Blue Jays: Bo Bichette is the cleanup hitter for the modern age
With the 2023 season almost upon us, a debate has arisen amongst Toronto Blue Jays fans over how to best arrange the team’s batting order.
In many ways, it’s a debate which shows just how much the game has changed.
Certainly, it reveals how analytics-based thinking has changed roster construction – twenty years ago, we would have been discussing where in the 3-4-5 range of the order George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should fall; today, they’ll likely be one and two.
But analytics aside, there is another way the game has changed, one tied to baseball’s longstanding connection with culture more broadly.
Indeed, this connection is exactly the reason Bo Bichette would be perfect in the cleanup spot for the 2023 Blue Jays.
Sure, he’d probably be good at it – as John Schneider said in his second game as Jays manager, “the more we can get Bo up with guys on base, the better off we are.”
But it’s more than that.
Bo Bichette as the Blue Jays cleanup hitter would be representative of a fundamental change taking place not only in baseball, but across society as a whole.
The Cleanup Hitter
Since the earliest days of baseball, cleanup hitters have almost universally been a particular type of player – big, powerful, intimidating figures, guys with nicknames like “The Iron Horse,” “The Hebrew Hammer,” and “Killer.”
Look at any list of the game’s great cleanup hitters – from the aforementioned Gehrig, Greenberg, and Killebrew to Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell; from Dave Winfield and Carlos Delgado to Mike Schmidt and Eddie Murray, Fred McGriff and Tony Pérez to Johnny Bench and Albert Belle.
All of these men were over six feet tall, each over 200 pounds, and nearly every one of them somewhere between stoic and snarling. Together, they are no less than baseball’s representation of uber-masculinity.
Then there's Bichette.
No, he is not over six feet tall or 200 pounds, and he’s probably the last guy you would describe as intimidating, rather than snarling, kind of pretty, a man unafraid to take to the field with long hair flowing, earrings and necklace on full display.
If baseball’s cleanup hitter is its representation of uber-masculinity, then why is Bichette perfect for the spot?
Well, because masculinity is changing …
Traditionally, North American culture has taught a very specific set of characteristics encompassing what it means to be a “real” man. Men were to be rigid and unemotional, never showing weakness or asking for help, and certainly never crying; they were to replace feelings with something between gruff stoicism and aggressive bravado.
Today, we are increasingly becoming aware of just how harmful this line of thinking can be, not only to society at large through the proliferation of toxic masculinity, but to men themselves when they’re forced into this type of narrow box.
Consider, research shows that men who conform to cultural notions of traditional masculinity are more likely to suffer from elevated levels of stress and anxiety, and more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and alcoholism; they are less likely to get preventative health care, or seek mental health services. And they are far more likely to commit suicide. As the American Psychological Association bluntly put it, “traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful.”
Thankfully, a change is taking place.
More than ever, men, and particularly young men, are challenging the stereotypical definition of masculinity and reimagining what it means to be a “real” man. They no longer see traditional ideals of masculinity and femininity as antagonistic opposites, but instead, as enthusiastic collaborators in an entirely new definition of masculinity.
Rather than rigid, this new definition can be hard or soft, both caring and capable; men can ask for help just as easily as they can provide it, and showing one’s emotions is seen as a sign of strength, rather than weakness. As rugby-player-turned-yoga-instructor Chris Magee said in a recent interview with Men’s Health, “You don’t have to pick a side of the fence. There is no fence.”
Think of Bo Bichette – just as apt to flip his lustrous hair suggestively and show off his jewelry as he is to give a reserved interview talking about the value of hard work and team play, just as likely to run the bases beating his chest after a big home run as he is to snuggle with his bestie Vladdy on the bench or hand out a hug to someone who needs it.
This is why Bo Bichette should be the cleanup hitter for the 2023 Toronto Blue Jays.
Because not only would he be good at it, but because through his tangible redefinition of masculinity, he becomes an example to men everywhere, the flagbearer of a broader cultural shift.
The cleanup spot has always been baseball’s representation of uber-masculinity.
Well, it still is.
And Bo Bichette is the perfect cleanup hitter for the modern age.
Let me know what you think – @WriteFieldDeep.