We’ve all heard the numerous stances on the culture of baseball that have come out over the first month of the season. Whether it was Goose Gossage’s rant or your Uncle Ted who swears that there is only one way you can play the game: “The Right Way”, I’m sure you’ve heard about the bat flip at some point. The bat flip after a home run has become more common in the last several years, and has even been creeping its way into extra base hits (looking at you, Puig). At the center of its controversy are two polarizing sides: one disgusted by it, and on that embraces it.
Let’s take a look at side number one: The Anti-Flippers. The argument here is whether celebrations such as the flip damage the gentlemen-like qualities of the game, or playing “The Right Way”. In some legitimate arguments, they are exactly right. Baseball has always been a game of respect, and its athletes have been held to certain etiquette standards, consciously or not.
Take the Garry Templeton incident for example. Templeton, a hot-shot shortstop, flipped off the fans of St. Louis back in 1981. He was subsequently suspended and fined by the Cardinals organization. Take a similar gesture (quite literally) when Falcons quarterback Michael Vick did it to his home crowd. Yes, he was fined, but he never received the kind of treatment Templeton did. Baseball players are expected to arrive at the ballpark, play the game, rinse, and repeat.
Now for the embracing side. Baseball is primarily a sport that is watched by middle-aged men. Thus why we get all those awful ED commercials every time we watch a game (*shivers*). Major League Baseball has been working desperately to try to bring the youth back into baseball, with some pretty decent success. The play of phenoms, including, but not limited, to Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Jose Altuve, has made the transition that much easier for MLB executives.
Celebrations like the bat flip get people talking. They get the game trending. They get likes, views, retweets, and exposure. The youth of America likes their sports with a side of swagger. When looking at other popular sports, there is a significant difference in how we view the sports’ most emotional moments. Football players are expected to dance, basketball players are expected to flex and soccer players are expected to rip their shirts off and run around. Why should baseball be any different?
My stance on this has changed quite a bit over the last several years, and was solidified after last year’s playoffs. When Jose Bautista broke the sound barrier with his emphatic bat flip during the ALDS, I became a fan of the celebration. Many of us have played some form of sport and know how emotional a win can be. These guys have been playing longer than any of us. If they want to show off a little swagger, then who are we to get in their way? Keep flippin’ boys, the game needs it.