Long Live Joey Bats

When it comes to professional sports, particularly baseball, this saying is tried, true and tired as hell: “It’s a real privilege for a man to make a living playing a child’s game.” To those who abide by this creed, men are serious, down-to-earth creatures who work each day with their heads down, avoiding attention. They punch in at nine, leave at five, and come home to families they enjoy, ignore, or sometimes both. Men are always tough, never emotional (unless anger is involved; then it comes in spades), and usually see tomorrow as just another day to exist.

As it pertains to baseball players, these young men get paid to play–what an unthinkable concept– and they should act like they’ve been there before. Players are expected to be stoic, solemn, and meek. There’s no place for outward emotion, no room for actual enjoyment, and bravado brings undue attention to the individual and isolates him from the team. He doesn’t “respect the game.” This game is a privilege that can be yanked from him at any moment, and he doesn’t revere that. Shame on him.

So understandably, José Bautista’s bat flip in Wednesday night’s do-or-die Game 5 caused some uproar.

People were so perturbed that this 11-year veteran, who’s playing in October for the first time ever, celebrated his second career postseason home run. This regular old longball effectively won the game with the Blue Jays seven outs from extra innings, and just one frame after a disputed call put the them behind and shoved them to the brink of elimination.

Don’t worry about the home dugout’s feelings either. Those players and coaches bounced around like microwave popcorn, releasing a season’s worth of tension into visible exhilaration.

That’s not even taking into consideration that Toronto hadn’t had a do-or-die October game since 1993, when some other Blue Jay didn’t exactly celebrate his game-deciding home run gracefully, either.

Uh-uh. No excuses.

See, to these folks, Joey Bats showed up his opponent by flipping his bat and admiring the upper-deck masterpiece he sent into orbit. He’s not allowed to disrespect the game by being…happy. Or showing even an ounce of swagger after hitting the biggest home run Toronto’s seen in 22 years. And the very same pitcher he beat subscribes to that philosophy!

Instead of admitting the folly of challenging one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters with a fastball in his wheelhouse…Dyson chafes at Bautista’s “unprofessional” reaction.

That’s just the problem with this antiquated code of on-field decorum. It takes emphasis away from raw emotional moments like these. Is playing this game for large amounts of money a privilege? Absolutely, it is, and don’t buy into the stereotype; many of these players admit this wholeheartedly. But was the Six Side’s biggest postseason moment this millennium really disrespectful because the man in the middle of it refused to put his head down and trudge around the bases demurely?

Well, Bautista himself was asked after the game if he had a reaction to his adversary’s annoyance. Fittingly, we both have the same, direct answer.



Guest contributor Nkwa Asonye is a broadcaster for The A10 Network and ESPN3. You should follow him on Twitter.