By Mike Edwards – Last Word On Baseball
Few feelings in baseball parallel that of going yard. When hitters are able to actually get one over the fence, it’s not unreasonable to expect them to show emotion, usually in the form of a bat flip. The problem is that sometimes this can cross the line into disrespectful territory, to which opposing teams do not take kindly. The challenge, therefore, is to stay on the respectful side of the fine line separating well-mannered bat flips from impertinent ones.
Fair or Foul: The Criteria for a Respectful Bat Flip (Part II)
Part I explored four major errors hitters make that signify disrespect when flipping their bats: flipping the bat with too much force, flipping the bat with an upward trajectory, staring down the opposing pitcher or dugout, and admiring the dinger. Generally speaking, partaking in any of those four acts is the fastest way to earn a fastball to the ribs in a subsequent at-bat.
With that in mind, the next step is to take a look at some practical examples of both respectful and disrespectful bat flips from MLB games in recent seasons, and break down their key elements. Here are three examples of each:
Disrespectful Bat Flip — Bryce Harper (Bat Flip at 1:11)
This one checks all the boxes. Not only does Harper admire the home run and take forever to leave the batters box, he also tosses the bat upwards and with significant force. But because that wasn’t enough, Harper circles the bases while pointing to the crowd and pumping his fist. Bat flips don’t get much more disrespectful than that. Harper claims he’s trying to “make baseball fun again”, but it’s safe to say this one was just a tad overboard.
Respectful Bat Flip — Mike Trout (Bat Flip at 1:06)
This was another walk-off three-run homer, but with a very different reaction. From the moment Trout crushes the bomb, he keeps his emotions in check. He takes a quick peak at the ball, but then gets moving towards first with a soft toss of the bat. There is no comparison between the actions of Trout and of Harper. The difference between the two doesn’t go unnoticed by their respective opponents, who were just on the wrong side of a walk-off. Trout and Harper are arguably the top two hitters in baseball, but it’s the little things like this which generally give Trout the edge in the public eye.
Disrespectful Bat Flip — Yasiel Puig (Bat Flip at 1:02)
There are two things wrong here. First, although Puig does not actually toss his bat with force, the motion he makes with his hand shows everyone in the stadium exactly what he thought of the offering from Madison Bumgarner. Second, Puig takes his sweet old time strutting out of the box, first watching his blast sail up into the night sky. The combination of these two errors by Puig shows up Bumgarner in a major way, and is especially ignorant given that the Dodgers were still trailing 3-1 in a game that Bumgarner had shut them out of to that point. No wonder MadBum was ticked off.
Respectful Bat Flip — Yoenis Cespedes (Bat Flip at 0:39)
This is a textbook respectful bat flip. Cespedes doesn’t stare anyone down, wave his arms around, or make any animated facial expressions to draw attention to himself. He doesn’t waste everyone’s time getting out of the box, instead starting his way down the line while keeping an eye on the ball. As for the actual bat flip itself, it is a soft toss below the waste that shows Cespedes is aware of the context and magnitude of his feat: a two-run shot in the first inning of a regular season game in August. Not exactly a season-altering play.
Disrespectful Bat Flip — Carlos Gomez (Bat Flip at 2:26)
There’s nothing wrong with the actual bat flip here, but it’s fairly obvious why this one is still disrespectful. Immediately after the ball leaves the bat, Gomez stares down pitcher Paul Maholm and even barks at him on his way to first. Then, while rounding the bag, Gomez exchanges words with Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman before getting into it with Brian McCann at home plate prompting both dugouts to empty. If you watch to the end of this clip, you’ll see a flashback to Maholm hitting Gomez in a previous encounter, but the response from Gomez still wasn’t warranted. Maholm, Freeman, and McCann all saw the home run with their own eyes. They didn’t need to be told about it.
Respectful Bat Flip — Brandon Crawford (Bat Flip at 0:49)
This is another example of how to handle a walk-off. First, the bat flip itself is gentle and low to the ground. Crawford then takes a quick look, makes sure the ball is going to stay fair, and promptly gets moving. Moreover, he keeps his reaction to himself by giving his hands a good solid clap half way down the line to first rather than seeking out additional attention. That is the proper way to show emotion – by keeping it contained and not rubbing it in the face of the opposition.
Reaching for Respect
There you have it – concrete evidence that respectful bat flips do exist. While the Goose Gossage’s of the world might say otherwise, the fact of the matter is that bat flips are a part of baseball, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. After all, baseball players are human beings, too. It isn’t unreasonable for them to show emotion. The key is keeping that energy positive, and not allowing it to be directed negatively at the opponent.
At times, it can be difficult to distinguish between respectful bat flips and disrespectful ones, but the difference in how the two are received is very clear cut. Players should think about the repercussions before staring down their home runs or flipping their bats, at least if they care about their reputations. In the vast majority of cases, it’s just a matter of steering clear of the four major errors that signify disrespect. That way, no one feels offended, shown up, or motivated to seek revenge.
Really, though, it boils down to common sense. Nobody ever said there’s anything wrong with being happy about a home run. Just don’t be a jerk about it. It’s not that hard.