For as long as I could remember, my favorite players in the game have been ones that have shown passion. Guys who wear their hearts on their sleeves, and give it their all.
In 2003, Game 7 of the ALCS Yankees vs Boston, the Yankees were trailing 5-2 in the eighth. Jorge Posada came up to bat, with 2 on and 1 out. He hit a blooper to center field, driving in Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui.
He clapped his hands and pumped his fist in excitement. The adrenaline and energy, and the pure passion were clear as day on his face. And we loved it! Funny how the same was not said for Jose Bautista's now infamous bat flip.
In The Players Tribune, Bautista sets the stage for you. It's game 5 of the ALDS against Texas. It's his first playoff series, game is tied 3 - 3 in the bottom of the 7th, guys on first and third, and he has the chance to take the lead. It's a big moment.
Anyone who plays or has played baseball will tell you that those moment are an adrenaline rush. Those are the moments that make this game. So he took the swing, he hit the three run homer, and he flipped his bat. And the Internet and the media lost their collective minds. People have called it arrogant, and have questioned his character. They have said it was disrespectful to the pitcher. But how was it at all different that Jorge's fist pump? Go on... Leave your Yankee bias at the door for a moment and explain it to me.
Baseball is a passionate game. It is very romantic. You get emotionally invested in these players and their on field personalities. And if we, who are merely spectators of the sport, can get emotionally invested enough to critize or exualt certain players, then what makes the players on the field any different? Bautista says it perfectly:
"When you're in that situation, you're playing a role in a show. I'm not Jose Bautista. I'm the guy trying to be the super hero. I'm coming through. I'm going to make something happen...
It wasn't out of contempt for the pitcher. It wasn't because I don't respect the unwritten rules of the game. I was caught up in the emotion of the moment...
Those moment are spontaneous. They're human. And they're a whole lot of fun."
Does the bat flip make Bautista a bad person? Blue Jays fans roared for him. It was a clutch situation, and he came through huge. He celebrated. Isn't it essentially what Jorge did all those years ago? The only real difference is the uniform. And just think of all the Red Sox fans that absolutely hated Jorge's fist pump after the bloop. How many of them must have called him arrogant amongst other things?
Bautista isn't the first, nor will he be the last player to flip his bat or celebrate in some manner. In big moments like that, players are entitled to show emotions. They aren't robots that can be programmed. They are men... humans with real emotions. And the truth is, everyone wants to win, and everyone wants to be the hero that helped their team win.
Look, I get it. If you were rooting against the Blue Jays, that moment made you completely and irrationally angry. But, if you were rooting for them, you absolutely loved it. You admired his passion. You even celebrated it. And that is what baseball is all about. Either way, his emotions made you feel something, and isn't that why we love the game? When it's down the the wire and it's all or nothing, I want the Jorge's and the Bautista's of the world on my side.