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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

My credentials as a sports dinosaur (Scribbilus Horribilus) were renewed this week when I commented on a Tweet by former St. Louis outfielder Randal Grichuk.

Grichuk suggested that bat flipping is becoming excessive in the major leagues. To paraphrase, he asked big leaguers to carry themselves more professionally, to act as if they’ve been there before.

Me?

I had the temerity to agree.

My objection to bat flipping is partially generational, I get that.

When I was younger, we were taught to respect our opponents. It was drilled into us that baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer et al were team games. It was generally accepted that personal achievement was secondary to team success.

I have yet to be dissuaded to those beliefs. And, apparently, that makes me old-fashioned, old school, and cranky. I won’t apologize for any of those things.

Relax, I’ve been told. Let players have fun, let them express themselves.

Frankly, I really don’t have any issue with players expressing sheer joy on the field. I enjoy players who exhibit some flare – Ozzie Smith, Jim Edmonds, Reggie Jackson and Sammy Sosa come to mind. Hit a big home run – celebrate. Go over the wall to rob someone of a home run – show the ball before you throw it back to the infield.

But, there is a time and a place. Perspective is important.

If you hit a home run in the bottom of the 12th, flip the bat out of the stadium if you like. At that point, I don’t care if you cartwheel around the bases – providing you touch all the bases.

Conversely, if you hit a homer, no matter how far it travels when you’re trailing 8-0 in the third, toss the bat aside softly and trot around the bases without calling attention to your “heroic” achievement. Again, perspective is important.

Dugout celebrations are another matter entirely.

I have no problem with choreographed team celebrations.

Last year the Cardinals did a conga line in the dugout after every home run. After homering, a player would return to the dugout, have his helmet peeled off by a teammate and the home run hitter would lead a conga line to the opposite end of the dugout where his face was splashed with water.

THAT is fun.

The celebration involves the entire team. It’s not done on the field. It doesn’t hold up the rest of the game … an important consideration when games are routinely three hours in length.

Finally, stay grounded in reality.

The best hitters in the game fail more than 65 percent of the time.

Khris Davis hit 48 home runs for Oakland last year – an impressive number. Yet, his one-base percentage was just .328. He failed to reach base nearly 68 percent of his at bats. He struck out 178 times.

Hitting 48 homers, Davis surely deserved a few bat flips. But, what if pitchers had come off the mound 175 times to point their fingers and taunt for every strikeout? I don’t want to watch that either.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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