The bat flip tends to get a bad rap. From the standpoint of the media and the fans, it's almost always bad, a sign of disrespect, and reason to throw at the batter's ear flap in his next plate appearance.
The bat flip can be misconstrued, though. The much-discussed David Ortiz bat flip against the Yankees brought out great condemnation from Joe Girardi, the New York tabloids and many fans, but the New York broadcasters were conspicuously non-judgemental of the move when it happened.
Paul O'Neill, providing color for my9 TV's feed, remarked Ortiz's bat flip was a "reaction" to the previous pitch, when Hector Noesi through way inside on the Red Sox designated hitter. Former Mets pitcher Al Leiter, also in the booth for the broadcast, noted the act that preceded the bat flip — a home run to right field — was justifiable punishment for trying to pitch inside, but not far enough inside.
So it was little surprise that after Justin Verlander's two-hit shutout Tuesday, a random bat flip generated its share of conversation.
Former Red Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera, always an energetic player, broke up the Detroit Tigers right-hander's potential no-hitter with a single to center field. The Cleveland Indians second baseman then flipped his bat toward his dugout, somewhat drawing the ire of Verlander.
"If he wants to flick his bat when it's 4-0 and they just got their first hit in the eighth inning, if that's the type of player he is, that's fine," Verlander told The Associated Press.
The thing is, the bat flip didn't look like an attempt to show up one of the best pitchers in the game. If anything, it appeared to be a product of Cabrera's frustration in not being able to touch the fireballer sooner.
That's essentially what Cabrera said after the game.
"With that guy, you feel lucky any time you get a hit," Cabrera told the AP. "You just go up there and keep battling and hope he throws you something you can get your bat on. There's no embarrassment when it is being done by one of the best pitchers in the game."
A bat flip can be a sign of disrespect, celebration or frustration. Sometimes, though, a bat flip is just a bat flip.