Baseball in 2023
It is almost funny to look at Major League Baseball now, nearly ten years removed from Bautista’s legendary bat flip.
Today, the game is filled with flash and celebration, with players unafraid to bring whatever level of passion they want to the field. Think about Vladdy, Acuña Jr., Tatís Jr., Wander Franco – all teenagers when Bautista flipped his bat, today, some of the most popular and, not coincidentally, most exuberant players in the game. At the same time, stars like Trout, Ohtani, and Judge have reached mythical status behind a sort of stoic greatness. It’s not about one way being better than the other; it’s about there being room for everyone.
But it’s more than that. While in 2015, MLB’s fan base was aging, today, baseball has exploded in popularity amongst younger audiences. Consider, those who interact with MLB content on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are significantly younger on average than the average user on those platforms. Further, MLB now has more attendees of games in person between 12-17 years old than any other major sports league, and the long decline of youth participation has reversed, with more kids 6-12 now playing baseball and softball in the US than any other sport.
Oh, and by the way, MLB achieved record revenues in 2022. Simply, where baseball was dying, it is now thriving, no longer “doomed to irrelevance,” but in many ways, leading.
A few months from now, a debate is going to start over whether José Bautista should be in the Hall of Fame, as he becomes eligible for induction for the first time. To many, the case may seem open and shut. While his peak was incredible, Bautista’s career numbers – 349 HR, 975 RBI, 1022 runs, 124 OPS+, 35.3 career WAR – don’t exactly scream Hall of Famer.
Yet, perhaps numbers are not the reason Bautista should be in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps he should be headed to Cooperstown for what he did one October night in 2015, when he changed the game forever, and maybe even saved it.
Where were you when Joey Bats went deep? Was it the greatest bat flip in MLB history, and more importantly, was it ‘the right way to play the game?’ Let me know on the platform formerly known as Twitter – @WriteFieldDeep.