Add Mike Schmidt to the list of Hall of Famers not impressed with Jose Bautista’s celebratory antics.
Penning a piece for the Associated Press outlining the contrasts of what's acceptable celebratory behavior and what’s not, Schmidt criticized Bautista for flamboyantly flipping his bat after smashing a towering, tiebreaking home run that propelled the Toronto Blue Jays to the American League Championship Series last October:
Why do so many players today feel the need to embellish their success with some sort of hand signal to the dugout? What got more attention in last year's postseason than a bat toss by Jose Bautista? Pointing to the sky is child's play compared to that moment in the postseason on national TV. A flagrant disrespect of the opponent like that would have gotten somebody hurt back in the day.
The onslaught of criticism Bautista fielded for the celebration prompted the star slugger to justify himself in an essay for the Players' Tribune last November titled "Are You Flipping Kidding Me?"
Bautista credited his behavior to being in the heat of the moment. The Blue Jays were in the playoffs for the first time since 1993, and he was at the plate with two runners on and two outs with the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning. This was all coming in a Game 5 that sent the loser home.
"There was no script. I didn’t plan it. It just happened. ... It wasn’t out of contempt for the pitcher. It wasn’t because I don’t respect the unwritten rules of the game. I was caught up in the emotion of the moment,” Bautista wrote.
Here is a look at the mammoth home run, courtesy of MLB, which was arguably one of the defining moments of last year’s postseason:
Schmidt noted Bautista isn’t the only player who has violated such unwritten laws of respect, but his gesture was among the most glaring last year:
That's the problem with these on-field displays, it shows a lack of respect for your opponent and the history of the game. But today there is a faction of players that say damn respect — that guy on the mound gestures to the dugout when he strikes me out, so why can't I flip my bat on a home run? That's a good point, I guess it does go both ways. But who wouldn't agree Bautista crossed the line?
Schmidt, who sits 16th on the all-time home runs list with 548, was among the many old-schoolers who played under the unwritten rules of respect that he believes Bautista’s bat flip defied.
Yet even the three-time National League MVP couldn’t help himself in the colossal moment when he joined the 500 home run club, as relayed by Jonah Keri of CBS Sports, which he said was the one moment in his career when he showed the most emotion:
Schmidt and Bautista come from completely different upbringings.
The former was a college star at Ohio University and made his major league debut when Richard Nixon was in the White House.
Bautista grew up in the Dominican Republic and struggled mightily in his early years before breaking out as an MVP-caliber player in Toronto. Some of those differences may account for the players' varying approaches to the game.
Bautista has always been among this era’s most passionate players, and even though another iconic old-timer publicly voiced his displeasure, the six-time All-Star likely won’t change his style.