Bat flips, Showboating

Flipping Out: The Response to What is now Officially a Common Occurrence


So baseball has come to this: the Puig vs. the anti-Puig, forces within the game tugging in opposite directions of what is considered to be acceptable behavior. Puig need not even be present, representing as he does the New World Order of celebration for celebration’s sake, in the face of the game’s long tradition of shunning such displays.

On Friday, in a game at Dodger Stadium, Puig played himself, flipping his bat with no small degree of nonchalance following a sixth-inning home run. The role of anti-Puig was played by Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner, the man who had pitched the baseball.

Mad Bum did not like Puig’s act. Even as the ball flew toward the left field bleachers, Bumgarner strolled down the mound toward the third base line, and waited. When Puig passed, he gave him a piece of his mind. Puig responded accordingly. (Watch it here.)

Bumgarner, it appears, is late to the game on the whole New World Order thing. On the Puig Scale, the bat flip barely registered. The flip didn’t say “I’m so great for hitting that home run against you” so much as simply “I’m so great.” Whether you’re a new-school proponent saying that Puig and his ilk are exactly what baseball needs, or an old-school curmudgeon saying that the likes of Puig will be the ruination of Cartwright’s game, there’s no denying one thing: Whatever he did had nothing to do with Madison Bumgarner.

Puig flips because Puig flips. In the current landscape of home-plate scrums following interleague victories in June, this is simply the way things are. Puig’s actions have not been corrected, because the groundswell to correct them simply does not exist. The Baseball Gods have spoken.

The unwritten rules exist in flux, after all, and adapt to the times. This has always been the case. Once, Don Drysdale could knock down Willie Mays for digging into the batter’s box, and Mays would respond with nothing more severe than, “I better not do that next time.”

A pitcher with Drysdale’s mentality would not survive long in today’s game, shunned for his actions not just by fellow players but by the league itself. Not so Puig.

I am a fan of neither his bat flips, nor his attitude in general. But I am cognizant enough to recognize a shifting tide, and what Puig is doing now falls within baseball’s mainstream. He himself has pushed it there.

So when Madison Bumgarner gets upset with that sort of action, as if that sort of action was somehow directed toward him, he’s simply wrong. It’s Puig being Puig, and, like it or not, it’s now baseball being baseball.

Bumgarner, for his part, already had the best possible response at his disposal. He and the Giants beat Los Angeles, 3-1.


6 thoughts on “Flipping Out: The Response to What is now Officially a Common Occurrence

  1. My problem with Puig isn’t just the bat flip, because as you’ve said, that’s just the direction the sport has been moving for years, even if his flip is significantly more exaggerated than most other players.

    But as a young player who has yet to play a full season in the majors, he hasn’t really earned the right to act this way, and if his veteran teammates cared about anything besides all that ridiculous money they’re making, they’d maybe do something to rein him in. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

    Because right or wrong, some pitcher who takes issue with his bat flip is going to drill him one of these days.

    (Also, he has a tendency to flip the bat on long flyouts, too. At the very least, he should learn to be sure a ball is a home run before doing anything showy.)

    1. Why is the man dangerously throwing intentionally at another player the good guy in your scenerio?
      Why is the guy doing what is culturally normal for him the bad guy?

      Move into the 21st century caveman less you speak of spiking a guy or seperate leagues for coloreds.

      1. Not sure which man throwing dangerously you’re referring to, but intoning racism in the absence of a race-based discussion lends no help to those who raise the subject with validity. Best check yourself.

  2. I agree with every single one of your points, but there is a force at work here bigger than both of us. Puig’s teammates have done nothing to stop it, and Puig’s opponents have done nothing to stop it. Thus, baseball mores shift.

    If a groundswell of support unexpectedly materializes to drag the Puigism of baseball back to more traditional ground, I wouldn’t be upset. But in reporting the state of the unwritten rules, the big picture is that Puig is winning. (Were opponents drilling him with any degree of regularity, we’d be discussing nothing but how he’s too young and too brash and loves to kick puppies, or whatever it may be. As it is, none of that has sufficiently registered.)

    So: New world order, where stature trumps tenure and flash trumps substance (especially on those pimped balls hit to the warning track). Like it or not, this is where we live.

  3. Great piece, and great post above by lawrence.

    What I’m more annoyed by are teams celebrating spring walk off wins with a party at home plate that, without context, would make you think they just clinched the pennant. Really, kids? Even the Astros are going to win, like, 50 times this season. Let’s act like you’ve been here before, OK?

    But it goes back to what Turbow points out both in his piece and his response to lawrence: nobody’s doing anything to stop it (it seems instead most teams are doing it), so mores shift.

  4. I haven’t verified this (or even tried), but I connect the rise of the every-day walk-off celebration scrum with the Prince Fielder’s bowling ball celebration routine against San Francisco back in 2009 (wherein he pantomimed an explosion at the plate while his teammates all rolled over backwards). It was over the top, and although Barry Zito responded the following spring, it’s been kind of game on since that time …

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