By In Stuff

Flippin’ Bats

So you might remember a couple of years ago, when Jose Bautista launched the bat flip heard around the world during a playoff game against the Texas Rangers. “The Good Place” executive producer Michael Schur and I co-wrote a piece after that game, and here’s what we said about it (Michael’s words are in bold):

bautista

I understand there are traditionalists and purists and whatever-ists who think that flipping a bat after you hit a home run is bad form, or disrespectful, or something. I disagree. I think it’s awesome, frankly, and if you can’t enjoy Joey Bats, who had that crazy itinerant baseball life and then found a home in Toronto, and who is the soul and beating heart of this team — a team which hasn’t been in the postseason in 22 years and which has brought sports life and sports relevance back to one of the world’s great cities — and whose team went down 0-2 at home to a clearly inferior team and then stormed back on the road and gutted out two big wins and then went back to Toronto, fell behind early, scratched their way back to even, then went down by a run on one of the weirdest plays in postseason history, then loaded the bases on three errors and had a guy forced at home and then only scored one run and had a guy thrown out at second on a single to the outfield … if you can’t enjoy Joey Bats flipping his bat towards his own dugout in a badass and life-affirming and glorious and barbaric yawp of baseball excellence after hitting a home run in that situation, then I feel bad for you.  Or you’re a Rangers fan, in which case, well, I still feel bad for you, because your team lost.

When Blake Griffin jumps 30 feet in the air and dunks, you want to watch him howl at the moon and strut up the court. When Serena Williams lunges and rips a cross-court winner you want to see her pump her fist and scream.  Same for Tiger draining a 30-footer, Brandi Chastain drilling a World Cup penalty, Tom Brady diving for a 1-yard TD. We’re fine with outward displays in every other sport. Why do we ask baseball players to bury their emotions like students in a seminary?

Yep. I mean, the Tom Brady part I disagree with, but the rest is dead on. Baseball is so quirky about this stuff. It is on the one hand a brutally tough sport, Ty Cobb’s sport, Cool Papa Bell’s sport, Pete Rose’s sport, 162 games, played every day, from spring to autumn, through preposterous heat and air soaked with humidity. You’re supposed to run out every ball, even fly balls you know are outs. You’re supposed to shake off getting hit by a pitch and take your walk. Bob Gibson throws inside. Cal Ripken plays thousands of games in a row. Adam Wainwright comes back from like 44 Tommy John surgeries. Tough as nails. There’s no crying in baseball.

And then, on the other hand, it’s like a dinner party in Downton Abbey — pinky out, silverware in order, keep the subjects light, don’t flip your bat, don’t look at your home run, don’t pump your fist when you get a strikeout, don’t do anything that might offend. I get that the Rangers and fans aren’t too thrilled seeing Bautista hammer-throw his bat after hitting a moon-shot homer that broke their spirit. I get that. But man if you can’t bat flip after THAT home run, seriously, why even play baseball.

If Neil Armstrong had played by baseball’s stupid unwritten rules of decorum, he would have whispered, “Yeah, I’m on the moon.”

“Act like you’ve been there before, Neil,” he said to himself, quietly, as he slowly descended onto the surface of an alien planet.

Wednedsay in Atlanta, Bautista bat-flipped again. This was a little bit different situation. This time the home run meant exactly nothing — or just about as little as a long home run can mean. The Braves were leading by five runs, and there was nobody on base. Bautista hit the homer, then gave Braves pitcher Eric O’Flaherty a “Oh, I dislike you so much right now” look, then sent his bat into orbit, not in a celebratory way but more like, “I have now employed the power of this slab of wood it is of no more use to me.”

The Braves didn’t like that. Benches cleared. Jaws flapped. At  some point, it does look like Bautista is pointing to himself as if to say, “Hey, look, I might have overdone that.” But maybe he isn’t saying that. Body language is hard to read. O’Flaherty said some unhappy words about Bautista after the game. Bautista talked about baseball being emotional.

