Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot made of the drama between the Atlanta Braves and the Phillies and, more specifically, regarding Orlando Arcia's comments in the clubhouse after the Braves' Game Two win that ended with one of the wilder double plays you will ever see.
After the game, Orlando Arcia was heard chirping about Bryce's baserunning on that final play, it got out, and turned into this weird media thing that enraged Phillies fans because of the perceived disrespect. There are some very real journalistic ethics questions with this situation as reporting what is said in the clubhouse while not explicitly on the record is questionable at best and the Braves are rightfully upset about how things went down.
However, all of that nonsense sort of misses the point because at the end of the day, the game of baseball needs to embrace this sort of conflict because it is what makes following competitive sports so fun.
The Arcia/Harper drama is exactly the kind of thing baseball needs more of
To be clear, there are lines that probably shouldn't be crossed. There are celebrations that are too much and trash talk that should be off limits and while reasonable people can disagree on what those lines are, there are clear cut places where everyone can agree. There also shouldn't any situations where player safety should be at risk (yes, that means pitchers should stop throwing at guys on purpose) and what is said in the clubhouse should stay there unless its on the record.
However, fans do not watch sports to see guys completely stripped of any personality or showmanship. These arguments about "disrespect" are the same ones that are used by the "old man yelling at clouds" types that get up in arms every time there is a bat flip after a home run or a pitcher screaming after getting a big strikeout. Baseball is a competitive game and everyone should want each player on every team to relish winning individual battles and enjoy individual moments. This isn't chess in the 1800's, this is baseball and it should be fun to watch and fun to hate the other team.
The craziest part of all of this? Bryce Harper probably agrees with that 100%. Bryce hasn't been a guy to shy away from expressing himself and has been very vocal of appreciating how guys like Ronald Acuna Jr. play the game. Bryce did what great players should do with these sorts of situations. He wasn't out there complaining about Arcia hurting his feelings and violating the unwritten rules of baseball whatever the hell that means. He took the comments as motivation, crushed some baseballs, got the home crowd involved, and let Arcia know that he heard him. In Bryce's own words after the game, "Yeah, I stared right at him" and later added ""It's just a game. It's fun. Everybody played a really good game. That's what it's all about."
If a fraction of the things that NBA and NFL players say ON THE FIELD to each other let alone in the locker room were given the sort of treatment by outside observers that this Arcia/Harper situation has, those sports would be lesser for it. Football and basketball games are littered with big individual moments that get fans riled up and the players embrace those moments as they should.
Baseball needs more rivalries and more conflict, not less. Sure, it doesn't need guys charging the mound or guys getting hit by pitches on purpose or truly hateful language thrown around, but it should be fun to live in the moments of the game. Orlando Arcia has nothing to apologize for. Bryce Harper has nothing to apologize for. This sort of thing is exactly what baseball needs more of, not less, if it is going to continue to compete with other sports in this day and age. At the end of the day, baseball should be fun and that should include how fun it is to hate your rivals.