When I first started writing about the Bat-Flip Royale, detailing individual’s attempts to gain entry into a (fictional) season-ending bracket of Bat-Flips, the winner of which would be granted the 2014 belt, it was all in fun. Jayson Werth had just punctuated the Marlin’s decision to intentionally walk the batter ahead of him with a grand slam, and his emphatic bat-flip was the icing on the cake. The bat-flip bar was set, and several well-known contenders (offenders?) soon stepped up. Yasiel Puig in fact, took the competition very seriously indeed, adding quantity to his bat-flip quality.
But yesterday, well… to put it lightly, things turned sour, when Manny Machado took the name of my little contest a tad too literally. After his very real effort to start a rumble, Twitter blew up, and calls for him to be suspended for his childish actions abounded. Even as a lover of a good bat-flips, even I must admit this was a step too far. But like a good ol’ train wreck, Machado’s actions can’t be ignored.
Machado’s interesting weekend actually started on Friday night with a seemingly innocuous play. With the option to throw to first to end the third inning, A’s third baseman (and my AL MVP pick so far) Josh Donaldson instead chose to tag Machado, who was literally just in front of him. Unconventional, according to the unwritten rules of baseball, but altogether harmless. The 21-year-old Machado however, thought not, taking exception to what was essentially a love tap, and tumbling to the ground. Whether it stemmed from his recent knee injury, or something else entirely, his reaction was entirely unwarranted, so much so that even the umpires found it amusing. Anyhow, after a round of ‘hold me back’ posturing between the two benches, the game went on with no ejections. Wei-Yin Chen though, plunked Donaldson the next time he came up (Donaldson had earlier hit his 17th homer of the season off of Chen, but dude…). Things were officially on.
On Saturday, Machado teased us with his bat-flip promise. Just look at the frustration in that toss, it’s a thing of beauty. I count a 480° twist on that thing, which in combination with the petulant helmet spike and look of disbelief, really adds to the dramatic effect of it all. His matinee display however, not that we knew then, was just a precursor to the main event that would follow a day later.
Yikes. From whatever angle you look at it, that’s not a pretty sight. Sure Fernando Abad had thrown in on him twice in a long decided game (the Atletics had a 10-0 lead at the time), but Machado had already knocked Oakland’s catcher Derek Norris out of the game with two rather exaggerated backswings. He can’t exactly claim Abad’s retribution was unwarranted. But throwing the bat… jeese Manny. It’s not even Donaldson at third base – it’s Alberto Callaspo! Naturally the benches cleared once again, with Stephen Vogt (who had replaced Norris behind the dish) particularly upset it seemed. This time, crew chief Larry Vanover had the good sense to eject both Abad and Machado, later explaining “It was obvious the pitcher threw at him the second time… then [Machado] threw the bat. That wasn’t accidental. He threw the bat, so two ejections.”
Yeah, no matter what you say Manny, that wasn’t an accident. You are hereby suspended. For the remainder of the season, no theatrical action of yours at the plate will be considered for entry into the Bat-Flip Royale. I suggest you spend the time wisely, getting back into the so far elusive form you displayed during the first half of the 2013 season, where it seemed like every darn plate appearance ended in a double, and doing your best Brooks Robinson impersonation over at third.
And if you really want to get back at Josh Donaldson, taking his crown as the best third baseman in the American League would be a solid, responsible way to go about it.
Do I even need an excuse to ‘write’ a post about baseball’s best bat-flippers anymore? There are so many fantastic pimp-jobs every week that it’s becoming a regular feature. Throw in the absolutely devastating Jose Fernandez news though, a loss that will take everyone, not just his fantasy owners (like me), a long time to get over, and my lack of care to celebrate baseball seriously today is a little more understandable. Without further ado then, the fourth installment detailing the contenders for the 2014 Bat-Flip Championship Belt:
How better to start than with an emphatic cut and bat-flip combination on the very first pitch of your team’s turn on offense? Obviously, we’re talking about Carlos Gomez here, Milwaukee’s leadoff irritant, who last Monday (literally hours after I posted the last Bat-Flip Royale update), swung nearly out of his shoes at Mike Bolsinger‘s opening pitch. Despite nearly losing his balance, he still managed to pump the ball deep over the fence, putting the Brewers on the board before the broadcast’s score graphic had time to finish unfurling. The violent swing ensured the inevitable bat-flip wasn’t ever going to be one of Gomez’s most artful efforts, but the 28-year-old adjusted marvelously to turn his hack into a stupendously aggressive bat-slam, missing pulverizing Miguel Montero‘s left foot all the way to China with his backswing by mere millimeters. Way to set the tone Carlos.
