Believe it or not, but we’re still only two weeks into the 2014 MLB season. Maybe it’s been the mounting injuries, or relatively expected results so far, but it feels like it’s been a lot longer. Anyhow, what with players still working out the small sample size kinks, and my unfortunate obligation to write an essay on Robinson Crusoe by tomorrow’s ENG 321 class, today there won’t be any serious analysis going on. Rather, I figured I’d have some GIF-related fun, and document some of the first-class bat-flipping we’ve already witnessed this season. Last year saw a strong rookie effort from now-notorious preener Wil Myers, and a breakout showing by Carlos Gomez (who has been at it again on shallow sacrifice flys so far in 2014). Both however, were edged last year by Yasiel Puig, who’s monumental performance in the NLCS secured him the 2013 bat-flipping belt. Where better to start then, with the reigning champion, a man who in the very first game of the Opening Series in Australia, turned a HBP into a bat-flip exhibition. Tremendous stuff indeed (not from you though Trevor Cahill).
Now, if this were merely a celebration of bat-drops, I’d need look no further than Atlanta. The quick, punchy swing that barrels the ball over the fence; The lumber being brought back across the body just as rapidly, and at almost the exact same angle – like a rocket-fueled, 33-ounce pendulum; The exquisite drop into the opposite batter’s box after maintaining the two-handed grip throughout. There is no better bat-dropper in the ML than Justin Upton, which make his home run binges all the more enjoyable (and, for the causal observer at least, maybe not for Atlanta fans though, more than make up for the subsequent dry spells).
Unfortunately for Upton the Younger however, this is a bat-flip contest. You can’t bring a knife to a gun fight and expect to win, especially when there’s pitchers out there putting forth spectacular efforts like this:
It turns out that as well as a plus cutter and curveball, Madison Bumgarner also possesses an 80 grade bat flip. That fourth-inning shot (a grand slam by the way) off poor Jorge De La Rosa on Friday night, and MadBum’s fantastic pimping of it, had lingering influence apparently…
… for only two days later, it was teammate Brandon Crawford admiring a walk-off jack that ended up in McCovey Cove. Crawford earns extra hot-dogging points too for writing about his effort later - attributing everything he learnt about the bat-flipping art to Bumgarner in addition to admitting “I’ve watched the replay twice already, I’m not going to lie. I’ll go home and probably watch it again. I might keep it on a loop. Maybe make a GIF for my phone.” Do it Brandon, it’s not every day you take a lefty-killer like Rex Brothers deep for the win after all.
Such personal promotion can’t lift Crawford’s effort above Anthony Recker‘s walk-off bat-flip however. In fact, even with the writing, it might pale in comparison. By my count, the most handsome man in baseball (according to Baseball Prospectus anyway) is a full four strides down the first base line before languidly tossing the bat aside after his 13th inning solo shot off Matt Shoemaker. That he picked up a horrendously ugly Jose Valverde effort – probably ensuring Papa Grande’s role as closer for another week at least – doesn’t diminish such an otherwise aesthetically-pleasing performance by Recker.
The Mets’ backup catcher has a looong way to go before he can rival what Dayn Perry of CBSSports called the “Bat-Flip of Maximum Conquest Maximus” though. The utter disdain emanating from Jayson Werth - undoubtedly on account of the Marlins intentionally walking Anthony Rendon to get to him – is transferred fully into a bat-flip that might still be going off-camera. Sure it wasn’t a walk-off, but a no-doubt grand slam complete with an ESPY-worthy flip and stare-down combination? That’s a winning formula.
For now at least anyway.