Kansas City Royals

Joe Maddon weighs in on the bat-flip debate


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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Tim Anderson and the Royals stir up baseball's never-ending debate: 'You want him to not do that? Get him out'

Tim Anderson and the Royals stir up baseball's never-ending debate: 'You want him to not do that? Get him out'

"Baseball's a game, and games are supposed to be fun."

Apparently the Kansas City Royals never saw "Mr. Baseball."

Tim Anderson went viral Wednesday and stirred up the never-ending argument over baseball's unwritten rules. Anderson, who talks so often of having fun and trying to bring energy to these White Sox, didn't so much flip his bat as he did throw it like a javelin after absolutely crushing a home run deep into the left-field seats at Guaranteed Rate Field. So when he received a plunking right on the behind the next time he came to the plate, no one was surprised.

The teams spilled onto the field and stayed there for quite a while. Anderson, clearly sharing words with the Royals as he somewhat circuitously made his way toward first base, was sequestered by Jose Abreu and Joe McEwing early on in the proceedings, leaving the coaching staffs, interestingly enough, to play the starring roles in the on-field get together. Rick Renteria repeatedly tried to shoo the Royals off the field, at one point coming face to face with Dale Sveum, who also once held the position of manager on the North Side of town. Ned Yost took exception to Renteria's instruction and those two were nose to nose at one point. No punches were thrown, and somehow Anderson ended up receiving an ejection — something everyone besides longtime White Sox foil Joe West was bewildered by.

But even though West earned plenty of scorn on social media, the overarching conversation dealt with Anderson and the Royals. This isn't Anderson's first run-in with the division rivals. Benches cleared in Kansas City last April when Salvador Perez took exception with Anderson's reaction to a home run. Some advice for the grumpy Royals, not long ago among the game's up-and-comers: Maybe stop giving up home runs to Anderson.

Renteria seemed to agree.

"He's going to be who he is. He doesn't do it to show anybody up. You clearly can tell that," Renteria said after the game. "If you look at the video, he's looking into (the White Sox dugout during his home run celebration). He's not looking at anybody else, he's not trying to show them up.

"Get him out. You want him to not do that? Get him out."

Whether they actually hold baseball's old-timey traditions dear or they were just irritated on this day after this home run, the Royals were the ones standing in the way of the new style Wednesday. Major League Baseball's marketing department has leaned in the opposite direction, trotting out slogans such as "let the kids play" in recent months. That chill-inducing playoff commercial narrated by Ken Griffey Jr. and featuring all sorts of screaming and celebrating showed which way they'd like the game to go, surely in an effort to attract younger viewers to a game well more than a century old.

The Royals might get that, to be fair. They might not be a bunch of crusty old-timers. Heck, Brad Keller is two years younger than Tim Anderson. But that's not how things looked Wednesday.

Anderson has been talking about having fun for years, and his batting average sitting north of .400 in the season's early going has finally put him in the spotlight. Who knows if he's seen "Mr. Baseball," but he gets that games are supposed to be fun.

"I’m going to continue to be me and keep having fun," Anderson said. "Our fans, they pay their hard-earned money to come to the ballpark to see a show. So why don’t I give them one?

"I’m going to continue to play hard and keep playing for my team and the South Side. I’m in a place where I want to be. I’m going to continue to play hard and keep having fun.

"I don’t have any rules. I play to have fun, and I play with a lot of energy."

Whether the Royals are still upset or not, whether old-timers watch the clip of Anderson's bat launch and furrow their brows, it's easy to see how Anderson's style can win over a lot of fans.

Anderson is gaining a bit of a reputation now, it seems. This wasn't his first run-in with these Royals, nor was it the first time he was ejected by West. You might remember back to last September, when Anderson was tossed from a game against the Cubs and said afterward "everybody knows he's terrible." A lot of fans on social media agreed Wednesday, perhaps still holding a grudge from 2010, when West ejected Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen and caused Hawk Harrelson to say, among many other things, "that is a flat-out absolute disgrace to the umpiring profession."

But Anderson's not looking to change his ways. And why should he? He's having fun. That's what you're supposed to do in a game like this. And his teammates are appreciative of that.

For those who don't like it, the route to fixing it is pretty clear, as Renteria illustrated: Get him out.

What would Anderson do if the shoe was on the other foot? If he was the pitcher and someone pimped a home run against him?

"Try to strike them out."

Well said.

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