Now if you missed the usual embellishment from Gomez, don’t worry, because Junior Lake has your flourish-fixation covered this week. Batting with the bases loaded in the top of the third inning against Scott Carroll on Thursday night, Lake drew a 3-2 RBI walk, and promptly unveiled this baby:
That looks like at least a 720° back-flip of the bat, a one-handed effort too no less. Style points are taken back for Lake’s artistry occurring in the third freakin’ inning, but given the situation – full count, two outs, and the Cubs trying to stave off a four-game sweep at the hands of their crosstown rivals – you can’t especially blame him.
Neil Walker on the other hand, has a far better sense of timing when it comes to egregious showboating.
Walker’s extended pose and subsequent wrist action came in a far more high-leverage circumstance: down 3-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning of a Pittsburgh home game against NL Central foes St. Louis, and with the flame-throwing Carlos Martinez on the mound, the 28-year-old second baseman crushed a curveball to deep right, driving in not simply himself but Jordy Mercer and Gaby Sanchez too, and giving the Pirates a 6-4 lead they wouldn’t squander. If Pittsburgh weren’t looking terrible so far, or this occurred later in the season, I swear Walker’s flip would have been bigger news. As it was, it was somewhat obscured by the ‘what’s wrong with the Cardinals?’ narrative – a real shame considering his fine performance. We recognize you Neil!
Still, his grandstanding still falls way short of last week’s best bat-flip effort (my apologies for the lack of GIF):
That’s Nyjer Morgan of the Cleveland Indians going on full-on Tony Plush, his fantastically outspoken alter-ego which was so well documented recently by Michael Baumann. And my goodness was it terrific. After ensuring his first homer in the big leagues since July 30, 2012 landed safely in the right field seats, first Morgan displayed the delayed bat flip, then proceeded to jog around the bases with his left arm curiously tucked to his side. When he finally reached the plate, he put his hands in the air and formed a T – referring to his alter ego Plush. In his words, it was “Just a little one. I kind of short-armed it,” but considering how his leadoff shot proved to be the winning run in the Indians’ 6-5 victory over the Rays, he probably should have been a little more emphatic. Good job he made sure to atone for his under-exuberance in his instant-classic postgame interview with WTAM of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
T-Plush earns the weekly Bat-Flip award then, and thus entry into the end of year Royale, but that’s not the end of this week’s BFR segment. Quite simply, it wouldn’t be a recap without mentioning the 2013 champion, Yasiel Puig.
Puig has already secured his seeding for the ultimate bat-tle (he’s a no. 1, obviously), but judging by his numerous flips, the wild Cuban horse seems intent on repeating by crushing his challengers with sheer quantity. First, there was his pulling off the Carlos Gomez staple move – a solid toss away on a routine fly-ball against the Washington Nationals. No big deal, Puig does that all the time, nor was it against a divisional opponent. No controversy there. Puig’s disposing of his offensive weaponry only got more, well, offensive as the week went on though, as the Dodgers took on San Francisco.
The already-heated NL West rivalry most notably took on another edge thanks to the young right fielder’s post-jack antics on Friday. Down 3-0, Puig first irritated Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner by declining to call time because of something in his eye, and taking a called strike instead. When he took Bumgarner deep two pitches later then, issued his now customary bat-flip, and then proceeded around the bases in an extremely leisurely fashion, the pitcher was less than impressed.
The whole incident was so #PuigbeingPuig it was comical, not that it seemed to affect the man at the center of it all in any way. Only two games later, he was inflicting the same embarrassment on Tim Hudson (though rather than remaining down, this time he tied the game at one apiece). Later on too, he’d get to Sergio Romo. Hudson, thankfully, had a far more relaxed approach to it than Bumgarner:
Tim Hudson has a different opinion of Yasiel Puig’s bat flip: “He hit the piss out of it, so I probably would’ve flipped it too.” — Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) May 12, 2014
Hudson knows. This is a guy with a 28.99-second homer trot on his résumé after all. Puig only took 29.04 seconds, discussion and all, to round the bases against Bumgarner. Bumgarner’s anger in fact, disqualifies any consideration he earned for his post-grand slam showboating earlier in the season.
There’s no room for hypocrites in the Bat-Flip Royale.