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Sunday Rockpile: That witch in the cellar is only part of it

Troy Renck opines that rehearsed and choreographed celebrations, like say, Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes inventing a double play dance they can do each time after turning two (because of Sam Adams' Toolegit2quitzki nickname, I'm envisioning Hammer) are good for baseball. Wait, that's not exactly what he said and I'm twisting Renck's words? Yes, probably, but he draws a fuzzy line in his column justifying why he thinks Prince Fielder and the Brewers walk-off celebration over the Giants was appropriate, but Barry Zito's plunking of Fielder was not, so I'm taking some of the freedom he's giving us here. Personally, I'm all for walk-off celebrations, however I think what the Brewers did crosses over into an area that I'm pretty uncomfortable with.

First, its staging took place while a play was still in progress, in effect incorporating the home run itself into the celebration. Despite Renck's claims that the game was over, this is not entirely true, as until Fielder touched home, the game was still going on, so his teammates lining up for the mock collision were doing so during the game. Fielder stooping into bowling ball shape and hesitating before that last hop onto home, was doing so while the game was still in progress. Are we paying to watch a Harlem Globetrotter-esque exhibition and expect stunts and shenanigans during play, or are we paying to watch these players execute at the highest level of their craft? If you're a fan of the Nationals, perhaps the answer is neither, and there admittedly isn't much craft to the back end of a home run trot, even when it's not Fielder we're talking about, but I definitely think a distinction has to be kept between what happens during play and after.

I think my second point is one that Renck unintentionally hits on the hollow plastic head:

When kids play Wiffle ball in the backyard and go yard, do you see them put their head down and run the bases with all the emotion of a monk?

So we expect, and are paying, our professional athletes to behave like children? This makes a lot of sense to me, actually, as they certainly seem willing to live up to those expectations. My main point here, however, is that you can't complain about the retaliatory pitch or the bases clearing brawls and champion the choreographed celebrations used to show up an opponent at the same time, as they are two sides of the same coin.

Those same Wiffle ball contests Renck refers to also tend to feature wrestling matches in the dirt, sore losers leaving the game in the second inning if things start off badly, and a certain flexibility with the rules, particularly by the rulemakers. Renck certainly isn't advocating that baseball goes more in these directions, but only wants the good parts in opening this gate of more emotional and childlike ballplayers, because you know, gates like this you can only open a little and bad things never come through along with the good. I've seen enough Evil Dead movies to know that this is typically a very bad idea.

I think what Renck and others recognize in the Brewers celebration is a high quality comedic stunt. He's absolutely right that it was hilarious and entertaining. In this sense, I'm very glad it happened. I'm also very glad that it's a unique baseball moment. Good comedy is difficult to reproduce, even for talented professional comedians and writers. I guarantee that if encouraged, it wouldn't be long before these baseball celebrations became stupid, vain and boorish. The other example Renck cites, of the Yankees bouquet celebration would be a good case in point.

So what I'm saying is keep the sense of decorum and tradition in baseball, be glad when somebody comes up with a clever idea to break through it or subvert it like Fielder and the Brewers did, just don't encourage it, if that makes any sense, and don't get all haughty when the corresponding plunk occurs to restore balance to the sport.

Apparently there's some article at the Denver Post about how Rockies hitters could be the subject of a Katy Perry song (Hot n Cold, since I probably need to be specific here to avoid us getting into a bannable conversation) but the link has been broken for me all morning.

The Rockies are starting to sound defensive and potentially in denial when it comes to Rafael Betancourt's shoulder. Stiffness that's not subsiding and unusual for him in the Spring is a big concern for Betancourt. For the Rockies, I think it's really worrisome only if both he and Huston Street are out for a significant chunk of 2010. The team can probably absorb one major bullpen loss without a significant dent to its prospects, two or more and things start to get tricky as certain players down the line (such as Matt Daley and Manny Corpas) must live up to higher expectations or lofty projections. We won't be able to afford the typically inevitable letdowns or disappointments from young players that we have limited data on.

Thomas Harding has more on Betancourt here.