Bat Flip, Outrage, Eye Roll: Defending Jose Bautista and Toronto’s Beautiful Moment

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

Oh, you had a problem with Jose Bautista’s bat flip?

It’s because you’re a loser.

There’s really, honestly no other way to put it. Well, that’s not totally true – you could be a Rangers fan. This is understandable then. Because even if you understand deep down below that that was a great sporting, even cultural, moment for the city of Toronto, its fans, its team, and even the game of baseball (because ESPN will definitely have that in some ‘look-back’ montage 25 years from now, set for some reason to a rock song that dates to 1975), I get it if you were just really pissed watching the Blue Jays celebrate their win in the seventh inning. I get it, if you’re just on the losing side – ironically, losing doesn’t make you a loser. At least, not in the way I meant it above.

(I mean, just last night, I was watching Royals starter Edinson Volquez serve the Jays their own ass in Game 1 of the ALCS in Kansas City, and there was this guy standing behind home plate when Bautista was batting. He was making all these weird signals and hand gestures, maybe trying to encourage Volquez or getting him jacked up or something. My girlfriend said, “What’s that guy doing?” My response was, “Who, the fat guy? I guess I didn’t need to say that – everyone in Kansas City is probably fat.” And of course, that’s a dick thing for me to say. I just insulted this dude’s weight and the weight of an entire state, even though I have no idea whether people in KC are lumpy or dumpy. But my team was losing, and I reacted like a child who just woke up from a nap.)

But listen, if you had no skin in Wednesday night’s game and you saw Bautista and the Blue Jays going berserk after they blasted their way from a late deficit to their first playoff series win in 22 years – in their first playoff appearance in 22 years, in Bautista’s first playoff appearance EVER – and you couldn’t just let the moment revel in itself, then you are in fact a cold, sober, starving loser.

I don’t say cold because of your temperature. I don’t say sober because I encourage you to be an alcoholic. I don’t say starving as a slight to your diet, or to your economic ability to have a diet. In fact, I mean the opposite of all those things – if you’re the loser I’m talking about, you have the ability to enjoy yourself. And you refuse to, because you’re someone who’s lonely in a sea of cheering fans.

You’re the vegan in McDonald’s. You’re the kind of person who would have farted on the moon landing because it was a waste of money. The more you eat, the hungrier you are; The more you watch, the less you see.

You are in, the words of Colin Cowherd, a buzzkill. And it may be odd to start quoting a commenter who, only a couple months ago, was fired from ESPN because of probably unintentionally derogatory statements he made about the Dominican Republic, which drew the ire of none other than Bautista himself. But so what? Because the Herd kinda nailed it:

Buzzkill Guy, as Cowhered defined it, “Sees himself as responsible parent, mentor to society, but he’s not really that.”

“A buzzkill guy can take any special moment, any goosebump, hair-raising, transcendent, historic moment, and suddenly throw a big heavy, soggy blanket on it,” Cowherd continued, in the opening rant of his new show on Fox. He went onto to throw shade at the Jays as a franchise, because (again) they haven’t made a postseason since Clinton’s first year as President, and recap the evening’s events and the so-called controversy. But even Cowherd, after referring to the Jays an “afterthought” of a team, was taken aback by just how incredible Game 5 was, and just how incredible the Bautista home run was.

“What a great moment,” he said, with a really genuine smile, toward the end of the video.

And on why the bat flip was so truly great, he had this to say about Bautista (via The Herd on Facebook):

“Yesterday, a guy that’s played up there for a long time and had very little (team) success, imagine that if you would: minor leagues, high school, youth baseball, get to the Bigs, seven/eight years with a franchise, think about how long you play. How long you toil at your craft. How many hours in a batting cage. How many years in a weight room. You play through injuries, you play in heat. Umpires can screw you, your general manager surrounds you with weak talent. So here was Jose Bautisa, at home, 22 years Toronto hasn’t had a baseball game like this Game 5… a flukey play could end your season. Can you imagine, you play 170 games, and you come down to a really good team, your season could be over on a flukey play?

“… You gotta be kidding me. And here’s Jose Bautista, all these years, all that toiling, 50,000 (fans in the stadium), Game 5, steps to the plate and does this:

“Is that goosebumps or what? All those frustration years… He took a second to flip his bat. Not two, mind you, one second. You know, he did that because he’s, um, I don’t know how to do this, he’s human.”

Cowherd went on to slam Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson, who served the fastball for Bautista, and then went on to comb over his loss with a criticism of Jose’s bat toss. Dyson was basically doing what I would do when I was 13 and I’d visit a dirty adult website, and I’d then try to cover up the browser’s search history by going to a ton of other websites with the same first few letters. Hmm, maybe I can create a distraction over here, and then people will forget how I just f’ed up.

Dyson said Bautista was a role model for children, that he doesn’t need to resort to whiffle-ball antics, that the Jays slugger needs to respect the game a little bit more.

Oh, barf.

You know what this is? This is the dictatorship of vanilla. These are the attitudes that destroy society. These are the fraidy cat hose kinks that destroy sports, and neuters every reason anyone gives a damn about them or watches them.

And Sam, I know you’ll hate this, but your opinion – your pathetic reach to argue for blandness and boringness in favour of excitement, emotion, and spontaneity – is actually ruining baseball. It ruins sports.

What Bautista did, in the moment, was absolutely gorgeous. And saying that something like that should be tucked away and watered down, all because you’re worried it could make some kid cocky on some little-league field somewhere within the broadcast zone, that’s more disrespectful to the game than any bat flip could be.

Of course, Dyson could just be jealous. Because Bautista is a hero to thousands, maybe now millions of ball fans around the planet, and Dyson is not. Nobody wants to be a relief pitcher with a stable record; everybody wants to hit the home run that becomes a postcard. Doesn’t matter if it’s Pudge Fisk, Joe Carter, Kirby Puckett, or Joey Bats – those are the moments we remember, more than any last pitch or any swooping curveball.

But of course, I don’t want to actually focus on Dyson that much, because when Dyson made those comments he had just lost the game.

He had just lost the same pivotal baseball game Bautista had won. It had to be heart-breaking. And like I mentioned above, the vanquished deserve the right to exhale or whine or offload. That’s fair.

But it wasn’t just Dyson that said stuff like that. The day after the home run, I heard tons more basically echoing what the pitcher said – that the bat flip was over-the-top or disrespectful or WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!? My reactions went all the way from dismissive eye roll to “oh, whatever” to “please, shut up” to “these guys must be old and/or white” to a few things more more vulgar.

There was nothing pre-meditated or orchestrated about Bautista’s celebration. There was nothing gratuitous or even targeted at Texas. Bautista didn’t deface a severed longhorn when he rounded second base. This wasn’t Manny Ramirez pointing at the Athletics as he runs by their dugout. This wasn’t Ned Braden skating around the ice in his underwear at the end of Slap Shot.

What you saw in Toronto was the lid being blown off a city, a franchise, and a player that for too long have had to watch others celebrate. This was 22 years in the making, and it was a moment you couldn’t have scripted in a sport you’ll never predict. It was beautiful.

It was everything. And even if the Royals beat the Jays, it’ll still be everything. Because you can’t take away that win or that memory or that moment, just like Bautista can’t take back that bat. Just like Dyson can’t take back his comments.

Toothpaste, say goodbye to the tube.