Rozner: Far too much flap over Baez's bat flip

  • Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez on his bat-flip: "I will learn from it. That's all I have to say."

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez on his bat-flip: "I will learn from it. That's all I have to say." Associated Press/file

 
 
Updated 4/14/2018 7:21 PM

In the timeless words of Livia Soprano, "It's all a big nothing."

At least, it should have been nothing, but seeing as how this is America in 2018, let's have an angry debate, divide the masses and send aircraft carriers when a paper airplane would suffice.

 

It's what we do today. Scream, point and eliminate the possibility of conversation.

It's all so very pleasant.

Nevertheless, and in the interest of full disclosure, I confess to having a Javy Baez bias.

His defense wins games. He has as good a pair of hands as has been on display at Wrigley Field in the last 50 years. He has turned the tag into an art form. He's exciting at the plate and on the bases. He plays with total joy for the game.

He is good for baseball. He is entertaining. He sells tickets.

And he means no harm.

But Baez made a mistake Wednesday night when he threw his bat in frustration after a pop out against Pittsburgh pitcher Josh Smoker.

In essence, firing your bat there says the pitcher stinks and the ball should have been hit a mile. Baez didn't intend to show up anyone. He just reacted. But it's disrespectful to tell everyone in the stadium you should have gone deep.

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To his credit, Baez immediately owned it after Wednesday's game, calling it embarrassing and a mistake, and something he would learn from. One of his veteran teammates expressed such to him.

In decades past, a handwritten note sent to the opposing pitcher -- or a phone call to the opposition clubhouse -- would have accompanied the gesture, and that would have ended hostilities.

It should have been over. At worst, next time Smoker faced Baez he would have had the option of sending him a message between the shoulder blades. Players used to fix these things themselves.

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on the Baez and his bat flip: "Where is the respect for the game?"
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on the Baez and his bat flip: "Where is the respect for the game?" - Associated Press/file
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Instead, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle -- clearly unaware of Baez' contrition -- arrived at Wrigley Field Thursday morning and went after the popular Cubs second baseman.

"Where is the respect for the game?" Hurdle asked. "The guy hits four homers in two days, so that means you can take your bat and throw it 15, 20 feet in the air when you pop up like you should have hit your fifth home run?

"I would bet that men over there talked to him, because I do believe they have a group over there that speaks truth to power."

Well, maybe Hurdle should have asked someone before he started talking about another team's player, and an opposition locker room.

That is also inexcusable.

As an old-school, hard-nosed baseball lifer, Hurdle made the same mistake he accuses Baez of making. Hurdle was disrespectful to the Cubs organization.

"To be honest, I have a lot of things I can say right now, but I don't control what's out there, what people say about me," Baez said postgame Thursday. "I'm just going to keep playing my game. Last year, there was a player talking about my game style and now this year it's a manager.

"I bust my (butt) every day to play hard. I don't think anyone plays this game harder than me. I will learn from it. That's all I have to say. If anybody has stuff to say, they can save it."

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon responding to Hurdle's comments: "Most of the time when you hear critical commentary, it's self-evaluation. It reveals you more than it reveals the person you are talking about."
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon responding to Hurdle's comments: "Most of the time when you hear critical commentary, it's self-evaluation. It reveals you more than it reveals the person you are talking about." - Associated Press/file

For his part, manager Joe Maddon had every right to suggest Hurdle stay out of Cubs business and worry about his own team. He would have been universally cheered for it.

Or he could have made a phone call. Instead, he raised the stakes and made some rather startling suggestions about Hurdle's character.

"Whenever you want to be hypercritical of somebody, just understand you are revealing yourself and your beliefs more than you're evaluating somebody, because you have not spent one second in that person's skin," Maddon said. "To try to disseminate what I think about a guy on another team based on superficial reasons, I'll never go there.

"Just like people making decisions on (Pedro) Strop based on wearing his hat (different). I think most of the time when you hear critical commentary, it's self-evaluation. It reveals you more than it reveals the person you are talking about."

Maddon appears to be making assumptions about Hurdle, while accusing Hurdle of making assumptions about Cubs players.

It's a big leap from Hurdle not wanting someone to show up his pitcher to where Maddon has directed the conversation, but that's the essence of most conversation today.

Leap and escalate.

Thing is, the guy who's injured in all of this is Baez, who made a little mistake and owned up to it. Hurdle overreacted, making it a big deal, and Maddon overreacted, making it a bigger deal.

The truth is it was a small moment in a game when a baseball player showed emotion after making an out.

Everyone involved can lend it much greater significance now if they want to score points with their respective constituents because that's the way it works today.

There's no escaping it, Mrs. Soprano, even though in this case it was really a big nothing.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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