In the midst of the NFL’s new legislation against taunting — something that certainly, positively, absolutely, and definitely doesn’t have any insidious undertones to it — baseball somehow seems like the sport that, for once, ISN’T at the center of a “no fun” controversy (for now). Aside from Eric Hosmer and Adam Frazier homering in the same this past Friday, I doubt there’s anything less likely to come to fruition (and maybe Peter Appel’s parlays). What reality are we living in? Did Doctor Strange send us into another dimension? Is this the Twilight Zone? I remember when, many eons ago (2014), the Dodgers had a bubble machine in their dugout and Major League Baseball, due to its insatiable lust to make their sport as boring as possible, struck down the entire thing. Now, us lovers of baseball are finally the fun league! Huzzah!
Of course, I’m exaggerating a bit. Baseball still has a rampant culture problem, in a myriad of areas, and it’s simply just a matter of time until its next brain-worms-inducing story comes out. But even still, here at Just Baseball we like to celebrate the small victories; baseball culture may still be hamstrung by analytics freaks and gatekeepers of fun, but it’s better than it used to be. That’s why today we’ll be ranking eight of the most widely publicized celebration gimmicks teams have showcased this season. From hats, to chains, to (somehow) controversial hand gestures, it’s time to get weird.
8. Thumbs Down – New York Mets
Fine, detective, you caught me: this selection is just for the laughs. Let us not forget that, if not for the New York Jets and Knicks (until recently), the New York Mets could be the most cursed team in sports. They have a penchant for not only disappointment in their play on the field, but for generating headlines about the most inane of topics. Jacob deGrom? Sweetie, we want you to stay healthy so badly! Your hiring practices? Atrocious? Steve Cohen? Please stop tweeting! Nobody needs a hedge fun billionaire referring to human beings as money investments!
We already know that’s how you view people, that doesn’t mean you have to say it! Just stay out of the news for one day, please!
But one of the most cursed moments regarding the Mets this season was the whole “thumbs down” controversy. My request to everyone seeing this is to read “controversy” with the greatest hint of sarcasm imaginable, because I find it hilarious seeing fans, and Twitter folks with less than a thousand followers, calling Javier Báez “soft” after this relatively innocuous gesture. Indeed, it’s the athlete doing a thumbs down gesture that’s the weak one, not the fans who throw a fit after one of their players dares to express himself. But to summarize: this “celebration” only makes it on the list due to its sheer notoriety. Send the Mets to the pits of Tartarus.
7. The Homer Shades – Colorado Rockies
Alright, from here on out is nothing but love and appreciation. The Colorado Rockies are, and I can’t stress this enough, an abomination. I won’t spend too much time recounting all of their failures, as that’s already been reported on at length and I’m not a fan of kicking people when they’re already down, and will instead focus on one of the few things they have going their way: The home run shades! For anyone that’s been on the internet for a decent amount of time, you should be familiar with these shades as part of an ongoing “thug life” meme. They’re simple, effective, and almost look as if they were photoshopped onto players after the fact.
It’s a fairly ancient meme by internet standards, but I applaud Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard for introducing this bit into the clubhouse. Considering how much baseball can police fun and personality, I’d welcome clubhouses introducing the dinosaur thinking meme or a goddamn harmonica as a form of celebration at this point. They rank lower on the list only because they aren’t quite loud enough; the best kind of celebrations are most flamboyantly obnoxious ones. Plus, it’s the Rockies; it’s rare there’s anything worth celebrating there.
6. The Home Run Belt – Baltimore Orioles
Also residing in the same desolate realm of mediocrity is everyone’s favorite team to not hate, the Baltimore Orioles! Sure, you may not be an Orioles fan, but it’s hard to find someone who truly hates that team. Plus, I stand by my take that, if you’re one of those nomadic types of fans looking for another team to root for, the Orioles may not be a bad one. Prospects Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez are the real deal, so it’s a team you’ll be able to say you got in on before it was cool! But in terms of the now, I must say their home run belt is lovely.
I’m of the belief that professional wrestling, while it’s not something I’ve ever been particularly invested in, has the kind of chaotic energy we need to see embraced in ALL sports. I want the Orioles to hit a home run off of Gerrit Cole and literally hit him with the Rock Bottom move before he walks into the dugout. Well, maybe not THAT much chaotic energy, but you get the idea. The only unfortunate thing, like the Rockies, is how infrequently the belt is brought out. But again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make more frequent appearances once the Orioles prospects start blooming.
5. The Straw Hat – Philidelphia Phillies
As a well-documented fan of Monkey D. Luffy, I have nothing but respect for the Straw Hat. If by any chance you’re a simpleton — an ignorant neanderthal, an irredeemable troglodyte, an uncultured SWINE, some may say — and don’t know who Luffy is, just know he’s going to be the future king of the pirates, and don’t you EVER forget it. As for the Phillies, I have nothing but respect for them and their usage of a celebratory straw hat. Plus, it’s custom
It’s a shame, though, that the team isn’t particularly good, and might be wasting what is likely an MVP season from Bryce Harper. By the way, why does that keep happening? You have this year’s wreck of a Phillies team, where Aaron Nola fails to produce a clutch start each time the team needs it and an offense littered with underperforming players (Alec Bohm…what happened?). Then you have his first MVP season back in 2015, where the entire Nationals roster outside of Max Scherzer seemingly crumbled like the casino in Ocean’s Eleven. Does Harper somehow absorb all of the life force of his teammates to produce these results? Is this something his teammates agree to? Like they’re the energy being absorbed in order for Harper to pull of his Spirit Bomb? This may need further investigating.
