Baseball Celebration Injuries

Tom Hanks told us there is no crying in baseball. Maybe there shouldn’t be any celebrating either. The latest ridiculous, celebration-related baseball injury involves Aubrey Huff of the San Francisco Giants. The 35-year-old first baseman sprained his right knee on Wednesday and is headed to the disabled list. Huff hurt himself while jumping over the dugout railing to celebrate Matt Cain’s perfect game. Earlier this month, New York Mets relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez injured his hamstring while running in from the bullpen to celebrate Johan Santana’s no-hitter. Ramirez also had to be placed on the 15-day D.L.

Let’s not forget what happened to Kendrys Morales in May of 2010. After hitting a game-winning home run, Morales jogged towards home, where his Angels teammates were waiting to mob him. His last step was a jump, and when he stomped on home plate he landed awkwardly and broke his leg. He missed the rest of the season and all of 2011.

In response to that, Angels manager Mike Scioscia instituted new rules for his players regarding celebrations, as reported at the time by ESPN.com’s Mark Saxon: “stay off the dirt, let the guy touch the plate, nobody jump on his back or slap him on the back of the head.” That certainly makes sense for walk-off celebrations—when players mob a teammate who just got a game-winning hit.

But Huff and Ramirez were injured celebrating accomplishments that are worth celebrating. Jumping around like fools after a regular season victory is one thing,* but perfect games and no-hitters deserve some wild behavior. If you’re a manager or trainer, what are you going to do when your pitcher records the final out to seal a no-no? Gather everyone in the dugout and make sure they are properly stretched before they calmly join their teammates on the field? These injuries are sort of pathetic, but they’re going to happen.

*Walk-off celebrations have become overkill in recent years, anyway. As my dad likes to point out, the term “walk off” didn’t exist when he was a kid, and teams certainly never lined up on the infield to congratulate each other after a victory.

My girlfriend thinks baseball players are wimps. She’s been saying this since the second game she ever attended, when she learned some players have to sit out an afternoon game after having played the previous night. “It’s mostly just the catchers,” I tell her. It doesn’t matter. She notes, accurately, that the players are just standing around most of the time and it is not a contact sport. For some reason, her digs bothered me a little bit. I guess it’s because baseball is one of my favorite sports and so I feel the need to defend it against her attacks. But really, what’s the point? She’s right. Baseball players are wimps—at least when they’re compared to football players, which just isn’t fair.*

*Unlike in football, baseball contracts are guaranteed, meaning teams are forced to pay players even if they are injured and can’t play. The baseball culture is so much different from football that there isn’t the same peer pressure to play through injuries. Baseball is also more of a finesse sport. Earlier this season, David Wright missed three games with a fractured pinky finger. When the team announced the injury, Mets fans had to laugh. Can you imagine the word “pinky” appearing on a football injury report? But to be fair, a football player could be missing a couple of fingers and still be able to block and tackle. Wright’s finger had swelled enough where he couldn’t grip a bat, so it wasn’t just a matter of pain tolerance. Even so, it doesn’t help baseball’s image.

The baseball season is a long grind. There are a lot of pulled hamstrings and sore shoulders. Players get injured enough actually playing baseball. They don’t need to get hurt celebrating, too.

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