On This Date: Jose Bautista launched his bat into orbit. pic.twitter.com/qXx9tC0ydq
— ESPN (@espn) October 14, 2018
Nothing screams “get off my lawn” like getting upset when a player flips his bat after a home run. Or in this week’s case, when a player trots down the first-base line, bat still in hand.
In Tuesday’s Game 6 of the World Series, Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman absolutely demolished a ball to right field off Stephen Strasburg. As the Houston crowd rose to its feet, instead of politely dropping his bat, or emphatically flipping it, Bregman casually carried it down the first-base line.
Four innings later, the Nationals’ young phenom Juan Soto returned the favor. Soto launched a Justin Verlander pitch into the second deck, putting Washington ahead for good. Having undoubtedly noticed what Bregman did, Soto also brought his bat along for the ride, holding it outstretched to first base before dramatically dropping it behind the bag.
It was an incredible moment. It was a moment that, no matter the outcome of the Series, will serve as an iconic example of when cockiness backfires in spectacular fashion. For Bregman, what started as a highlight of a lifetime turned into a humbling experience, and for Soto, it was a statement home run with an exclamation point. It was not only hilarious, but it was drama and character that baseball so sorely lacks at times.
Two of the game’s brightest young stars traded both home runs and psychological blows on the sport’s biggest stage. The public response should have been appreciation and amusement. Instead, the players were met with outrage.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 30, 2019
Bregman’s celebration was ripped apart for being unsportsmanlike and disrespectful. Soto’s was less scrutinized, given that it was a reciprocation, but he too was criticized for not upholding the prestige and honor of the noble game of baseball.
After the game, Bregman was asked about the bat carry and offered an apology, saying, “I just let my emotions get the best of me. It’s not how I was raised to play the game. I just let my emotions get the best of me and I’m sorry for doing that.”
I don’t blame Bregman for apologizing, as I’m sure he knew the backlash waiting for him. But if anything, he should’ve been apologizing to his team for providing the Nationals with some added motivation, not to the public. Soto himself said that Bregman’s bat carry was not unsportsmanlike or disrespectful, but a fun escalation of the stakes.
“It was pretty cool. I wanted to do it, too,” Soto said. “That’s what I think when I saw that. I get the opportunity to do the same thing.”
If Bregman doesn’t carry his bat down the line, then Soto doesn’t either, and we miss out on a defining moment of this World Series. It’s good ole fashioned trash talk without the talking, and like it or not, it’s great for the game of baseball.
I despised the Toronto Blue Jays at the time, but I still get chills watching Jose Bautista’s three-run bomb in the 2015 ALDS. The home run is great and all, but it would’ve been completely forgotten if not for perhaps the greatest bat flip of all time. The way Joey Bats stares down the Texas pitcher, the way he violently tosses the bat aside like it’s a dang twig—it’s picture perfect.
If you hit a home run in that spot, you’ve earned the right to toss your bat out of the stadium if you please. If you’re Bregman or Soto, having just launched a ball into the seats in the Fall Classic, you can carry the bat for the rest of the game for all I care.
Although it’s far from the only reason that baseball continues to struggle to remain relevant, the sport needs to shed its buttoned-up, by-the-book reputation. A player does something even slightly outside the endless list of unwritten rules, and he’s crucified.
Kudos to Bregman for bringing some flair and personality to the game, and bravo to Soto for giving it right back. Let’s spend less time criticizing the game’s entertaining young players and celebrate what they’re bringing to the game—not just moonshots, but some much-needed and well-deserved attitude along with them.
Andrew Morrison is the sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets @asmor24.