Bautista's bat flip right at home this postseason
CHICAGO (AP) Anthony Rizzo was waiting for his turn for batting practice when he mimicked a big swing, and then flung his bat into the top of the cage and glared out at the field.
Oh yes, the Chicago Cubs were watching when Toronto slugger Jose Bautista unleashed his epic bat flip, and it was met with mischievous grins in the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field. For fans of celebratory flying lumber, this has been quite the postseason.
Asked Thursday about Bautista's memorable display, Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber chuckled and said, ''I thought it was awesome.''
The playoffs are in full swing, and baseball's long-running debate about the appropriate amount of on-field celebration is jogging alongside the postseason like an intriguing subplot of a best-selling novel. As the bat flips go higher and higher into the air, the conversations pick up in frequency.
When it comes to how much is too much, it seems as if a new generation of ballplayer is moving the needle toward time, place and circumstances rather than the practically outright prohibition of the past. And of course, the winners seem a lot more tolerant than the losing players.
''I don't know how long it's been going on. But it's kind of taken over baseball now,'' Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
The Blue Jays and Rangers were tied at 3 in Game 5 of their AL Division Series when Bautista crushed a three-run homer to left with two out in the seventh inning. After taking a quick look at where the drive was going, he tossed his bat off to the side as if he was angry that the ball wasn't traveling with even more velocity.
''I can't really remember what was going through my mind, to be quite honest with you,'' Bautista said. ''After I made contact, I just, you know, I didn't plan anything that I did and so I still don't even know how I did it. I just enjoyed the moment, rounded the bases and got to the dugout.''
Video of Bautista's moment Wednesday night spread quickly on social media, and Major League Baseball fanned the flames by tweeting the clip several times from its main account. But Sam Dyson, who gave up the homer, said Bautista needs to ''respect the game a little more,'' and Rangers ace Cole Hamels also was critical of the display.
Elsewhere, it seemed as if many players felt the situation justified the celebration. The home run was the big blow in a crazy game that put Toronto in the AL Championship Series for the first time since it won the title in 1993.
''It's a really exciting moment,'' Cubs infielder Starlin Castro said Thursday. ''I think every time you go up to the plate, you hit the ball hard and far, I think that the emotion will make you do something that sometime you don't even understand.''
Bautista has plenty of playoff company.
It started on the first day, when Houston outfielder Colby Rasmus flipped aside his bat after a homer at Yankee Stadium in the AL wild-card game. Schwarber got into the act the follow night, connecting for a long drive at Pittsburgh before discarding his lumber with authority.
''For me, you know, I'll do my thing. I'll be very cautious with it,'' Schwarber said. ''But it's nothing too over the top.''
Rasmus and Schwarber were merely warmup acts for New York Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes, who set the stage for Bautista's throw by elegantly lofting his bat high into the air after a three-run drive during a 13-7 win over the Dodgers in Game 3 of their NLDS.
''I think you look at all professional sports in general. Everybody celebrates more so than they used to be,'' Gibbons said. ''And I think in our particular sport, if it's happening for your team, your guy hits a big hit, nobody minds it. If you're on the other side nobody likes it. I think it's gotten past the point, personally, I don't like it, but I think we've all kind of moved on past that.''
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Missouri, and freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap