Jose Bautista‘s big home run in Game 5 of the ALDS was a pretty big deal, but his bat flip and stare immediately afterward made it one of the most memorable shots in recent postseason history.
In the wake of that famous flip the Play The Game The Right Way Brigade responded in predictable ways, criticizing Bautista as a showboat with a bad attitude and dragging us, once again, into a discussion of the unwritten rules and on-field decorum. Today Bautista explains himself. Not that he has to and not that his detractors deserve some sort of explanation, but he explains himself nonetheless over at The Players’ Tribune.
After trying to put us in his shoes — which we can never be, by the way, because we’re not elite sluggers under immense pressure in game-changing situations, thereby making our criticism of him distinctly uninformed — he talks about the euphoria and spontaneity of it saying, “[i]t wasn’t out of contempt for the pitcher. It wasn’t because I don’t respect the unwritten rules of the game. I was caught up in the emotion of the moment.”
He also reminds us that baseball isn’t war and isn’t life and death. It’s actually, you know, fun:
“It’s all part of the show. And you’re kidding yourself if you think baseball isn’t a show. It’s a spectacle. It’s entertainment.”
Finally, he talks about the internationalization of the game and the style of play he and his fellow Latino ballplayers have played since they were kids and observes that criticism of that comes from a not-so-pretty place:
“I flipped my bat. I’m human. The emotion got to me. It’s in my DNA. If you think that makes me a jerk, that’s fine. But let’s call it what it is. Let’s not have these loaded conversations about ‘character’ and the integrity of the game every time certain players show emotion in a big moment. That kind of thinking is not just old school. It’s just ignorant.”
He’s right that it’s loaded. And his references to no one losing their minds over some historical celebratory moments suggests that he believes, as we’ve discussed here many times, that there is a distinct racial and cultural element to the sort of criticism he and other Latino players have received, not unlike the sort of treatment minorities receive in the culture at large.
A good read from Bautista. Here’s hoping we will not need the next player who does something amazing like he did to explain himself to the world.