In recent years, there’s been countless discussions on how to get the younger generations interested in baseball. The reason that people cite as being the main problem is the speed and duration of the game. Many believe that baseball is too slow of a game for people to be interested in. Sports fans these days want nonstop action, which is why they tend to gravitate more towards basketball, hockey, and even football to an extent. Paired with this belief that baseball is a slow game is a complaint that the game is too boring and rigid. Baseball players don’t seem to have as much fun and freedom out on the field as players do in other sports. A large debate within this topic is whether bat flips are hurtful or harmful to the game of baseball. Many current and former players have taken sides as well as baseball analysts. With no definitive frontrunner in this growing debate, I am here to answer the question…Bat flips: Friend or Foe?
A bat flip is the action of flipping ones bat in an exaggerated manner after making contact with the ball, tending to be done after hitting a home run. This is a celebration that has come about in recent years with the new wave of young players coming into the league. Since this celebration came about seemingly out of this class as players, the bat flip debate has appeared to be divided into old baseball vs. new. Older baseball players, both current and retired, seem to take offense to bat flips, while many new players are all for it, feeling that it brings more energy and fun to the game. The two leaders of the bat flip movement, in my opinion, are Jose Bautista, and Odubel Herrera. I say this because they have garnered the most attention from their bat flips. Bautista brought bat flips into the spotlight with his display after hitting that clutch home run against the Texas Rangers back in game 5 of the 2015 ALDS. Along with that instance, Bautista has bat flipped after a home run on numerous occasions, which has sparked controversy at times, even leading to benches being cleared after some on occasion.
Odubel Herrera on the other hand, I credit to being a leader of the bat flip movement simply because he partakes in it so often. Odubel Herrera appears to treasure bat flips and tries to incorporate them into his play in any way he can. Countless times we have seen Herrera bat flip after hitting a bomb over the fences. And even on occasions, Herrera has done one on a ball that doesn’t even leave the yard and whether it was intentional or not, he isn’t the only one to do it. Hanley Ramirez once bat flipped on a ball that was clearly not going out. In fact, it was a mere looper into right field, so Herrera is not the only one. And yes, I will admit that it is a bit embarrassing when a player does a bat flip or takes his time running to first, thinking they’ve just hit a bomb and it turns out to hit off the wall, but at the same time, it’s pretty damn entertaining. Plus it is also the risk they take when they choose to celebrate early. Just look at Nick Young for example.
So what’s the problem with this? Well, for starters, pitchers do not take too kindly to a bat flip after a home run. They see it as the batter showing them up and pitchers don’t like being shown up. Numerous times we have seen a player get plunked his next at-bat after celebrating a home run in a manner like that. Now whether that is a right response or not is another argument altogether, so I won’t touch that one (yet). The main argument, however, against bat flips goes a bit hand in hand with pitcher retaliation. Pitchers tend to retaliate and bean an opposing player after being shown up in some way. Whether it’s after a bit of an argument, a player admiring a home run, or in the case of this article, a bat flip. Pitchers don’t like being shown up, which means they are not a fan of any sort of home run celebration. Many former pitchers have openly expressed that if a batter were to flip their bat in a way that some players have done, that they would drill the next guy up. This argument, however, comes off as a bit hypocritical in my opinion. Batters are not allowed to show their excitement after hitting a home run, but when a pitcher strikes someone out in a big spot they’re allowed to yell and celebrate as they walk off the mound? It just doesn’t seem fair. A batter celebrates, and he’s got to worry about being hit the next time around, but a pitcher celebrates and he doesn’t have to worry about a thing. It just does not seem fair to let a pitcher express his emotions then deny a batter of expressing his own.
The commissioner of baseball, Robert Manfred, always preaches how he wants to make the game more fun and enjoyable for both fans and players, so I feel that it would only be right for him to encourage players to have fun out there. And for a lot of players, celebrating more is a way to have fun. Look at soccer and football, for example. They allow their players to celebrate after scoring and it seems to make the game a lot more fun and interesting. It’s always great to see the unique and funny celebrations players come up with after scoring a goal or a touchdown. Fans eat that stuff up. The amount of funny celebration compilations that are out there is astronomical. If players were allowed to be more expressive with their celebrations, such as doing a bat flip after a home run, then I am certain that more people would become interested in the game of baseball.
One other grievance people have with over-the-top celebrations like bat flips, is that it is a bad influence on kids playing baseball. I’m just gonna outright say that that is bull. Kids should be encouraged to have as much fun as possible. That’s the whole point of being a kid. That’s the whole point of playing sports. You’re supposed to have fun. I think people have forgotten that over the years and need a good reminder. Kids play these sports because they want to have fun and hang out with their friends. So let them have fun. Let them express themselves out on the field. I’ve seen so many videos of kids playing little league, or sandlot, or even whiffle ball and having loads of fun in coming up with funny celebrations. Kids are meant to have fun and baseball is meant to be fun. Enough with all this intimidation when it comes to players expressing their joy. Enough with all these restrictions on how a baseball player should act. Let the players be themselves.
Although I have made my opinion rather clear so far, it is important to look at the other side of it. Yes, allowing players to celebrate could easily get out of hand, which is why it is probably ideal to have some sort of guidelines or let the umpires make a decision on the spot. Just like how basketball has technicals, one could have some similar penalty if a player is being too arrogant. One then argues “But that’s what beanball is for,” and to that I give a simple “No.” Throwing a fastball right at someone is an excessive and dangerous punishment. Players should not have to fear like that. A simple fine or other equivalent punishment is enough. We shouldn’t be risking the well-being of players just because someone rubbed you the wrong way. It is immature and dangerous.
Now if the MLB were to go in the complete opposite direction and not allow bat flips at all, then I suppose players would just have to find another way to express their excitement. They could save it for inside the dugout, sure, but if they still wished to express their joy in the heat of the moment, there’s nothing wrong with a smooth bat drop the way Griffey used to. There was nothing sweeter and smoother than seeing Griffey take that perfect swing, and drop the bat in one fluid motion. I’m sure players could easily adapt to doing a swift bat drop like Griffey if the league were to not allow excessive celebrations in the form of bat flips.
So, what’s my conclusion? I would wholeheartedly say that bat flips are a friend. Bat flips and other celebrations would be a win win for both the players and the fans. The players would be able to have more fun with the game and the fans would enjoy the flashiness. As for what to do about the opposing side of the debate, I suppose this would just have to be something you would need to make clear: Baseball is meant to be fun. And if they do not like it, then too bad. The newer generation of players are only going to keep bringing their own flare to the game.
Baseball is changing whether people like it or not. And I for one, am happy and confident in the direction that the game is taking.