Bat flipping has been a source of intense controversy in recent years in baseball. Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta said earlier this year that if a young player flips his bat after hitting a home run off of him, “He might wear the next one in the ribs.”
Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista famously flipped his bat after hitting a crucial home run in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS against the Rangers. He was criticized relentlessly by old-timers for not playing the game “the right way” and the Rangers held a grudge against him that lasted into the middle of the next season when second baseman Rougned Odor punched him. Odor said, “Perhaps he was wrong, and perhaps I was also wrong.”
While white players are certainly no strangers to flipping bats, the art was embraced and perfected by international players. ESPN ran a feature in June called the Beisbol Experience. Some players were asked about the difference in cultures. Carlos Beltran said, “Here, baseball is a big business. In Puerto Rico, baseball is more a place where fans go to the field to cheer, to go crazy; there’s loud music.” Carlos Gonzalez said, “Maybe for guys from Cuba and the Dominican Republic, there’s a larger difference because they put more flair into the way they play, and they come to the United States and people don’t really like that.”
September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month. Major League Baseball sent out this tweet with a video:
It’s a great video and encapsulates everything Major League Baseball should be promoting: diversity, enthusiasm, individuality. Except, well, it hasn’t really been promoting any of that otherwise. The mostly-white pitchers who have gone after mostly-Hispanic players like Herrera, Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes, and Yasiel Puig for their celebratory ways have been punished, but it’s hardly been a legitimate effort to stamp out the “play the game the right way” culture that blots out other cultures. As a result, MLB appears two-faced here. You can’t say, “There’s no right or wrong way to play” while giving a relative slap on the wrist to players who throw projectiles at 100 MPH in the vicinity of players’ heads or punch them in the face in retaliation.
If there’s “no right or wrong way to play,” why has Herrera resigned himself to eventually being hurt in retaliation? The tweet above is a great sentiment, but it needs to be backed up by action.