To watch a baseball game these days is to watch a pageant of deliberate body language. Fernando Rodney is a post-save archer, Rafael Soriano a post-save slob, Joe Nathan a no-save Italian stereotype. Some say the trend began with the 2010 Rangers and their “claw and antlers” signs, while others contend that it started with Ty Cobb and his frequent use of the throat-slashing “I’m going to kill you” gesture.
Whatever the inspiration, each game now resembles the International Semaphore Symposium sharing assembly-hall space with the Annual Wanna-Be Gangbangers Colloquium. Problem is, at some point, players will run out of gestures, just as suburban teens must now resort to Fonzie’s thumbs-up to signal their affiliation.
To thwart a possible shortage, I hereby propose the following gestures:
Open palm to side of head, tilt head, close eyes: The traditional symbol of “naptime,” this gesture is used whenever Josh Beckett takes more than the allotted six minutes (or whatever it is) between pitches, and also whenever Justin Morneau, during a conversation with the runner at first base, discusses his favorite cheese.
Bend arms at elbows in front of chest, rotate arm over arm: Used by football referees to indicate a “false start,” this gesture is put into practice whenever first pitch is scheduled for 15:10 p.m., and also whenever anyone even remotely connected to the Bravo network is slated to take the mound.
Bend arm at elbow, point hand upward, rotate finger: Used by wrestling refs to signal “start the injury clock,” this gesture is employed whenever Troy Tulowitzki arrives at spring training, and also whenever any Ranger wakes up.
Hold hands above head, grasp wrist of one arm with hand of the other: This gesture, used by basketball refs to indicate “unsportsmanlike conduct,” is employed whenever any player kicks, punches, bites or stabs another player, and also whenever Jon Lester hunts deer on the field without a regulation safety vest.
Grasp ear with fingers: A sign of appreciation in Brazil and of repentance in India, this gesture is used whenever an old-school manager wishes to convey that “Drysdale would’ve put a fastball in your ear,” and also whenever a new-school manager wishes to convey that “apparently, you have lost your diamond earring.”
Form circle with thumb and index finger, raise other three fingers: Typically used to indicate that things are “A-OK,” this gesture is employed whenever a pitcher is angrily describing the size of umpire Tim McLelland’s strike zone, and also whenever things are “A-OK” or sometimes just “B+OK.”
Tap nose with fingers: Used in Great Britain to indicate secrecy and in Italy as a friendly warming, this gesture is employed whenever a witty blogger is about to crack wise about Rougned Odor, and also whenever the hit-and-run is on.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.