Yes, Jose Bautista looked sternly out at his home run Wednesday, and then flipped his bat disdainfully, as if he were embarking on a diet and tossing out a pair of pants he would never need again.
Who can blame him. Hit a game-winning home run in the deciding game of a playoff series, and you can watch your home run as David Ortiz does, salute it like Manny Ramirez, admire it like Barry Bonds.
Fifty-five years ago Tuesday Bill Mazeroski hit one of the most famous home runs in history, dropped his bat and jogged home, happy with every step. Maybe holding his hat in his hand and windmilling his arm a couple of times, as Maz did, was considered excessive at the time. If so, he was entitled.
Bautista hit the second-most famous home run in Blue Jays history, and seemed more angry than happy. But Mazeroski was a young starter of 24. Bautista is a decade older, having played 12 seasons for four teams and at six positions; he’s hit 286 home runs and never reached the playoffs until now. Who can hold against him this long-awaited moment of redemption?
Well, besides Sam Dyson. He’s the pitcher who threw Bautista’s home run and he said he was objecting to the flip and the celebration, but the cynical might think it was really Bautista’s homer which ticked him off.
“I told him (on-deck batter Edwin Encarnacion) Jose needs to calm that down, respect the game a little more,” Dyson said. “He’s a huge role model for younger generations that’s coming up playing this game. He’s doing stuff that kids do in Wiffle ball games and backyard baseball and it shouldn’t be done.”
There’s a reason kids do that, that which might have evaded Dyson in the despair of the moment. Because it’s fun. Maybe if youth baseball was more fun and less structure, more kids would be playing it, but that’s another discussion for another day.
(Dyson’s respect for the game didn’t keep him from inciting confrontations with Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki before the inning had commenced. Two bench-clearing incidents in the same half-inning. And I thought the Cubs-Cardinals would be testy.)
As always, there was a simple way for Dyson to curtail what he objected to: don’t throw a three-run homer to Bautista.
You can empathize with Dyson and the Rangers, and understand their disappointment, after one of the weirdest innings ever in postseason baseball. The Rangers took the lead in top of the seventh when the Blue Jays couldn’t throw the ball from catcher to pitcher, an exchange normally more automatic than from center to quarterback in football.
And then they gave it back when, on consecutive plays, they could neither field, throw or catch the baseball. Poor Cole Hamels must felt he was back with the Phillies, though it’s doubtful his shortstop there ever had the yips Elvis Andrus did Wednesday. Fans threw things on the field (wait: doesn’t that only happen in Philadelphia?), probably fearful, when the Rangers led 3-2, they’d have to go back to watching the NHL’s Maple Leafs.
And when Bautista homered, it was as if the tension was released from the entire stadium, and perhaps most of the country, as if it were steam spurting out from an overheated radiator.
You can understand Bautista, 1,403 major-league games played and finally in the postseason, savoring the moment, however he wanted to, even if it meant flipping his bat (Des Bieler of the Washington Post suggested Bautista’s nickname, “Joey Bats,” be changed to “Joey Bat Flip.”
“In my opinion, after being in Asia and the United States and also seeing Latin American players for so many years, it seems like Americans need to lighten up,” Ryan Sadowski, once a big-league player and now a scout for a Korean team, told the New York Times. “The fans clearly enjoy it.”
Afterward, Andrus and Moreland, who committed the errors, stood in front of their lockers and explained them. Moreland said he tried to rush the throw to second and never got a good grip on the ball. Andrus said he makes those plays — the dropped grounder which started things and the dropped throw which loaded the bases — 100 times. “If I do something wrong,” Andrus said, “I’m going to put my face on it.”
Those two Rangers deserve an A in accountability. Maybe Dyson could respect the game enough to do the same.