To flip or not to flip. THAT is the question…
If you’ll excuse my revision to the great line from Shakespeare’s, Hamlet, I’ve been asking and debating this very question with a number of lifelong fans of America’s pastime.
This question came about and stirred up (ANOTHER) fiery debate because recently, White Sox Shortstop Tim Anderson hit a BOMB of a homerun off Kansas City Royals Pitcher Brad Keller, then “flipped” his bat in celebration, which eventually led to a bench clearing brawl…
Oh baseball players…you and those Ty Cobb era “unwritten rules”…
Ever since Anderson flipped his bat in excitement, after undoubtedly executing THE MOST DIFFICULT FEAT IN ALL OF SPORTS (hitting a major league pitch for a homerun), current and former MLB players, managers, execs, and of course, US, the fans, have been going back and forth about whether or not it’s acceptable for big league hitters to celebrate after hitting a home run that (generally) doesn’t win a game.
Most “old school” ball players and fans have vehemently opposed bat flipping or any other kind of celebration by a batter, simply because the “pitcher is the policeman.” They say pitchers keep the peace and make sure players don’t do anything to upstage the importance of the game. Okay, I can buy that. As a guy who’s always been team first, I appreciate that idea. HOWEVER…there’s also the little detail about “not showing up the pitcher” which is complete and utter BS they sometimes fail to mention….
Since pitchers “police” player conduct on the field, they have a certain CANYON WIDE EGO that comes with that rank. Due to their not-so-little ego, they expect that if a batter hits a homerun, they should put their head down and quickly round the bases. Basically, “you got the best of me and since everyone became excited for you, you should take your victory lap and move on.”
If a batter fails to abide by these “rules” – bat flipping, punching the air like a boxer, staying at home plate to watch the ball, or doesn’t round the bases quickly enough, to name a few.. – the opposing pitcher sees this as an EGREGIOUS OFFENSE (cue the thunder and lightning of Zeus), and justice MUST be served…
The “justice” that a pitcher most commonly serves up is a 95 mph fastball to either the perpetrator, or their teammate. This tactic sends a clear message that this kind of chicanery will not be tolerated, and to stay in your lane.
HERE’S THE PROBLEM…The only thing this “justice” does is create ABSOLUTE CHAOS.
The team who watched their player PURPOSELY get hit with a 95 mph pitch, now plans to retaliate…
This leads to various batters getting hit or “thrown at”. And between the LONG, hot day, the ocean-sized volume of testosterone in competition, and the outright act of committing assault, the benches and bullpens clear and we’ve got a good, ol’ fashion donnybrook.
This ARCHAIC lunacy goes back to the days before even Ruth or Cobb played, and sadly is predicated on not “embarrassing” someone more than they already are…BOO. FREAKING. HOO.
YET, there have been a number of pitchers through the baseball years who were VERY DEMONSTRATIVE when they struck batters out. Relievers like Jose Lima, K-Rod, and others are all guilty of acting “wild” or “overly emotional” when they’d strike a batter out. A lot of starting pitchers will punch their gloves and scream “YEAH!” or “LET’S GO!” AND walk off the mound when they strike a batter out to end an inning.
Personally, I have no problem with a major league hitter celebrating with a bat flip or a stare down of the ball as it soars through the air because they just accomplished the most difficult feat in sports. They won the cat and mouse game that is pitcher against hitter. AND IT’S FUN! It makes the game more competitive, and raises the intensity and stakes of each at bat, which creates more draw to watch!!
Higher ratings and attendance mean more $$$ – DUH!!
When I play sports and my opponent gets the best of me, I want to get them back by out-performing them. I don’t want to get the best of them by potentially injuring them. That’s what cowards do. Throwing at someone’s head or back doesn’t mean you’ve used your mind to outwit your opponent to embarrass them through skill, it means you’re too weak in ability and belief in yourself to face them like a real competitor.
If a football player can dance and celebrate after outrunning 11 of the biggest, fastest, strongest men to score a touchdown, then I think baseball can take a page from the pigskin playbook and teach it’s pitchers to knockoff the bean ball wars and embrace the healthy competition.