The drop of the bat normally lands with nothing more than a thud.
We'll never know what it sounded like when Jose Bautista's Marucci maple hit the dirt at the Rogers Centre in the American League Division Series' deciding Game 5 — the crowd's joy at his three-run monster shot to give the Toronto Blue Jays an insurmountable lead against the Texas Rangers on Oct. 16 will forever drown it out.
But the furor in some circles about how his bat came to lie motionless on the stadium turf may have even been louder than the raucous, playoff-starved crowd itself.
After smashing the ball — a no-doubter to left field — the beautifully bearded Bautista admired his handiwork before thrusting his bat to the side. (It's been incorrectly referred to as a bat flip, as the bat didn't seem to go end over end, but it's the popular terminology so we'll just go with it.)
Not only was the dinger the Jays' most important play in a generation, it seemed to signal the reversal of bad postseason luck in a city that, outside of the CFL's Argonauts, was somehow snakebitten, hexed and the victim of the world's most intricate sports voodoo all at once. In the Rangers' half of the inning, they had taken the lead on a call that was technically correct, though the home-plate umpire had bafflingly appeared to call the play dead in the midst of it. Overcoming that is some cause for celebration right there.
Leading the chorus of critics immediately after the game was Texas reliever Sam Dyson, who served up the meatball Bautista was quick to devour, telling the assembled media the slugger needed to "just kind of respect the game a little more."
Pardon the pun, but maybe suck a little less, Dyson? The best way to avoid seeing someone celebrate scoring on you is to avoid getting scored on.
And since when are we treating "the game" like a living, breathing thing? (Well, aside from the Dr. Dre protégé from the mid-aughts — there's no evidence to suggest the "Hate It Or Love It" hitmaker is no longer living or breathing.)
It's as absurd as the law whereby corporations are legally considered people, as most if not all would be considered to have psychopathic behaviour. I don't think "the game" is going to run to Perez Hilton or TMZ claiming Bautista dissed it with his celebration.
A similar incident happened in the final days of the regular season when Cleveland's Jose Ramirez drank in every foot of his blast off Minnesota's Ricky Nolasco, taking a few dainty steps with his bat in hand before twirling it like a baton.
After the game, Nolasco vowed Ramirez would "get his" for the celebration of a hit that made a 7-1 blowout into a 10-1 walloping. In baseball's unwritten code, or the one that seems to be illegibly written in invisible ink, someone on Nolasco's Twins will be tasked to rip a fastball at Ramirez next season.
As an actual Twins fan (the few, the proud-ish), it was pretty upsetting to see a team more concerned with how a guy celebrated beating them than with losing a game they desperately needed to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. (They died on the season's penultimate day. RIP.) Oh, and the bat flip was badass and awesome. I just wish my guys weren't the ones who were a part of it.
Checking out Twitter after the game, fans of all stripes condemned Ramirez and justified the punishment he's sure to receive in 2016. So to recap: at a time where we as a society are learning tons about the dangers of head injuries, we're OK with whipping a hardball at 100 miles-per-hour at a guy's body — potentially his head if the pitcher has poor control — for being pretty happy and maybe a little arrogant? Just checking.
There is a racial component to the criticism as well, as many of the players are from Latin America and are ordered to "play the game the right way" upon their arrival up north. In a June column for Fox Sports, ex-Major League catcher John Baker detailed the season he played in the Dominican Republic. He asked his teammates why they celebrated so exuberantly. Well because, if they weren't playing the game they loved, they'd be toiling in the fields chopping sugar cane.
Explained Baker: "They were flipping the bat to show everyone watching that they appreciated where they were, and that they really, truly loved playing baseball."
Dyson criticized Bautista for acting like a child in a backyard game and called on him to act as a better role model for the next generation.
I'm no parent, and if I were, I'd be wary of letting the mini-Falloons try to turn themselves exclusively into mini-pro-athletes.
But given the choice, I'd sure as hell point the young'uns in the direction of the fella who's found something he loves and appreciates every last drop of it than the one who will quite literally attack the other for daring to express that.