Minor League Sports

Cedar Rapids Kernels differ on their opinions about bat flips and retaliatory pitches

(Chicago Tribune)
(Chicago Tribune)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s cool to flip your bat after hitting a no-doubter home run. It’s not cool to flip your bat after hitting a no-doubter home run.

It’s OK to retaliate for a guy “pimping” a home run by hitting him with a pitch next time he’s up to bat. It’s not OK to retaliate for a guy “pimping” a home run by hitting him with a pitch next time he’s up to bat.

Walking around the Cedar Rapids Kernels clubhouse earlier this week, you got differing opinions on who was right and wrong on the well-publicized bat toss this week from Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox after a home run in a game and the retaliatory hit by pitch from Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller in Anderson’s next plate appearance. Both players ended up being ejected and suspended by Major League Baseball, with Anderson supposedly uttering a racial slur after his homer.

Those unwritten rules of the game are a bane, man. Those unwritten rules of the game are not a bane, man.

Just as on Twitter, discussion apparently got heated at times among Kernels teammates. In general, it’s safe to say Kernels pitchers don’t like guys bat flipping, while hitters say there’s nothing wrong with showing a little emotion on the baseball field.

“Yeah, 100 percent I am OK with it,” said Kernels outfielder DaShawn Keirsey Jr. “It might be different for me, just because I grew up and kind of my main sport was football. Where you could use your passion, your energy and kind of do that to help yourself. I’ve had to learn to tone myself down baseball wise, but I think where the game is trying to go, to attract the younger crowd, that’s where I think people have to be able to show emotion. That’s my take on it.”

It is a take completely shared by teammate Trey Cabbage. The outfielder has five home runs this season, including a 416-foot shot Friday night in which he didn’t flip his bat but stood in the batter’s box for a bit to admire the prodigious blast.

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“I’m pro bat flip,” Cabbage said. “Because, I mean, if I hit a ball that far off of you, I’m going to celebrate it. But if you punch me out with the bases loaded, glove clap, fist pump, I don’t care. It’s an emotional game. If you are out there with no emotion, or even if it’s a quiet confidence ... I like it when people are emotional. That’s my thing. I’ve got no problem with a pitcher fist pumping. But when I hit one out, I’m going to celebrate, too.”

There is no question there is more emotion in the game from even five to 10 years ago. Guys gesticulate after big hits or big strikeouts a lot more than they used to.

But the problem some have is that gesticulation is excessive and shows up an opponent.

“I think it’s just a respect thing,” said Kernels pitcher Joe Record. “I don’t think pitchers should show up hitters, I don’t think hitters should show up pitchers.”

“I think there are varying degrees of it,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “When guys just stand at the plate and watch (home runs), stuff like that, it feels like it’s showing up the pitcher. On the other hand, there are things when pitchers strike out guys, maybe their celebration on the mound ... It’s a two-way street, it seems like. I’m not a huge fan of guys standing there, showing up the pitcher, whatever. If you want to celebrate a little, OK. But when you make it a little bit excessive or whatever, that’s where I have a problem with it.”

Kernels pitcher Cole Sands said he found it kind of ironic that Anderson was the guy in the spotlight this week for his bat flip. He did hit 20 homers last season for the White Sox but isn’t one of the game’s feared sluggers.

“I just think act like you’ve done it before,” Sands said. “One thing I think is you usually don’t see (Aaron) Judge or (Giancarlo) Stanton, the guys who hit homers on a regular basis, they usually don’t bat flip. But guys who don’t usually hit them, when they finally get a hold of one and they know it’s gone, I think they kind of take advantage of it.”

Opinions also varied on pitchers intentionally hitting batters to get back at them for bat flipping or perceived pimping. Some Kernels thought it was justified, some didn’t.

All stressed that pitchers should never intentionally pitch high and inside on anyone.

“Hitting me in the ass is totally fine,” Cabbage said. “But when you climb the ladder and start going toward the shoulders and the head, that’s when I have a problem. As long as you do it the right way, I’ve got no problem.”

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“Honestly, I understand that part of it both ways, but I think it’s kind of soft,” Keirsey Jr. said. “It’s a soft thing to throw at a guy because he’s getting excited or amped up because of emotion. Yeah, (Keller) didn’t throw it at (Anderson’s) head, but I don’t think it’s right that a guy who is throwing 95 to 100 miles per hour can retaliate because we’re trying to show emotion. Be passionate in a way. I know that baseball is trying to move forward. The older crowd is still stuck in that (mentality).”

Pitcher Blayne Enlow isn’t part of the older crowd. He just turned 20.

But he said he “absolutely” would have tried to hit Anderson.

“I wouldn’t have done it in the bottom of the sixth, though, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “When it’s a 2-2 ballgame? No. But he deserved it. He even knew. Did you see the video? He was like ‘It’s all good. I know.’ He knew he was about to get hit.

“You do something like that, then let us pitchers celebrate then. Whenever we get a strikeout, let us scream at people and follow them all the way into the dugout. If we’d do that, then one of our guys would get hit.”

The debate continues.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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