— MLB (@MLB) July 16, 2017
Odubel Herrera is a guy firmly committed to his bat-flipping lifestyle.
Against the Giants on Saturday, he did it twice—once on a fly out and again on a double—the latter of which happened against notorious hothead Hunter Strickland, and led a reporter to ask in the postgame clubhouse whether Herrera ever considers that pitchers might not appreciate that kind of stuff on hits that aren’t actually homers.
The outfielder responded by ranking the latter flip as his best ever.
And what, he was questioned, if such actions should lead to an angry pitcher planting one into his ribcage?
“Of course it worries me a little bit,” he said in a CSN Philly report. “I don’t want to get drilled. But I’m not going to change the way I play. If I get hit, I’m just going to have to rub it.”
(The latter statement is itself a violation of the macho division of the sport’s unwritten rules. Never acknowledge that the pitcher hurt you, goes the tenet, because You can’t hurt me is a far more effective tone-setter than Ow, that stung.)
Regardless of the stupidity with which Herrera flings his bat all over the yard, one must at least credit him for perseverance. At least he has that much going for him.
Yesterday’s post regarding the above bat flip generated a considerable bit of attention for its star, and not the good kind. After numerous outlets—including Deadspin, Barstool Sports, and this one right here—linked to video of a teenager letting loose a massive bat flip during a high school game, the love didn’t exactly fly.
What wasn’t reported until the Courier-Post in south New Jersey got to it later: Once the flipper, a kid from Gloucester Catholic High School named Chris Turco, had rounded the bases, the plate umpire was waiting to offer up some helpful advice on how to comport oneself. A less-civil response came from the pitcher who gave up Turco’s blast—he drilled the next two Gloucester Catholic hitters.
Turco’s coach later tweeted an apology:
Tussey also commented to the press:
“It was a highly emotional game and Chris let his emotions take over a bit. The play that happened yesterday doesn’t reflect Chris as a player or a person nor does [it] reflect how our program operates. The bat flip is inexcusable and will be handled internally by our coaching staff.”
Excepting for a moment the ludicrousness of high school pitchers throwing at opponents as a measure of justice for stupid look-at-me stunts, things appear to have stabilized across Camden County. We now return you to your regularly scheduled big league bat flips.
Because one can never have too much bat flip discussion, and because no bat flip discussion is complete without Jose Bautista, let’s start there.
On Wednesday, Bautista hit an angry home run against Atlanta. He was angry because earlier in the game, Toronto teammate Kevin Pillar, upset at having been struck out on a quick pitch from Jason Motte, shouted a homophobic slur toward the mound, causing benches to empty. (The slur, having violated the unwritten rules of society more than it did the unwritten rules of baseball, is not the point of this post.)
So when Bautista homered a bit later against Eric O’Flaherty, he did this:
As you can see, a bat flip was involved. Also as you can see, the moment was pointedly distinct from Bautista’s other noteworthy flip from the 2015 postseason, which was documented at some length within these pages.
The latter was an expression of joy—satisfaction at having succeeded, monumentally, at an important task.
The former consisted primarily of churlishness. There was little to celebrate—the Blue Jays were down 8-3 when Bautista swung the bat. He tried to stare down the pitcher. He did a weird skip around the bases. There is a difference.
Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki thought so. He had words for Bautista as the runner crossed the plate, and when Bautista stopped to enjoin him, benches emptied for the second time in the game. Afterward, O’Flaherty had some pointed comments. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“That’s something that’s making the game tough to watch lately. It’s just turned into look-at-me stuff, it’s not even about winning anymore. Guy wants to hit a home run in a five-run game, pimp it, throw the bat around – I mean, I don’t know. It’s frustrating as a pitcher. I didn’t see it at the time, but I saw the video – he looked at me, tried to make eye contact. It’s just tired. We’ve seen it from him, though.”
Add to that the fact that Toronto pitchers hit seven batters over the first three games of the series—one of which knocked Freddie Freeman out of action for 10 weeks with a broken hand—and Atlanta was left with an abundance of bad feelings. (The pitch to Freeman was clearly unintentional, a fastball that wasn’t all that far inside, which hit Freeman’s extended top hand as he tried to check his swing.)
Atlanta responded to it all on Thursday, Julio Teheran drilling Bautista in the hip two pitches into his first-inning at-bat. Warnings were issued and everybody moved on. (Allowing players to police their own business, in whatever reasonable form it took, served to diffuse the situation after that point. Bautista and the Jays made a statement of their own by scoring three runs in the inning en route to a 9-0 victory.)
There is something to be said for recent cries that baseball should embrace the passion of its players and allow them to more freely express themselves on the field when it comes to bat flips and other celebratory acts. Unfortunately, that same sentiment is also used to justify poor behavior from egotistical spotlight hogs.
A player exulting after a virtuous performance lends realism to the sport. Showboating out of petulance strips that realism away. Bautista has encapsulated both sides of that argument. On Wednesday, it wasn’t a good look for anybody.
Kris Bryant went on Chicago radio station 670 The Score on Tuesday and discussed bat flipping. While being careful to say that he’s not offended when others do it, and adding that it’s good to “add more of that fun to the game,” he also said this:
If [you hit a home run] halfway up the video board, that’s it, that’s enough of a disgrace for the pitcher that you don’t need to add anything to it. You crushed a home run, you felt good about it. He felt bad about it. And it’s good.”
It’s all personal opinion, of course. In baseball’s new bat-flip-tolerant landscape, pitchers have little call to get upset by the practice. But Bryant drove to the heart of the anti-showboat mentality: Put your head down and act like you’ve been there before. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
[H/T Big League Stew]