Joey Flips Bats

(Divorce: A Love Story, is officially out today. Did I mention it’s only $2.99 and that you can’t afford *not* to buy it?!)

It was encouraging to hear the coverage this morning on Mike and Mike of the Jose Bautista bat flip yesterday. In the bottom of the seventh inning of the deciding fifth game of the Division Series between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays, Jays’ slugger Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista strode to the plate in a 3-3 game. The seventh inning of that game already was one of the wackiest in postseason history, featuring a play in the top of the frame that, in forty-plus years of watching baseball (and I mean, watching a *lot* of baseball), I’ve never seen. The Blue Jays’ crowd was already in a frenzy. Their team had fallen behind 3-2 in the top of the inning as a result of that aforementioned crazy play, prompting the crowd of 50,000 to vent its collective frustration by showering the field with debris and causing the game to be delayed for eighteen minutes (as an aside: as my buddy Danny asks, what is the world coming to when *Canadians* are engaged in that kind of behavior?)

With the building still shaking from the shenanigans in the top of the inning, the high-octane Jays’ offense pushed a run across in the bottom half to the tie game when Bautista came to bat with two runners on. Bautista absolutely crushed a 1-1 offering from Rangers’ reliever Sam Dyson, sending it 442 feet to left centerfield for a 6-3 lead that propelled Toronto to a series-clinching win. The crowd went absolutely berserk and Bautista pulled off one of the great bat flips in baseball history.

Of course, this being baseball, emotional celebrations, especially those engaged in by Latino ballplayers, tend to run afoul of baseball’s “unwritten rules.”

On their show this morning, Mike and Mike were emphatic that Bautista was well within his rights to celebrate as he did. In response to a comment that Bautista should act like he’s “been there before,” Greenie pointed out that he hasn’t, and neither have most ballplayers, seeing as how the homer was one of the more dramatic in recent baseball history. And both Mikes made the obvious point, contrary to some of the nonsense out there, that Bautista was *not* “showing up the pitcher.” He was expressing emotion in an atmosphere the emotional amplitude of which would be hard to overstate.

Other “old school” guys, like retired pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, former football coach Brian Billick and others, similarly chimed in and the overwhelming majority of listeners who participated in a poll this morning agreed.

That’s all to the good, a sign that some of the worst moralizing excesses are leaving more and more sports commentators cold.

But what should have gotten more attention was not the bat flip, but the pathetic display by Dyson. According to game accounts, after Bautista launched his moon shot, on-deck hitter Edwin Encarnacion turned to the crowd to appeal for calm, lifting his helmet and bat over his head as he did so. Dyson, along with Rangers’ catcher Chris Gimenez walked over to Encarnacion and started barking at him because his teammate – Joey Bats – was not showing sufficient “respect” for the game.

In other words, Dyson went head to head with Bautista, “man to man,” as he himself would no doubt say, in the crucible of competition. And he got his ass kicked, straight up, fair and square. Unless Bautista (or Encarnacion) is yelling at Dyson, or moving actively to confront him, the play for Dyson is obvious: keep your mouth shut and own what just happened. It doesn’t disgrace the game that, having just hit such a dramatic homerun in an atmosphere that had reached the boiling point, Bautista is jacked up about it. If anything could be said to disgrace the game, to detract from it,  it’s Dyson, a self-appointed arbiter of proper etiquette on the field, nearly instigating a bench clearing brawl (the benches did clear when Dyson and Gimenez moved toward Encarnacion, but no fighting ensued), because he can’t handle his own emotions after having just got beat.

OK, so maybe that’s also a little unfair. Dyson is also responding to the heat of the moment, he’s a competitor and he’s pissed that he just came up short in a huge spot. But that Dyson continued chirping about this stuff in the lockerroom after the game? Spare us.

The game’s changing, as its culture. Work on your game. Not your sanctimony.

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