4. Guillermo Heredia’s Plastic Swords – Atlanta Braves
You see this right here? This is the type of dumb, harmless fun that fuels me to keep hoping for baseball. After a walk-off win by the Braves in July, Braves outfielder Guillermo Heredia charged onto the field wielding two plastic swords for…reasons! This is adorable. I love the way one of them is pink! It makes my cold, dead heart actually feel something for once. Is there any real rhyme or reason to it? No! But is it unique and something that baseball should do its best to embrace at every opportunity? Yes!
The only reason Heredia and his plastic swords don’t rank higher is that, unfortunately, they were more of a one-hit-wonder. Unlike most of the items on this list, Heredia’s swords aren’t as regular of an occurrence. One may argue that it being more of a rarity actually makes it even more legendary — an argument that certainly deserves its chance in the Baseball Celebrations Court of Law. But for the sake of this list, and time, that’s why this stays at number four.
3. The Laundry Cart – Boston Red Sox
I hate all things Boston. Being a Red Sox fan is one of the only flaws fellow staff writer Colby Olson has. But I must admit, despite all the dastardly things Boston is responsible for, this celebration the Red Sox execute is too beautiful to ignore. And by “beautiful” I mean “so obviously childish that it makes me almost forget how much I hate the Red Sox.” Seriously, this ranks high — and may even have a case at the top spot — simply for the fact that I’m genuinely astounded the baseball didn’t find some way to ban it. It’s literally grown men riding in a laundry cart in their dugout; that’s almost TOO fun for the league to ignore.
My only reason — and I promise it isn’t a biased one — that the cart doesn’t get the top spot is because of the potential variables it introduces if the team isn’t playing well. It’s a full-blown production that requires a ton of effort: are you always going to be in the mood to jump in a cart, be taken across the dugout and high-fiving all of your teammates, when your team has been falling off and in danger of losing their playoff berth? It’s a legitimate question, and a question other team celebrations aren’t quite as affected by.
2. Home Run Jacket – Toronto Blue Jays
I think we all need to come to accept the fact that the Blue Jays are always cool. Sure, Rangers fans hate them because they have to find someone else to be mad at for their team suffering tragic losses. I get it, Rangers fans, Jose Bautista doing a bat-flip is a lot easier to steer your anger towards rather than your legendary third basemen and the rest of your infield completely falling apart in a playoff game. But aside from that, the Blue Jays have great fans, exciting players, and a swagger to them that seems to rear its head around at the most opportune of moments. Given their late-season surge to make the playoffs, this has certainly been one of those moments, and the Jays once again seized it with their home run jacket.
A few things:
- A team like the Blue Jays, with its dynamic lineup filled with heavy power hitters (the Oakland A’s should be relegated for how they handled Marcus Semien), are a team that will frequently have reasons to celebrate. Knowing that, you need to make sure the celebration is cool, or else you’ll be roasted into oblivion. They didn’t choke under pressure, and delivered this dope as hell jacket.
- Jackets are cool.
- I absolutely love how the jacket pays homage to all of the respective countries players are from. It just feels like the perfect sentiment to unity, and representation. Baseball is global, baby!
- The Blue Jays literally made a whole production out of this. That’s cinema.
1. The Swagg Chain – San Diego Padres
The Padres are a disaster. There’s no denying it. They went from the most exciting team in baseball to one of the most memeable teams in baseball. But let’s ignore that for a second, because the team’s Swagg Chain is unquestionably the best celebration gimmick in baseball. To start, the thing is a massive undertaking, taking around two and a half months to build, weighs six pounds, consists of 8000 stones, and has a spinnable Padres logo! Plus, Manny Machado reportedly dropped a sizable bag on the thing, which absolutely attests to the sheer commitment to building such a masterpiece. Seeing Fernando Tatis Jr. be enshrined after hitting a nuclear blast is one of the more indelible images from the 2021 season.
Of course, it’s almost sacrilegious to talk about the Swagg Chain given that it feels like an artifact of a bygone era. The Padres second-half collapse was so seismic that, to some, this all looks like a meme in retrospect. It’s an image that evokes the classic and true narrative of how quickly things can rise and fall; it’s cannon fodder for Dodgers fans who keep pretending they don’t pay attention to the Padres; it’s a sign of how cool this sport can sometimes be. It’s easy to mock someone, or some team, for trying and failing the way the Padres did, but that doesn’t take away from the trying.
So whether it be viewed as an image that succinctly captures the Padres’ unapologetically flamboyant personality — something the game so rarely embraces, or even tolerates — or used as a totem for which the team can be roasted for, there’s no denying it was a memorable one.