As I said earlier this week, Baltimore Orioles fans are aware of Jose Bautista‘s act. Yeah folks, I’m going there. I waited a few days, but I’m going there. This is something that has to be said. And it’s being said for the good of the game.
I was interested in reading this article from Washington DC’s WTOP earlier this week in the wake of the Bautista bat flip. Here’s my issue; it comes off as trying to change baseball, or acting like it needs to change. And here’s the other thing; I think that a lot of fans out there seem to be okay with the fact that baseball is or has to change. Speaking for the old guard, I’m not okay with it.
When I say “change,” I mean specifically the whole part about it being acceptable to show emotion in games and so forth. People love to point at the fact that the NBA and the NFL have celebrations and nobody bats an eye. That might be true, although the NFL will penalize someone who’s celebrating too much. Nevertheless, those sports are different. Baseball’s America’s pasttime.
Baseball is representative of American society, and it’s our oldest sport. (In saying that I mean that we as a people have played and followed baseball for longer than any other sport.) It’s heyday was back when ladies and gentlemen would dress in coats, ties, and dresses to come to games. “Cheering” was considered simple applause as opposed to screaming and hollering.
But most importantly, it was a simpler time. People in general didn’t behave as buffoons; baseball was considered a gentleman’s game in a sense. Fans didn’t rib each other – mainly perhaps because they were all wearing coats and ties as opposed to identifying with a team hat and so forth. But that gentlemanly attitude translated onto the field as well, which is why to this day it’s considered taboo to show guys up. In a sense, it’s not sportsmanlike.
Then we see an article like this, saying that Bautista’s attitude is an “indictment of the right way.” Yes folks, I resent that. Maybe I sound like an old man sitting on his front lawn shooting at communists; but I resent that. Players on all teams flip their bats these days – even some players on the Orioles. But there’s nothing wrong with just dropping your bat and running. In fact, that IS the right way to do it.
People will look at what I said above and say yes but society’s different now, or baseball needs to change with the times if it wants to be relevant. Are people really going to stop watching baseball simply because it’s establishment doesn’t really allow for self-expression? If you don’t want to buy the “standards of decency” way of looking at it, consider what baseball is: a team sport. So is basketball, and so is football.
Courtesy of Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
So if baseball’s a team sport, then what gives you (an individual) the right to do something that in effect glorifies you and your little moment over everything else? And the same goes for wide receivers who insist on doing touchdown dances, and power forwards after slam dunks. Raymond Berry was one of the greatest wide outs to ever play in the NFL; and he’d hand the ball to the ref after a touchdown.
Do we really want baseball to become Jose Bautista’s playground in the sense that it’s acceptable to show your opponent up like that? Yes, this is going to anger some fans, and I’m sure that Toronto fans are already preparing their responses. Fine by me. Bautista isn’t the first or only guy that’s pushed these limits, and he won’t be the last. However he and he alone isn’t going to change years upon years of pent up emotions in the game.
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And incidentally, Bautista is thrown at a lot – and he loves to complain about that. But it would stand to reason that he might step back and ask himself why that happens. Perhaps if he didn’t “punk” opponents at every venture, he wouldn’t see so much chin music. Again, he’s not the only one who does this. Heck maybe there are Oriole players out there who draw this exact same ire. People love to talk about when Manny Machado threw his bat. Yes that was a bad thing, and that’s been covered in this column. But that didn’t challenge the very fabric of what was acceptable in the game.
It was an act of anger, that didn’t show anyone up or go into any sort of self-glorification. It was simply a fit of anger. And I can relate to that, quite frankly. To me, that came off as a young kid who was at his wit’s end with some situation in his day-to-day life. And that moment was a tipping point. In that sense, I’ve had many situations like that in my life – where I’ve just become uncorked and lost it. It’s not fun to go through and you feel horrible afterwards, but it happens. Better to have one incident here and there due to repressed anger or emotion than to be known as a hot dog that can’t control himself.
But I digress. That was one incident; guys like Bautista do this regularly. And what he did the other day challenged the “right way,” as the author of that article said. And that’s something that old school baseball fans aren’t really into. Some will say either get him out or deal with it. But mind you that “the game” also polices itself. If you’re a Texas Rangers fan, your team will play Bautista and Toronto six or seven times next year. I won’t be surprised when he finds a few bruises in his backside.