The great thing about reading the sports section in 2008 is that rarely does a day go by without someone’s sense of baseball etiquette being violated. Last week, we suffered through extensive debate regarding Joba Chamberlain’s fist-pumping, and over the weekend, Ryne Sandberg threw a shitfit over an opposing manager’s team bunting with a 6 run lead in the Class-A Midwest League. None of that, however, tops Mets starter (and losing pitcher in Monday’s 10-4 defeat at the hands of Washington) Nelson Figueroa taking umbrage at the Nationals cheering for their teammate.  From Newsday’s Anthony Rieber.

Figueroa took issue with the Nationals’ bench chanting and clapping “Let’s go, Austin” during Austin Kearns’ third-inning at-bat with the bases loaded.

“They were cheerleading in the dugout like softball girls,” Figueroa said. “I’m a professional like anybody else, so I take a huge offense to that. If that’s what a last-place team needs to do to fire themselves up, so be it. I think they need to show a little more class and professionalism. They won tonight, but in the long run, they’re still what they are … For the manager and coaching staff to let that kind of stuff carry on, it’s truly unprofessional. That’s why they are who they are.”

We’re not going to cater to anyone on the opposing team,” said former Met Lastings Milledge, who had struck out in the at-bat before Kearns. “Whatever. We’ve been down the last couple of days, so we want to get something going. If you don’t like it, then you’ve got to deal with it.”

Figueroa had already hit a batter and walked in a run in the inning, but Milledge said the Nats weren’t trying to unnerve him.

“We didn’t try to rattle him,” he said. “We tried to get our guys going. We’re not worried about him. We’re not worried about the opposing pitcher and what they’re doing. We’re trying to get ourselves going because we’ve been kind of quiet in the dugout.”

Having compiled 83 big league appearances in the past 9 years, there’s clearly no one more qualified to lecture the young Nats on the nature of professionalism than Figueroa, though I’ll give the Brandeis alumnus this much credit : unlike Billy Wagner, at least he’s criticizing someone else’s teammates.