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April 22, 2016

Bryce Harper will save baseball, one way or another. And by “save,” I mean he’ll make the game fun again, even for those who are not in love with baseball. Backing him are the typical culprits, with their bat flips, slow trots, funky pitch windups and the occasional staredown.

These people are keeping baseball fun to watch, and even more fun to experience. Unless, of course, you are old. Than you are likely irked by all these disrespectful kids running around and “disrespecting the game,” however that works.

Honestly, I can’t say I agree with the Gooses and Schillings of the world. Baseball is a game. A game with traditions and expectations, but still a game. It’s meant to be fun, even if that fun “shows up” pitchers every now and again.

I’m not a big believer in the argument that pitchers should just not give up homers if they dislike bat flips, because that is absurd. Homers are a part of baseball, and asking anyone to attempt to cut them out entirely is absurd.

However, saying that pitchers should start tossing beanballs to get back at batters they think are showboating is worse. Intentional injury isn’t okay, and it never will be. It never was.

This is a different time, with different values. Players can respect the game in different, better ways. Pitchers are way more vocal now than they were when I was growing up. They’re vocal in different spots, too. Watching Chris Sale or Dallas Keuchel is great because they’re so emotive on the mound. Some pitchers scream into their gloves. Others openly glare at umpires they think aren’t giving them a fair shake. Fist pumping and glove pounding is ubiquitous among pitchers. I do not understand why the emotive freedom is not allowed to players at the plate. As an observer, I love it when we get a good bat flip. To me, that is not disrespectful at all.

But I don’t think this is a fight over respect or fun. It’s about two traditions clashing over what baseball is, and what baseball will be. That’s not inherently a bad thing, I don’t think. However, this clash could be handled better.

For example, how do modern pitchers feel about bat flips? Is it motivating, or demoralizing? Should batters care? What, if anything, warrants a pitch to the head? When does celebrating become excessive?

These are all questions that can be answered by current players in a civil manner, and hashed out by MLB, not by retired folks like Schilling. Until then, Bautista will continue to chuck bats after homers, and Bryce Harper will continue to stare down pitchers. That’s my kind of game.

Anthony Adams
Sports Columnist

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