Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench was a guest on Rich Eisen’s DirecTV show on Monday to discuss the recent controversy surrounding Nationals superstar Bryce Harper. Harper recently called baseball “a tired sport because you can’t express yourself,” which includes celebratory bat flips.
Bench is fine with players flipping their bats, but wishes that pitchers could still throw high and tight the way they used to when he played, from 1967-83. Randy Miller recapped Bench’s guest appearance on Eisen’s show in a column for NJ Advance Media.
“You can flip your bat. We had guys do that … and the next time up there was chin music. And if you want to play that way, that’s fine.
“Bring back the excitement? OK, we’ll bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch. That’s all part of the excitement.”
“I know a lot of the old-timers and a lot of people who watched baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music (as retaliation),” Bench said. “If you want to do that, fine. Flip the bat, run around any way you want, but just expect the next time you come up to the plate, you better watching how much you dig into that batter’s box.”
Major League Baseball has made some headway in making the game safer for players, most notably reinforcing rules against the takeout slide. Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg during the playoffs last year with a takeout slide. Famous collisions resulting in serious injuries for Buster Posey and Alex Avila have been — so far — made a thing of the past with new rules protecting catchers.
Bench was a guest on the Dan Patrick Show in October 2014 and expressed concern about concussions so it seems, in this light, he holds competing viewpoints. One can say he wants “chin music” — making the batter fear being hit without actually hitting him — but it must come with the acceptance that batters will, in fact, be hit. Pitchers aren’t perfect, they will miss their spots or have a poor grip on the ball and it’ll get away. To call for more “chin music” is to call for more batters getting hit in the head. That’s barbaric and it’s not good for the game.