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During the game between the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals, White Sox shortstop, Tim Anderson was hit by a pitch that sparked the benches to clear. With tension between both sides heating up to the point that teammates had to hold one another back, Anderson barked at pitcher Brad Keller. However, it wasn’t the hit by pitch that started this; it was a bat-flip from two innings prior..
Since 2015, the bat-flip has become one of baseball’s most recognized celebrations. While popular in other cultures including Latin America and Asia, it’s been negatively received since coming to the United States.
While some fans have enjoyed, players who did this would often face some sort of retaliation.
The bat-flip gained momentum when former Los Angeles Dodgers and current Cincinnati Reds outfielder Yasiel Puig started doing it after almost every home run he hit. After being hit by pitches various times, Puig would start doing less bat-flips.
In a statement, he explained he wanted to “show American baseball that [he’s] not disrespecting the game.” Where he left off, a slugger up north would take over.
During the 2015 American League Divisional Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers, Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista hit a three-run home run off of Rangers‘ relief pitcher Sam Dyson. The second the bat made contact with the ball, Bautista stared right at the Rangers’ dugout and then flipped the bat.
Andrew Keh of the New York Times called the bat-flip “the most ostentatious bat flip in MLB history”. While nothing happened immediately, they would face again and then business picked up.
The next season between the Blue Jays and Rangers, pitcher Matt Bush threw at Bautista intentionally. It later escalate into a bench clearing fight between the two teams, following an illegal slide into second base.
Following the slide, Rangers second baseman Roughned Odor punched Bautista in the face. Since, the bat-flip has usually seen some sort of measure of revenge.
With the Anderson-Keller brawl, it begs the question, should the bat flip face further penalty? There’s two ways to go about this, the fan perspective and the player perspective.
When looking at the fan’s point of view, it’s similar to that of the touchdown celebration in football. Fans loved seeing it, unless their team was the one that gave up the score.
It’s something that in moderation is definitely enjoyable. Though it can wear thin quickly, it’s not as bad as when players wait and watch a home run at home plate.
In terms of the players, it still can be seen as disrespectful towards the pitcher. Like a quarterback in football, position players are always defensive of their pitchers.
If someone starts trouble with a pitcher, they’ll always have their back, as seen with Odor punching Bautista. It also doesn’t help that some of the worst retaliations happened in major games such as playoffs and playoff races.
To outright ban the bat-flip would be a setback in all sports. To ban celebrations would see the same results that the NFL saw when they banned the touchdown celebrations.
It’s a tricky slope to weather but given how Rob Manfred has handled controversial decisions, he should make the right move.