The fiery series between the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays
has put bat flips under the spotlight again.
On Wednesday, Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista caused a
firestorm by hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning — with
the Blue Jays trailing 8-3 — staring down Atlanta’s Eric
O’Flaherty, then flipping his bat.
Bautista, of course, owns one of the most
famous bat flips in MLB history.
The optics of Wednesday’s bat flip, however, were not great,
given the Jays’ deficit. Braves first baseman Jace Peterson had
words with Bautista as he rounded the bases, as did catcher Kurt
Suzuki when Bautista reached home. Benches cleared, but no
punches were thrown.
On Thursday, as expected, the Braves got their revenge, beaming
Bautista in the leg, one pitch after throwing mightily close to
How badly did the Braves want revenge? That was the fastest pitch
Julio Teheran has thrown in two years.
Julio Teherán’s pitch to hit Bautista was 95.6 MPH. It was his fastest since 2015.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 18, 2017
Both dugouts were issued warnings, and the game continued without
much more drama as the Jays won 9-0. It was just another ugly
incident in a series that featured a bench-clearing after
Bautista’s homer, a pitch that fractured the wrist of Braves
slugger Freddie Freeman, and another bench-clearing that resulted
in the Jays suspending center fielder Kevin Pillar for using a
On Wednesday, O’Flaherty blasted Bautista, saying the bat flip
was a “look at me” move:
“That’s something that’s making the game tough to watch lately.
It’s just turned into ‘look at me’ stuff. It’s not even about
winning anymore. Guy wants to hit a home run in a five-run game,
pimp it, throw the bat around. It’s frustrating as a pitcher. …
It’s just tired. We’ve seen it from him enough.”
Bautista, however, defended himself, saying: “It’s part of the
game. It’s emotion. Sometimes it’s fitting. Sometimes it’s not.
Just like people celebrate after defensive plays and big
strikeouts, I think it’s part of the game. … Sometimes our
competitive juices come out in the wrong moment.”
Bautista added that he wasn’t trying to “show anybody up.”
The baseball world seems to agree that celebrations are OK but
that Bautista’s recent bat flip came at the wrong moment.
ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield
mocked Bautista’s timing:
“I’m not against Bautista having fun playing baseball. But this
wasn’t him enjoying the moment; this was him being a jerk simply
for the sake of being a jerk. It’s an NBA player dunking and
hanging on the rim when down by 35 points. It’s celebrating a
touchdown when you’re losing by 28. It’s ego over team.”
Mark Teixeira, an MLB analyst for ESPN and former Yankees first
baseman, told YES
Network that Bautista shouldn’t have been celebrating while
the Jays were down — but, more interestingly, he says players
just don’t like Bautista:
“I don’t mind in a big situation, game-winning home run,
game-tying home run late in the game, you wanna show some
emotion. They’re down 8-3 in the late innings. There’s no reason
for that one. The fact of the matter is that no one really likes
Jose Bautista, let’s be honest. If any other player would have
done that, we wouldn’t be talking about it. … I can see why a
lot of pitchers especially and catchers don’t like the way that
However, Bautista is not the only one affected by baseball’s
unwritten rules. Earlier in May, the Red Sox and Orioles had a
series of ugly incidents stemming from the Orioles’ Manny Machado
sliding into Dustin Pedroia at second base. Machado was thrown at
once, then took his time rounding the bases after a home run. The
next game, Chris Sale beamed him with a pitch, leading Machado to
go off on
profane a postgame rant about it.
While opponents understandably get angry when players celebrate
or taunt after a big moment — or, in Bautista’s case, a rather
mundane moment — but there’s danger in intentionally hitting a
player. It’s not a stretch to imagine one of these revenge
pitches going too far and seriously injuring someone if MLB
doesn’t step in.