Look: I don’t think it’s especially cool to show up other players in sports. I am enrolled at the the Barry Sanders School of Flipping the Ball to a Referere After You Score — I think that sort of understated grace has its own kind of power.

And I’m definitely not for celebrating individual achievements when your team is losing. The Kansas City Chiefs used to have this player named Mark McMillian — “Mighty Mouse,” everyone called him — and he would celebrate every play he made or almost made or didn’t quite make, no matter the situation. If he knocked a ball down, he flexed. If the receiver dropped the ball and he happened to be nearby, he flexed. If he made a tackle after the receiver made a long gain — and with the Chiefs down three touchdowns — Mark McMillian flexed.

It seemed so goofy, so annoying, but as the years have gone on I’ve looked at it a little bit differently. No, flexing after making a meaningless play is not a great visual. But Mark was 5-foot-7, he weighed 154 pounds, he didn’t even try football until he was a senior in high school. He played for a junior college and then transferred to Alabama. He was drafted in the 10th round. They don’t even have a 10th round anymore.

For Mark McMillian at that size to become an NFL player — for him to play in 127 NFL games, to make 23 interceptions and return three of them, for him to start in playoff games — required a sort of maniacal will, a sort of energy, a sort of crazy ambition that is almost unimaginable. If he needed to celebrate himself to push through the pain and the odds, to reach the crazy high level of engagement he needed, well, maybe we can appreciate that. Maybe we can even say, “Hey man, flex if that’s what you need to do, we’re all just in awe of what you’re doing.”

Jose Bautista was a 29 year old journeyman with a .238 batting average and 59 homers in 575 big league games when he found the swing and the fury that would make him a star. He plays baseball right on the edge. Now he’s in his late 30s, and his numbers decline, and many people think he’s through. So he hit a home run in the midst of what has so far been a frustrating and soul-crushing season. He flipped his bat.

Maybe that isn’t the crime of the century.


Tebow to the prom

It’s easy to be cynical about the world. It’s easy to be cynical about sports. It’s very easy to be cynical about Tim Tebow. His college football greatness did not transfer to the pros. His baseball dream is likely nothing more than that.

But, really, how can you be cynical about this?


The Impossible Zero

Well, Jose Altuve did the impossible on Wednesday. Altuve often does amazing things — he might just be the most fun player in baseball to watch. But this was weird. And impossible.

On Wednesday in Miami, Jose Altuve hit two doubles and two triples — a rare feat that has only been done 14 times in the last 100 years. The last guy to hit multiple doubles and triples in the same game was Carl Crawford in 2005. Before that you have to go to Travis Fryman in 1994. And BEFFORE THAT you have to travel all the way back to 1968 when Ed Stroud did it for the Washington Senators against the Yankees.

So that’s hard enough.

Here’s what made it impossible: He scored zero runs.

That’s never happened before — two doubles, two triples and no runs scored.  And, you know what? It will probably never happen again. Only three times in baseball history has a player had four extra base hits in the same game and not scored a run. Matt Murton did it for the Cubs in 2006 against the Astros. And Willie Jones did it for Philadelphia back in 1949.

But those were different — Murton and Jones each had four doubles and zero triples.

The closest thing to Altuve’s feat seems to be Stan Musial in 1943 hitting a single, a double and two triples and not scoring a run. His Cardinals lost 2-1. But, you know, there was a war going on.


mlbf_1398977783_th_43.jpg

Kyle Schwarber keeps doing legendary things. He apparently hit a home run during batting practice that took out the “Bu” in the “Budweiser” sign on top of the scoreboard.

“It had some wind behind it,” he told our own Carrie Muskat. “You could see some wires fall. I apologize in advance. I’m sure they’ll make that quick fix.”

And then he said this: “It would be better if it was in the game.”

Schwarber continues to be an odd case — a baseball legend who hasn’t yet proven to be a viable every day Major Leaguer. That’s so weird. There haven’t been too many players in any sport who were who great before they were good, but that’s Schwarber’s lot in life. He’s broken Budweiser signs. He’s made miracles in the World Series. He’s hit home runs that stagger the mind. And he’s batting .188 so far this year. He’s young, and he’s so talented, and you have to believe he will indeed be a star. But for now he’s not wrong. It would be better if it was in the game.

