In the past few days, baseball’s culture wars have been reignited, first by a story in ESPN The Magazine in which Bryce Harper called baseball “tired” because players are discouraged from on-field celebrations and then by Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage blasting those celebrations in comments to ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand.
One such bat flip, by the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista in last season’s playoffs, was what set Gossage off, with the ex-New York Yankee saying Bautista was “a disgrace to the game.” Wainwright, without naming anyone, said there is a line between having fun and going over the top.
“If a pitcher struck one of these great hitters out and then did a cartwheel off the mound, then the hitter’s going to throw everything, they’re going to bench-clear,” Wainwright said. “But if a hitter hits a homer and throws a bat 26 feet up in the air, they think it’s OK? I don’t know if that’s OK. I think you can have fun, but be respectful at the same time.”
Wainwright wasn’t pleased during the 2013 playoffs after Yasiel Puig flipped his bat and slowly jogged around the bases after hitting a deep drive to right field off him. Puig’s ball hit the wall and he had to accelerate to reach third base safely. The next October, Wainwright hit Puig in the shoulder with a pitch, prompting an argument between Yadier Molina and Adrian Gonzalez and a brief bench clearing.
In 2013, Wainwright described Gonzalez’s on-field celebrations as “Mickey Mouse stuff.”
Wainwright wanted to emphasize that he’s not against players having fun on the field.
“I just know there are always going to be people who stretch the boundaries of the unsaid rules,” Wainwright said. “There always have been. You can look back at Reggie Jackson in the '70s. He was doing stuff like that and pimping balls, and there are many people that did it over the years. The different personalities are great -- they help our game -- but you can do it respectfully.”
Wainwright, who missed most of the 2015 season after tearing his left Achilles tendon, made his second start of the spring Saturday, allowing four Houston Astros hits and two runs over four innings. Danny Worth hit a line-drive home run and an RBI double off Wainwright.
“He had some good swings off me today,” Wainwright said. “The good thing about it is even before the home run, I had him in a count where I was able to make some good pitches. He’s a good little player.”