Cubs

Joe Maddon weighs in on the bat-flip debate

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USA TODAY

Joe Maddon weighs in on the bat-flip debate

You won't be finding Joe Maddon among Tim Anderson's defenders, but he's also not using this week's incident as a teaching moment for his players.

Maddon is still under the belief that it's better not to create a list of rules in the clubhouse to govern the players, but he also isn't into the whole show of celebration, of which bat-flips are at the forefront.

When Anderson flipped his bat on a home run Wednesday against the Royals, Kansas City pitcher Brad Keller responded by drilling Anderson the next time up. That resulted in a benches — and bullpens — clearing incident and then on Friday afternoon, both Anderson and Keller were hit with suspensions (Anderson was suspended for using a racial slur in his response to Keller). 

This is just the latest — and maybe one of the most charged — examples of the whole bat-flip/unwritten rules ordeal. Baseball's long tradition of punishing players for "showing up" a pitcher is alive and strong, and that's true even in the younger generation (Keller is only 23 years old). 

At 65, Maddon has been in the game of baseball since decades before Keller was even born, but he subscribes to a similar line of thinking as the Royals right-hander.

"I know my first year [with Cubs in 2015], I got upset at Junior Lake down in Miami [for flipping his bat]," Maddon said. "At that time, my being upset was about trying to flip the culture here — being more professional-looking and act like you're gonna do it again. That was my whole point about that.

"For me, I would prefer our guys didn't do that. I would prefer that the younger group right now doesn't need to see demonstrations like that in order to feel like they can watch baseball or that baseball is more interesting because somebody bat-flips really well and I kinda dig it and if I watch, I might see a bat-flip. 

"I would prefer kids watch baseball because it's a very interesting game, it's intellectually stimulating and when it's played properly, it's never too long. I prefer kids learn that method as opposed to become enamored with our game based on histrionics. I really would prefer that, but it seems to be that we are catering to that a bit.

"...When somebody choose to [bat-flip] and somebody gets hit in the butt because of it, that's what you're looking at. Regardless if you're old or new school, if you're a pitcher, I think you're gonna be offended by that. Act like you're gonna do it again would be the method that I would prefer with our guys. I want to believe we're not gonna do that, but it may happen here, too. And then we're just gonna have to wait and see how the other team reacts."

Though Maddon is not a fan of bat-flips and excessive celebration for big moments, he has not coached his players into avoiding such moments. 

That's why you still see Javy Baez out there being his typical flashy self and David Bote with an epic bat-flip on his walk-off grand slam (though that was obviously a much bigger moment than a run-of-the-mill fourth-inning homer) and Pedro Strop nearly dislocating his shoulder with some aggressive fist-pumps after nailing down a big out late in games.

But if anything does get out of line, Maddon prefers the policing comes from the players within the Cubs clubhouse or from the other team. Think back to last year when Baez tossed his bat in frustration after a pop-out against the Pirates at Wrigley Field and Strop pulled Baez aside to let him know "we don't do that here."

"I think the tried-and-true method of policing the group — whether it's the team policing itself or the industry and players doing the same thing," Maddon said. "I'd be curious to see if [Anderson] ever does that again, based on the result the other day." 

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Two days after bat flip, MLB gives Tim Anderson one-game suspension, reportedly for using a 'racially charged word'

Two days after bat flip, MLB gives Tim Anderson one-game suspension, reportedly for using a 'racially charged word'

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson received a one-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Friday for what the league described only as "his conduct after the benches cleared" during Wednesday's game against the Kansas City Royals.

But a more specific reason for his suspension might have been revealed in a report from ESPN's Jeff Passan, who said that MLB found during its investigation into the incident that Anderson used "a racially charged word."

Anderson's verbal behavior was the only reason he could have received a suspension, as the bat flip that sparked the retaliation by the Royals was certainly not against the rules and he was not involved in any physical altercation with any member of the Royals while being held far away from the fracas by Jose Abreu and Joe McEwing. It seems that whatever he said on the field might have been the same reason Anderson received an ejection from the game, something he and manager Rick Renteria expressed confusion over after the game.

Renteria also received a one-game suspension from the league Friday. He and other members of the coaching staffs were the featured players in the on-field get together. Renteria had face-to-face run-ins with Royals coach Dale Sveum and Royals manager Ned Yost, who took displeasure with Renteria telling his team to get off the field. Renteria, Sveum, Anderson and Royals pitcher Brad Keller, who hit Anderson with the pitch, were all ejected Wednesday.

The entire brouhaha was sparked by Anderson's celebration of his home run earlier in the game, a monster shot that he "pimped" by launching his bat toward the White Sox dugout and yelling at his teammates in an effort to energize them. The Royals didn't see it that way, and Keller — who received a five-game suspension Friday — fired a pitch at Anderson's behind during his next at-bat. Anderson and the Royals exchanged plenty of words as he circuitously made his way toward first base, and the benches promptly cleared.

The incident has once again brought the never-ending argument over the old-school and new-school approaches to on-field celebrations and the game's "unwritten rules" to the fore. Major League Baseball's social-media accounts have continued the use of their marketing slogan "let the kids play" in apparent celebration of Anderson's bat flip, if not an all-out defense, a curious approach now that the league has handed down a suspension. Of course, no one is suggesting that the same folks sending out tweets are the ones making disciplinary decisions, and it seems Anderson's suspension stemmed from what he said after he was hit by the pitch rather than the bat flip that sparked the whole chain of events.

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