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44 Responses to Flippin’ Bats

  1. invitro says:

    The irony here is that Schur, with his “then I feel bad for you”, is being far more judgmental than people who are uncomfortable with bat flippin’. I don’t care if Bautista acts like a toddler — it vaguely seems to me that players were disrespectful a lot more often in the ’80s and ’90s than they are now. And I’ve read enough of Schur’s writing to know that he’s just an ass.

    • SDG says:

      Maybe it’s because I took an unconventional route to baseball fandom, but I don’t understand why bat flipping is disrespectful, any kind of big deal, or against baseball tradition, when it was played by gentlemen like Frank Robinson , Sal Maglie, or Ty Cobb. I get why headhunting is bad, you can permanently damage someone. I get why deeply vicious insults are bad, or dirty spiking. I don’t at all understand why people have a problem with bat flipping, fist pumping or anything else of that nature. You can choose to see it as disrespect or you can choose to recognize that a player hit a homer off you and resolve to do better next time. Why is showboating bad? It’s mockable and pathetic if you don’t have the talent to back it up, nut it you do it’s part of the game. It’s part of life. People are supposed to enjoy baseball. What’s wrong with showing passion when your team accomplishes something?

      Also, my sense is the kinds of guys who complain about special snowflakes and that all millennials/students/”libtards” are a bunch of crybabies who need to toughen up and face the real worlds are the ones complaining that flipping a bat is mean and hurts their pwecious fee-fees.

      • invitro says:

        I don’t think there is anyone who actually gets mad at players “showing passion when your team accomplishes something”. I mean, the most passion you see in a baseball game is when a team has a walk-off victory, which usually prompts the players to run around with a lot of joy. Who’s ever complained about that? And I don’t know of anyone complaining about fist pumps, either. Now again, I don’t really read baseball news/blogs other than this one, so I may be missing it, but I don’t remember anyone getting upset over these things.

        You’ve pretty much nailed why I think some people have a problem with bat flippin’ — “Why is showboating bad? It’s mockable and pathetic”. You say “…if you don’t have the talent to back it up”, but I don’t think it’s a long way from there to just removing that clause. Or what Joe said: “And I’m definitely not for celebrating individual achievements when your team is losing.” Well, I don’t understand why it makes any difference if your team is winning or losing, but anyway. Do you understand what Joe says here, or when he says “I don’t think it’s especially cool to show up other players in sports.”?

        But again, I don’t care about bat flippin’ one way or the other. I think people that like it should be free to like it, and people that don’t should be free to not like it. The only thing I have a problem with is Schur’s need to insult fans who enjoy different aspects of baseball than he does.

        • SDG says:

          invitro, I’m not being snarky, I’m genuinely asking: why is drilling considered acceptable in baseball? Unlike batflips, it can end careers and cause lifelong injuries. Yet for the traditionalists, drilling is not only acceptable but good and necessary. Risk of injury is better than a split-second celebration?

          • invitro says:

            Well, I don’t consider it acceptable. I’ve thought there should be a much larger punishment for HBP ever since I was a kid and Dickie Thon was one of my favorite players. Maybe a lot of fans view drilling as some kind of policing, and policing is generally thought of as good by traditionalists. Or maybe it’s just tradition as tradition… anything that’s been done for 100 years has gotta be OK. There are probably/possibly some racist reasons; showboating is more of a non-white thing. (Not that I necessarily view bat flippin’ as a virulent example of showboating, but it’s put in that category.)

          • invitro says:

            Also, the players decided long ago, and have not changed their minds, that plunking is acceptable and showboating is mostly not. Then most fans probably defer to players’ opinions on what are acceptable actions.

      • JF says:

        I know I’m getting old, but when did just plain good sportsmanship get pushed aside by “passion”?

