In Defense of Baseball’s Bat Flip

Mj 618_348_in defense of the bat flip
Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images

The next time the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers play each other, Jose Bautista is going to get creamed.

Call it street justice, but MLB players have their own long but distinguished code of conduct outside the standard on-field rulebook. Payback for things like showing up an opposing pitcher typically comes in the form of a fastball between the numbers on your back. You get plunked, you learn your lesson, you take your base.

Bautista crushed a big home run late in the ALDS-clinching win against the Rangers during a wild game in Toronto Wednesday night. And he absolutely smashed it. He watched the ball rocket out of the yard and then passionately chucked his bat halfway to first base, where it will now live in infamy, at least on social media.

Like many baseball purists, Rangers players were predictably enraged with Bautista's toss and emptied the dugout looking for a brawl. Texas reliever Sam Dyson basically said Bautista ruined the sport for everyone.

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"He's a huge role model for the younger generation that is coming up playing this game, and he's doing stuff kids do in wiffle ball and backyard baseball," he said. "It shouldn't be done."

But what's not to like? Sure, no slugger should Moonwalk to first base after a homer (though someone should try), but players have been known to add a bit of flair to putting the bat down for a victory trot. Sometimes the bat is spiked. Sometimes it's given a little loft, some arc, maybe a little twist or a spin. It would be great if someone brought back breaking the twig in two like Bo Jackson used to do after strikeouts. Using the bat as a prop has limitless possibilities. Ride a Pony. The Dizzy Lizzie. The Bat Gun. The Bow and Arrow. It's okay to celebrate a job well done, even if the parade includes a 33-oz wooden projectile. 

Once considered an unpardonable sin, even the MLB may be warming up to the bat flip. Earlier in the week, Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets hit a towering shot against the Los Angeles Dodgers that he followed by lofting his lumber to the on-deck circle. The MLB posted Vines of the two celebrations Wednesday asking, "Who flipped it better?"

Opposing players might not be so quick to embrace the trend, but fans should be happy about them because every other sport seems to be chipping away at the fun. Football has virtually outlawed touchdown dances, hockey has its own brand of enforcing over-the-top celebrations, and baseball has its signature unwritten rules.

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More and more, it seems, players in every sport are being stripped of their personalities, so the sudden popularity — and acceptance — of bat flips, should be a welcome addition to the otherwise long and mostly boring game of baseball.

Still, though, Bautisa is going to get creamed next spring.

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