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What online surveys say about the bat flip

What online surveys say about the bat flip

On Oct. 14 the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers to advance to Major League Baseball's American League Championship Series, one playoff round away from the World Series. Jays outfielder Jose Bautista clinched the win during the seventh inning by blasting a three-run homerun and flipping his bat into the air in celebration, The New York Times reported. ​Though most fans enjoyed the homerun, they were, according to online surveys, against Bautista's bat flipping.

An online survey conducted by USA Today said that 57 percent of baseball fans dislike the bat flip. They consider it an affront to sportsmanship and baseball's "unwritten rules," an unofficial, player-enforced conduct code.

Baseball's unwritten rules
Since baseball's legitimization in the mid-1850s, coaches, fans and players have operated using a vast, and sometimes contradictory, network of intrinsic ethical guidelines. According to Bleacher Report, this omnipresent rulebook includes edicts like "don't steal bases when you're leading by a large margin" and, most importantly in this context, "don't admire a homerun."  An NBC Sports survey stated that 49 percent of fans believe the rules are "necessary." Interestingly, about a quarter of respondents suggested the rules be written down.

Why batters flip
The simple answer is ego. Batters, basking in the glow of their accomplishment and roused by the roaring crowd, express their satisfaction by giving the bat a jovial flip. It's basically the baseball equivalent of the mic drop. And, some polls suggest this reaction might be appropriate. According to another online survey from USA Today, sports enthusiasts consider hitting a baseball traveling at more than 90 mph the most difficult physical act across all sports.

Changing opinions
While traditionalists continue to side with the game's unwritten rules, a majority of younger fans and players seem to support bat flipping and similar displays, The Kansas City Star reported. According to USA Today, little league player Jake Burns made news this past summer when he flipped his bat after crushing a homerun during the Little League World Series.​ Baseball's purists protested, arguing that the promotion of sportsmanlike play within amateur leagues is essential to sustaining the game's gentlemanly traditions. 

Bat-flipping proponents believe baseball should tone down its focus on character building and remember that, ultimately, it's only a game. They also highlight the downsides to maintaining baseball's unseen ethical system, many of which exist within the code's enforcement and punishment section. For instance, if an opposing pitcher hits a batter on your team, either intentionally or by accident, next inning your pitcher can hit one of the opposing team's batters, reported Bleacher Report. This is called beaning and many younger fans and players consider it, and similar retaliatory practices, barbaric.

Despite the increase in these nuanced opinions, old-school ethicists still outnumber baseball's youthful reformers. An online survey conducted by The Kansas City Star said that 50 percent of Kansas City Royals fans believe beaning is "necessary to send a message that [the Royals] will protect their players."  

So, while bat flipping and similar activities may seem acceptable to some fans, online surveys suggest that baseball's old guard continues to drive the sport's ethical agenda.

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