        • SDG says:

          The two aren’t opposites. Good sportsmanship means you don’t cheat, fight the umpire, alibi, try to injure players beyond the rules of normal play, and you always shake hands after the game. Bat flipping has nothing to do with it.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree. I can’t understand why someone would write something so inane except to show how cool he thinks he is.

    • Mysterio says:

      You have the most worthless opinions here and don’t take the kind suggestions to stop ruining the comment section, so being on the opposite side of Bautista and Schur seems reasonable.

      You get that you are an absolute humorless bore that’s wrong all the time, right? Stop posting. Just take a week off. You’re terrible at this.

  2. Rob Smith says:

    The reason for the bat flips was that the Blue Jays, though struggling this season, came into the home and home series with the Braves on a 5 game win streak, facing the Braves who haven’t been very good, though they did just take 2 of 3 from the Marlins after losing a bunch of games in a row. But it was the Marlins. So the Jays had to feel like they had a good shot to keep their win streak going. Instead, they’ve lost the first three games of the four game set & the Braves have been teeing off on their pitching (27 runs in 3 games). AND… and this is a big AND…. Bautista is currently (after a 2 hit game yesterday) hitting .208/.330/.376.

    So I think the bat flip was about frustration, not celebration. Like FINALLY I hit the flipping ball! But, of course, intent is hard to read & the Braves didn’t take it well. It didn’t help either that the Blue Jays had hit 5 Braves batters in the series and knocked Freddie Freeman out of the game by hitting him in the hand yesterday. There is absolutely no doubt that tonight’s game will be a blood bath. The Braves are pissed about Bautista and about Freeman. I’m not saying it’s the Orioles/Red Sox, but it’s headed in that direction.

  3. Bryan says:

    Jimmie Foxx is probably the closest to Altuve:
    May 30, 1930 Game 1 – Triple, 2 Doubles, 3 Singles, 10 Total Bases, No Runs, Flys Out once
    May 17, 2017 – 2 Triples, 2 Doubles, 10 Total Bases, No Runs, Strikes Out once
    *
    Out of the 7 players with 9 Total Bases and 0 Runs in the last 100 years, Jackie Tavener is the only one with 3 Triples:
    Sep 12, 1925, Game 1 – 3 Triples, 9 Total Bases, No Runs, Fly Out and Pop Out
    *
    Information provided by Baseball-Reference.com Play Index

  4. Bryan says:

    A guy being paid $1.25mil to throw a baseball, threw one poorly and it was hit for a Home Run, that unfortunate millionaire then had to deal with being looked at by the guy that hit the Home Run while he was flipping his bat away. So which member of the Kardashian clan is going to play Eric O’Flaherty in the next Pepsi commercial?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Actually Eric O’Flaherty didn’t even see the bat flip or Bautista attempting to stare him down. But the firstbaseman Jace Peterson, who Bautista also tried to stare down, and the catcher Kurt Suzuki did see it. They were actually less offended by the bat flip than the stare downs. They felt Bautista was truly trying to make some sort of a show down out of it. In addition, this happened right after the Braves Freddie Freeman was knocked out of the game by being hit by a pitch and the Braves were hit 7 times during the 3 games by pitches. So, I think there’s more to it than people are thinking. It wasn’t just the score, it wasn’t just the bat flip, it wasn’t just the HBPs, it wasn’t just Freeman going down, it wasn’t just the stare downs…. it was all of the above.

      In that context maybe people might see it differently. So, as noted above in a comment I made yesterday, it was completely inevitable that Bautista would get retaliation. To his credit, he knew it was coming and he took it like a man and everyone moved on. Thankfully.

  5. TS says:

    Where’s Roughned Odor when you need him?

  6. AdamE says:

    “if you can’t bat flip after THAT home run, seriously, why even play baseball.”

    The 2015 home run was worth bat flipping but he doesn’t just flip his bat in excitement. This wan’t like Fisk with his arms upraised or Gibson’s fist pumps he stares down the pitcher flips the bat, stares him down a second time then starts his trot around the bases where he stares down the 2nd baseman and shortstop. He doesn’t even crack a smile until after he rounds 3rd.

