MINNEAPOLIS – Head down, Randal Grichuk returned to the Toronto Blue Jays dugout, shook hands with a few teammates and discarded his helmet. If he felt any emotion after hitting a solo home run against Michael Pineda, it didn’t show.
Most days, a response that muted would barely even register. On Thursday it felt a little like a statement in itself on a day the Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 7-4 for their first series win of the season.
One day earlier, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson reignited the debate on baseball’s unwritten rules with an emphatic home run celebration that aggravated the Kansas City Royals. They plunked Anderson, benches cleared and the discussion about home run celebrations began anew.
In a tweet seemingly directed at Anderson, Grichuk wrote that “guys are getting a little excessive.” A few hours later, Anderson responded by telling Grichuk to “put a name on it,” and that prompted Grichuk to say “it wasn’t intended for anyone specific but clearly you responding shows you’re guilty of something.”
Guy, are you really responding to my tweet… SMH. It wasn’t intended for anyone specific but clearly you responding shows you’re guilty of something
— Randal Grichuk (@RGrich15) April 18, 2019
In that context, Grichuk’s especially quiet home run celebration seemed a little more meaningful than usual. In fact, it had been discussed in advance by members of the Blue Jays ahead of Thursday’s game.
“I’ve never been one to flip a bat or do anything like that,” Grichuk said. “I run out of the box always. I’ve hit some pretty far homers and I’ve sprinted out of the box like it was a wall-scraper. It’s just who I am. Guys are different. I’m only one guy in the league, so I can’t speak for everybody.”
Adding to the intrigue, Grichuk plays for a team that has celebrated its share of home runs in recent years, most notably with Jose Bautista’s iconic bat flip in the 2015 ALDS. When Yankees third baseman Chase Headley called the Blue Jays “the kings of fun” the following year, there was no disputing his claim.
Marcus Stroman is also on record as a supporter of bat flips – just as long as he can shimmy or pump his fist after a big strikeout, too.
“I could care less if someone pimps a home run off of me,” he has said. “I gave it up at the end of the day. Showing emotion and passion is part of the game.”
Stroman also has history of his own with Anderson, who called time mid-delivery on him two summers ago only to strike out on the next pitch. The two exchanged words and benches cleared, but that’s a long time ago now. It’d be a reach to presume any bad blood lingers.
To be fair, context matters when discussing home run celebrations. Grichuk didn’t call Anderson “a f—ing disgrace to the game.” That was Goose Gossage on Jose Bautista. And Grichuk didn’t throw a 92-m.p.h. fastball near Anderson’s head. That was Brad Keller.
Grichuk said guys are getting “a little excessive” and urged them to “act like you have done it before, one time.” Fair enough – that’s how he views the game.
“I was taught from the day I started playing ball to respect your opponent and respect the game,” he said. “Go about it the right way and I feel like I always have. Every guy likes to have a little fun and show some personality and it’s all great, but it’s a fine line and for everybody it’s different.”
At the same time, plenty of reasonable people will disagree with Grichuk. After all, Babe Ruth called his shot. Mickey Mantle flipped bats with the best of them. Why shouldn’t today’s players have some fun, too? And if it happens in a “meaningless” game that people wouldn’t otherwise be watching, that might actually be a good thing.
“I feel like you’re either really, really for the comment that I said or really, really against the comment I said,” Grichuk acknowledged. “A lot of people respect what I said and if you didn’t necessarily agree that’s your opinion but everybody has their own opinion. Go about it the way you want to go about it and I’ll go about it the way I want to go about it.”
Along with Grichuk, Justin Smoak and Teoscar Hernandez had the chance to practice their home run trots Thursday (neither flipped a bat). A bases-clearing double from Eric Sogard helped the Blue Jays match their season high with seven runs scored.
The pitching staff wasn’t quite as sharp, but they finally had some room for error. Making his second start with the Blue Jays, Clay Buchholz limited the Twins to three earned runs over 4.2 innings even though he topped out at 89.1 m.p.h.
“I would have liked to finish that last inning to get a decision,” Buchholz said. “But I’m not one to heckle about getting taken out. That’s why a manager’s the manager. That’s his job.”
“Hopefully next time it’s a better version of me, but any time the team comes up with the win that’s what it’s all about.”
More encouraging was the season debut from Ryan Tepera, who pitched a one-two-three inning that included a strikeout. He averaged 94.2 m.p.h. with his fastball – an encouraging sign for the Blue Jays considering his injury scare last month.
Having banked three wins in Minneapolis, the Blue Jays now head west for a series against the Oakland Athletics. And for anyone inclined to look a little further ahead, that first meeting with Anderson’s White Sox will take place in Toronto on May 10.