A Response to Sam Dyson: The People Want More Bat Flips and Less Baseball Police

I feel your pain, Sam Dyson. You must have been embarrassed, like the time I showed up to casual day at high school wearing my school uniform. I forgot, just like you forgot. You forgot that it wasn’t such a swell idea to throw an inside fastball to Jose Bautista, a guy who hit 39 of his 40 home runs this season to the left of home plate. I tried to blame my mom, just like you’ve tried to blame everyone else, but in the end, it’s your fault.

That’s why the manly thing, the ‘professional thing’ as your club puts it, would have been to admit that you made a mistake, own up and move on. Instead, you chose to defer to the easy route; becoming the keeper of all that is right and wrong in baseball. A baseball policeman. Where I’m from, we call what you did a cop out. No pun intended there.

“I told (Encarnacion) that Jose needs to calm that down, respect the game more. It needs to stop,” said Dyson. “He’s a huge role model for the younger generation that’s coming up playing this game, and he’s doing stuff that kids do in whiffle ball games and backyard baseball. It shouldn’t be done. … That’s unacceptable, regardless of what level you’re on.

Baseball is a game of history and etiquette. For the newbies (wait, Sam, is it okay if I use a word that all the kids are using or should I stick to ye olde English?) one of the unwritten rules of baseball is the batter shouldn’t show up the pitcher after hitting a home run. The bat flip, which Bautista performed is taboo in baseball.

The Bat Flip Heard ‘Round The World (pic credit: Sportsnet.ca)

What’s interesting, though, is that baseball is entering an evolutionary period where the game is attempting to respond to a new crowd. That new generation, the exact kids that Dyson mentions, are the exact same ones the game is trying to appeal to. One measure already in place is a set of MLB-mandated rules to speed up games, responding to millenials not wanting to spend 3+ hours watching a game.

The social media response to Bautista’s home run and celebration has been overwhelming, resulting in countless videos, memes and even a tattoo. So if the kids are responding, why are we upholding a set of stodgy standards?

Baseball’s roots are as the people’s game. It was never an elitist sport like golf, tennis or rugby. It’s accessibility to everyone was what made it popular. As a game of the people, is it not reasonable to ask why the game shouldn’t evolve with its people? That set of people now includes Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Australians, Europeans. The game is infused with a personality and colour that could be its saviour.

Do you want to know a couple of other sports that have benefited from doing away with outdated gentleman’s agreements and unwritten player codes?

  1. Pro Football: signing black players was taboo for long periods of the last century and starting a black quarterback has only really become mainstream in the last 10–15 years.
  2. College Football: recent retiree Steve Spurrier choosing to throw the ball in the SEC rather than run it. As ESPN Magazine quotes: Passing was what you did because you couldn’t run. It was an admission of weakness in an old-school league.
  3. Basketball: the 3-pointer was viewed as a gimmick and many historic players played during the pre-3 era. The NBA merging with the ‘more entertaining’ ABA shot the deep ball into commonplace.

The list could go on.

None of this is to say that the bat flip should become commonplace in baseball, but in a sport where there are so many meaningless games it’s reasonable to leave players some leeway in big games and most certainly the postseason. A situational sport with an equally as situational celebration.

Sam Dyson was embarrassed in front of a raucous away crowd and on national television, and in true Canadian fashion I’m sorry about that. He, nor the Texas Rangers, are the keepers of baseball etiquette. Quite the contrary in fact, the people have spoken and we want more bat flips and less baseball police.