    • Darrel says:

      Spend a minute or two watching the Rangers and you’ll get it. They have an absolute douche of a manager a 2B that, punch aside, has had numerous incidents where he has made “dirty” plays and then they have the audacity to act all victorian when an opponent does the things that they themselves do. Any small measure of respect I had for them went out the window last summer. After all the whining, the cheap throw at Bautista in the last at bat of the yearly series, and the brawl in the infield they went absolutely nuts with a walk-off against the Mariners(I think). Bat flips, staredowns the whole bit. Hypocritical D-bags, and it all starts with their Showalteresque manager.

  7. invitro says:

    This kind of stuff makes me think of Jeffrey Leonard…

    • invitro says:

      Since no one mentioned it… “The Toronto Blue Jays have suspended outfielder Kevin Pillar two games after he directed a homophobic slur at Atlanta Braves pitcher Jason Motte during a game on Wednesday. Major League Baseball said it was investigating the incident, which occurred after Pillar struck out swinging to end the seventh inning of Atlanta’s 8–4 win. Pillar felt he was quick-pitched, and he started to yell toward the mound at Motte after he struck out.” — from https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/05/18/blue-jays-kevin-pillar-atlanta-braves-slur-probe

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Oh who cares if Pillar used some colorful language? What’s next, fining players for saying other bad words? Uh oh, someone called someone else an “idiot” or an “ass” so let’s fine and suspend them!

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          BTW, I’m more annoyed with showboating than calling names. They’re different subjects entirely.

        • invitro says:

          Shirley you know that pro sports take that particular word VERY seriously. Remember when there was a flurry of fines in the NBA for players using it? I don’t know if many MLB players have gotten suspended for it, but I’m not at all surprised… it’s the 2nd-worst thing you can say after racial slurs.

          • Mysterio says:

            No, racial slurs is second, the worst thing Pillar could have done to the catcher is read aloud one of your comments.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Yeah, I mentioned in my post all the things that happened in this series and somehow I also forgot to mention this one. It was a pretty chippy series. Really Toronto, IMO, was reacting to getting their tails kicked the first three games & sportsmanship just went completely out the window. I don’t really know how that was a quick pitch. Yeah, he didn’t stare in and take 20 seconds to throw the ball, he took his sign, did the mini-stretch that pitchers now often do & delivered the ball. I think all of it was just frustration about playing poorly and losing badly.

  8. Crazy Diamond says:

    Jose Bautista is free to flip his bat in the most obnoxious, showboating way he possibly can. But if he’s going to do that, he should expect to get drilled the next time up.

    • invitro says:

      The Braves (Teheran) did plunk Joey Bats in his first time up tonight. He promptly went around to score the first of nine Jays runs off Julio. Which reminds me. I’m getting ready to dump Teheran in our fantasy league. Maybe I’ll try to get something for him, maybe not. Let me know if you have any interest in him. (I don’t have David Dahl any more, though :))

      • Rob Smith says:

        If you have a spot to store him, you might do that. Tehran has a way of (eventually) pitching out of these rough spots. But he’s pitching poorly at home and decently on the road, which is the opposite of what he did last year. I think he’ll right the ship. But you might not start him for a few weeks.

  9. Guy says:

    Are we going to pretend that Freeman getting his wrist broken on a HBP and then Pillar using a slur after he got quick pitched didn’t have anything to do with the reactions here? A little context would help.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Agree. A lot happened in this series that the hot take artists on ESPN somehow fail to mention. Calling the Braves reaction to the bat flip, only a reaction to a bat flip is completely missing the context.

  10. MCD says:

    A few thoughts on bat flips

    1. As others have pointed out, nothing about Bautista’s “bat flip heard around the world” looked celebratory in nature. It was an f-u to the opponent. I admit that it isn’t always as easy to discern between the two as it was in this case. And if you are in the camp of “it doesn’t matter, either kind of demonstration should be okay” I won’t take you to task on it, but don’t pretend this was a case of a happy guy just having fun.

