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Bat flips are dead, long live bat flips

Byung-ho Park is likely going to the Twins, but his bat flips are staying in Korea. This is a danged travesty.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Earlier in the week, while digging through Byung-ho Park highlights and pretending I know how to scout, I came across this:

There's a fluidity to this bat flip that is impossible to plan. It's a spontaneous dance move in response to a pleasing development. Backswing reaches its conclusion, recoil sends the bat flying, and there's a dusting of air sex as Park sends the ball on its way. It's seamless and enjoyable.

So of course we're never going to see anything like it.

By coincidence, Jose Bautista published a bat-flipping manifesto to Player's Tribune on Monday. It wasn't titled "Sorry, Not Sorry," but it could have been.

But for whatever reason, there’s a small section of old-school, my-way-or-the-highway type of people who never want the game to evolve. They’re the dinosaurs who believe that everybody should play the same and act the same. They usually claim that it is out of "respect."

There are a lot of solid quotables in the article. Bautista probably ollied off an old man's head and played a sweet guitar lick after finishing it. "Sorry, old-timer. But bat flips are here to stay!" He would have been right to do so.

This is not an argument about bat flips. It's assumed that if you're here, you're part of Internet Baseball, and Internet Baseball has already decided that bat flips are awesome. The fans who aren't fond of bat flips are either very quiet, or their WebTV service is spotty. The rest of us have voted, and it's a landslide. More bat flips, please.

This is an honest question, then, from someone who goes back and forth. The question is this: Do you think that bat flips are going to be a part of the game in subsequent generations, or do you think the status quo will remain indefinitely?

Bautista seems to think things are changing. He ends his piece by suggesting baseball dinosaurs are going extinct. Park indirectly disagrees, at least when it comes to the near future. He made a calculated decision to ratchet down his flips specifically because he didn't want to ruffle unwritten feathers. The current status quo is a sign hanging from baseball's door that reads ...

Thank you for your contributions, world. After careful consideration, however, we have decided that we invented this sport and know what to do with it. Thank you for your time.

You're aware that it's standard operating procedure in other countries, surely.

This is how baseball is played in Korea. And Cuba. And Venezuela. And, I don't know, the Netherlands, probably. Everywhere but North America. If bat flips don't become more common, that means that at some point, the global expansion of the sport will turn into contraction, with baseball getting more insular. Which means, by extension, baseball would actually be in trouble. Just like the dumb doomsayers have been warning us for decades.

My word, the bat flip is a canary in the coal mine for the sport's global popularity.

/takes off glasses, rubs temples

I get it now. It's all so clear.

Watching a video like that, though, is like eating a bowl of minced garlic. You want to add flavor whenever possible. You don't want to eat a bowl of that flavor. There's something to be said about the uniqueness and spontaneity of Bautista's flip, which would explain why it took over the Internet for a while. Him doing the same thing in May with a five-run lead would have detracted from it in October.

Here's my guess, then: Bat flips will never become a standard part of every home run. There will never be a supercut video of Baseball's weekly bat flips. There will still be sensitive man-children who need to lash out when they feel slighted, and those people will still throw rock-hard orbs at other adults to make up for it.

But the flips will increase, and the retaliation will decrease. The anger behind the flips and the chatter about the sanctity of the game will be muted and rare, but still alive. The best comp would be a closer's post-game celebration. We got used to Fernando Rodney's arrows and Brian Wilson's chest-tapping tribute to his dad. Yet they still annoy people. Mike Trout shot invisible arrows back at Rodney because Rodney went into his quiver in the eighth instead of after a save, and Casey Blake mocked Wilson after a blown save because they didn't have a baseball to throw. For the most part, though, the players on the other end of a post-game closer celebration are more concerned with the game they just lost.

One day, the pitcher on the other end of a bat flip will be more concerned with the homer he just gave up. Except occasionally, he'll get really annoyed and plunk someone. It'll be the status quo, just a lot less of it, allowing players like Bautista and David Ortiz to exist, yet keeping the flips rare enough to appreciate.

The pendulum is swinging in the right direction. Unfortunately, sweet, sweet Byung-ho Park is just a little ahead of his time. That's a shame. But we're probably entering an era where we don't talk about this stupid stuff nearly as much. Good.