Was Bautista’s Bat Flip in Poor Taste?

Every baseball fan loves a moonshot. However, the same cannot be said when it comes to bat flips; you either love when someone “pimps” a home run or you hate it. Either way, you’re going to have a strong opinion. So, when Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays tossed the bat after he connected on a 97 mph Sam Dyson fastball, the internet exploded.

Many online outlets, including Deadspin, Bleacher Report, and Barstool Sports lauded the flip. They referred to it as “righteous,” “the greatest bat flip ever,” and “savage.” On top of that, most fans and analysts subscribed to the hype and supported the flamboyant flip. Some backed Bautista for showing passion in a sport where emotion is harder and harder to come by. Others liked the move purely because Bautista conducted it with “swag.” In any case, the perception of the flip was predominantly positive.

However, I could not bring myself to admire Bautista.

No, I’m not a baseball purist. Nor do I abhor bat flips. In fact, I like them. They spice up the game, often providing it with much-needed variation. And in the sports world, where “fun” is often fined and celebrations are penalized, it is nice to see a ballplayer admire a home run and toss the bat in a spontaneous, self-fulfilled way. Yet, Bautista’s celebration was different. It was conspicuous, loud and calculated.

Once Bautista connected with the pitch, he — along with everyone else in the stadium — knew it was headed out of the park. Rather than promptly exiting the batter’s box to round the bases, Bautista posed at home plate admiring his home run. Then, with a scowl on his face, he lifted his bat up and threw it twenty feet to his right. Only then did he begin his home run trot.

One reason I took issue with Bautista’s actions was because the flip was not natural, nor was it smooth. It was deliberate and awkward. This delay made the flip seem like it was not derived from pure excitement; it looked forced.

ESPN’s Buster Olney did not share my view. He likened Bautista’s antics to those of former Yankee Scott Brosius when he hit a home run in the 8th inning of Game 3 of the 1998 World Series. Olney claimed that Brosius raised his arms up in the air “like some conquering Hercules.”

However, there were two major differences between Brosius’ actions after his home run and Bautista’s. First, Brosius quickly got out of the box and did not watch the ball. And second, Brosius threw his arms up in the air as he was rounding first base, not at home plate. Ultimately, this distinction makes the celebration much less targeted and much more genuine. In fact, Olney mentioned that when Brosius was informed the next day that he raised his arms up in the air, “[Brosius] was somewhat mortified.”

Bautista, on the other hand, took pride in his actions. When asked if he had any comment on the bat flip after the game, Bautista told the press, “No.” Bautista embraced his bat flip because he wanted to be likened to a “Hercules-esque” character. He wanted to show the opposing team that he was going to be the main reason they were eliminated from the playoffs. As a result, he took it upon himself to watch his home run and use the bat flip to send a message to the other team.

Interestingly, just two days before Bautista’s bat flip, the New York Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes did a bat flip of his own. Cespedes crushed a fastball and in the process all but put the game out of reach. Like Bautista, Cespedes gazed at the ball and watched it glide into the seats. Cespedes, however, did this while moving toward first base. Only once he exited the batter’s box did he casually flip his bat. Cespedes’ antics did not taunt the other team, nor were they outwardly visible. By not standing at the plate and ogling, Cespedes was able to show some flair while not disrespecting the game.

As a whole, I was disappointed that Bautista carried himself in a manner where he embraced the Herculean role. In baseball, a team sport, the celebration should be teamwide. Interestingly, since Bautista hit the home run, he has hit a paltry .167 and his team has gone 1-3. All in all, it will be curious to see whether the Bautista will go down in baseball history for his premeditated bat flip or if he will be able to change his narrative to reflect a more team-oriented contribution.

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