    2. People tend to paint a picture that only out-of-touch senior citizen fuddy-duddies are anti-bat flip. But if that is the case, why do so many opposing players take an issue with it?

    3. I hear all the time that “baseball is the only sport that we care about such things”. On the contrary, football doesn’t just frown upon it, but has explicit *codified* rules against celebrations (and to a lesser extent, so does the NBA). I think if baseball took more of a stance similar to NFL, there would be less consternation due to the vagueness of it all:
    a. Celebrations of big plays are okay, but not if they devolve into taunting.
    b. No celebrating before the play is over. A runner who starts his celebration before crossing the goal line is invariably flagged, and a guy who hits a dinger should be able to wait until he crosses the plate to do whatever little choreography he has planned.

    As I have pointed out before, the disadvantage baseball has is that there is no way to penalize a player short of ejecting him (which is too harsh). This leaves the players the role of policing what is acceptable and what is not.

    • Mysterio says:

      > I admit that it isn’t always as easy to discern between the two as it was in this case.

      This is one of the dumbest comments I’ve ever read in my life. You wrote 1,000 words inserting your own hot take on an act that happened two years ago and then try to assure everyone that it can be difficult to get the context right. No kidding.

  11. Nick says:

    Good lord. I love baseball, but generally speaking baseball players are the whiniest group of professional athletes of the 4 major sports. A lot of fans are just as bad. Don’t want a guy to show you up after a home run? Throw him a pitch he can’t hit out of the park. I love guys that pimp home runs. There’s fairly little actual action during most 9 inning games as it is (which, to be fair, is a strength of the sport in some ways), so some added color is always welcome.

    • invitro says:

      From the NBA to MLB: the goal is not to win the game or perform well, but to humiliate the opponent.

    • SDG says:

      The other thing I don’t get is this is a sport that still reveres Babe Ruth and the called shot which is a central part of his legend. So badass! So dominating! It’s only when modern players do something a billion times milder do we hear about tradition.

  12. Jeeves says:

    I love bat flips in big moments, as long as the y ont get all gay about it to the point where they become common place. But a big home run, sure why not?

  13. Hugh says:

    Nothing wrong with celebrating a home run. But there is something wrong with trying to block someone who has hit a home run from circling the bases. The first baseman and catcher who confronted him on his way around the bases should both have been suspended for a game.

  14. Kevin Fitzgerald says:

    Keep defending showboating for your new employer, Joe. This comment was not reviewed by MLB or any of its clubs or whatever.

  15. Brian Schwartz says:

    There’s no winning this battle… Players are unprofessional and immature if they show emotion, but those who don’t show emotion don’t love the game and are just in it for the money. If you watch with a real old-school fan, you can witness players being subjected to both criticisms during the same game.

    • invitro says:

      “Players are unprofessional and immature if they show emotion” — You know, this kind of stuff is getting really tired. No one ever has complained about players showing emotion. You need to figure out what people are actually talking about, before you can join the conversation. OK?

      • Mysterio says:

        Don’t lecture others, there’s two people in this comment section complaining about being unprofessional. He’s right and you’re wrong as usual, invitro. Since you’re incapable of being embarrassed, I’ll spell it out plainly: you’re waaaay too stupid to tone police, so you’re going to stop doing it or we’ll take steps as a community to remove you from contributing.

  16. Brent says:

    I have no problems with Joey Bats at all. After all he was a Major Contributor to the Royals World Series title in 2015. He can flip his bat all he wants as far as I am concerned, as long as he keeps playing RF like a DH, especially against the Royals

    • Mysterio says:

      The best thing about baseball is that mongoloids that literally don’t understand the very first thing about what they are seeing on the field can sometimes still enjoy it. It will be 30 years before you make the playoffs again so in that time you might be able to graduate to having the grasp of the game equivalent to a fourth grader.

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