat, where you can see Valverde in mid gyration:
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As a Yankees fan that has long defended Joba Chamberlain’s fist pumps as a reasonable outpouring of emotion, I have absolutely no standing to get on Valverde, even though fist-pumping after each out is more over the top than anything Joba, Papelbon, K-Rod, and anyone else in the “expressive on the mound” category has ever done. I am not a huge fan of showing up your opponent, but I do not think expressing emotion should be taken that way. This game needs some characters, and it certainly needs an injection of fun. Everybody needs to just relax and realize that this is a game played for entertainment purposes.
My issue is with the media and fans who constantly criticize Joba for the fist pumps, as well as the players that have publicly taken umbrage with Joba’s antics (see Aubrey Huff). From what I am told, this is nothing new with Valverde, yet it is the first time that I am hearing of it. Where are the mocking jokes from fans and broadcasters about Valverde’s little dance? Why hasn’t there been a full episode of Baseball Tonight dedicated to his histrionics (rather than just a brief mention)? Why haven’t beat writers interviewed former players and Hall of Famers to see where they stand on Valverde’s actions?
Ultimately, Joba has long been victim of a double standard, whereby other players can do the same thing as Joba and do not get nearly the same amount of flak. Frankie Cervelli pumps his fist all game, and no one says anything about it except to gush about how intense he is and how invested he becomes in the games. Meanwhile, Joba gets dubbed as a guy with a “ten cent head” who cannot control his emotions. The same people who celebrate intensity on the mound and ask for him to be a “bull in the china shop” coming out of the bullpen then want him to temper those emotions once he succeeds.
It is time to treat Joba Chamberlain like everybody else. If you do not like celebrations on the mound, criticize the others, such as Valverde, who are doing it as well. Until then, just stop the hypocrisy and leave Joba alone.
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