You are Jose Bautista, mired in the misery of the longest season and today is likely your last hurrah as a Blue Jay at Rogers Centre. So relax, Jose. Wipe that scowl off your face. Smile at the ump. Sit on the fastball. Take one final sweet swing at Rogers Centre and flip the bat.
Yes, flip the damn bat!
This season of misery has no doubt taken its toll on you mentally. You appear to have worn down. Physically, you seem to have something left at 36. But the burning question is whether you can recharge mentally and rejuvenate your career.
The twilight has been unkind to you, the fall from grace too sudden for such a fierce competitor. So savor the final act. Never mind about the .201 batting average. Forget that you’ve just broken the all-time club record with 161 strikeouts while mustering only 22 homers. It’s time to give your fans one more electrifying blast and take a well deserved bow.
And flip the damn bat!
You have walloped 332 home runs as a Jay but only one will be forever etched in the memories of your fans. That was the one delivered with an exclamation point that ignited the Rogers Centre faithful two years ago with your flair for the dramatic and showmanship. After cranking that three-run walk-off homer off Texas Rangers pitcher Sam Dyson to propel the Jays to the 2015 division series title, you flipped the damn bat.
This was no ordinary bat flip. It was not the smooth and subtle David Ortiz bat flip. This one was forceful and decisive. and laced with venom. A stick-it-in-your-ear bat flip. It had all the dramatic effects of Robert Redford’s blast in The Natural.
As cruel as it seems, the “Joey Bats” bat flip seemed to signal the rapid decline of Canada’s most celebrated baseball hero. For some, it was perceived as a beautiful thing. But this is the staid league that is strangled by tradition and unwritten rules such as the one that says you don’t show up the opposition, the flipping of the bat being the cardinal sin.
Baseball’s dinosaurs were horrified by your flair for theatrics. Party poopers like Hall of Famer Goose Gossage were aghast. Gossage ranted that you are “a f—ing disgrace.”
Get a life, Goose.
You always had a reputation as a scrappy product of the Dominican Republic but at least you never forgot that you were in the entertainment business.
Baseball is a nasty grind for those who forget that it’s a game and that may explain your anguish over this lost season for the team and it’s longtime superstar. Baseball players are the most stressed athletes in professional team sports. The batters’ box is a cauldron of emotions. So what better way to blow off steam that to flip the damn bat.
The batters box is a sort of solitary confinement. You are bogged down by analytics and countless scouting reports while entertaining thoughts of 100-mile-per-hour chin music. To exacerbate the scene, there’s your estranged relationship with the umpires and their moving strike zones. So you flip the damn bat and your picture winds up on wanted posters throughout the league.
In the two seasons since the infamous bat flip, your batting average has plummeted near the .200 mark while your power numbers have plummeted. You have hit more homers in the majors than any other player in the past decade and as many as 54 in a single season. And now it’s almost certain the Jay won’t exercise their option for one more year on the US$18 million annual contract you signed for this season after being shunned on the free-agent market.
When you’re one of the most controversial personalities in the league with waning numbers and approaching your 37th birthday, the prospects of attracting interest from other teams do not appear great.
But there is a league that would welcome you with open arms and a cheerleaders’ reception. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), the top Korean pro league, may be tailor made for you, particularly one with a penchant for bat flipping.
Here’s a league that knows how to party. Korean baseball is a bat flipping paradise. It’s cool to flip bats in Korea (where it is known as ppa dun). Opposing pitchers do not view it as a sign of disrespect. They only get mad when bat flippers endanger the lives of their cheerleaders. While youthful Koreans dance in the aisles, players artfully flip bats, spiralling them skyward a la Joey Bats, even on routine grounders or foul balls!
While major league baseball struggles to attract younger fans, Korean baseball popularity is in an uptrend. The toast of the KBO is ex-major league pitcher Dustin Nippert. Unheralded in his native Ohio, Nippert is worshipped in Korea and paid a KBO record salary of US$2.1 million by the Doosan Bears for his trouble in tolerating the merry bat flippers. For the record, that’s 2,380,140,000 Korean won.
Jose, Korea could be the fountain of youth where you could rediscover the joy of baseball, a place where you could go out in style as Korea’s marquee player and a ‘won’ trillionaire to boot.
Teams like the Samsung Lions seem to lack star power between the chalklines. The only the team picture on the home page of the Lions’ website is that of the team’s cheerleading squad!
It would be bat flipping heaven. But a cautionary note, Jose. In Korea, you must also bow to the umpire.