CLEVELAND — Major League Baseball has done well with its "Let the Kids Play" campaign for this season, with that phrase being plastered across social media platforms and warranting a good deal of fanfare. But, apparently, not everyone got the memo.

The situation concerning bat flips, emotion and different ideas with how it all should be handled has already reared its controversial head multiple times this season, and we aren't out of April.

The game is caught between two eras, two ways of thinking and a lot more emotion being shown, both by batters in the form of bat flips and by pitchers yelling or smacking their glove. But the younger players for the most part seem to have drawn their line in the sand for what's acceptable.

Emotion? Great. Pumping up your team or celebrating? Great. Just don't make it personal to your opponent, and nobody should have a problem with it.

"You've got a bunch of grown men with a lot of hype, and they're aggressive and they're competitors," Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin said. "But unless you've got a personal conflict with that dude off the field, I don't know. There are big moments and guys want to celebrate them. It's hard not to be excited."

But a larger issue with all of this involves the old-school idea of the game "policing itself" with pitchers drilling hitters with fastballs after a bat flip. That doesn't make the older generations any tougher. In fact, it's the opposite.

Those crimes aren't anywhere near the same level. Bat flipping is more of a misdemeanor, and closer to a small citation today. Hitting someone in the ribs with a 95 mph fastball, and therefore risking his health because you were upset, is baseball's equivalent of a felony. A flipped bat won't hurt you — just some feelings — but a fastball might take out a player for weeks.

What was that about sticks and stones? Does anyone remember the ending to that phrase being to beat the person with said sticks and stones if the words did, in fact, hurt you? Didn't think so.

The Indians' Jake Bauers is "big into" the notion that players should show emotion. He said he's not out there to be a "robot" since, after all, it's an entertainment business.

"I'm not out there to be boring," Bauers said. "I'm out there to entertain the people in the stands and the people watching from home. I think they'd much rather see you hit a big home run and flip your bat 1,000 feet in the air than just put your head down and run."

And the idea that a hitter will get a fastball to the ribs for doing so?

"I think that's bull----," Bauers said. "Me flipping my bat has no effect on your health, your comfort level on the mound, but the second you hit somebody, these guys are throwing 95, and if it hits you the wrong way and breaks a bone and puts you out for a couple months all because you can't handle me beating you, that's bull----."

The alternative to sticking a fastball in his ribs the next time he steps onto the plate would be just to try to strike him out instead of giving the opposing team a free baserunner. Or, as Bauers said, if it really bothers someone that much, knock on the clubhouse door after the game.

"Yeah, and quite frankly, I think it's soft," Bauers said. "You feel like you can't get me out, so the only way you think you can get even with me is hitting me? No. I think there should be something where if you hit someone and it's clearly on purpose, you should have to f------ stand there and let me chuck a ball at you or hit you with a bat or something. You're throwing at someone who can't retaliate without getting a suspension. It's ridiculous."

Bauers' other point: If you're going to show emotion, you'd better be OK with your opponent doing the same. Flip your bat? Don't complain when the pitcher smacks his glove after a strikeout. Backpedal off the mound? Don't be mad when you get bat-flipped on.

Bauers and Naquin both said if a pitcher strikes them out in a big situation and yells to his dugout, they wouldn't think twice about it.

"But you can't have it both ways," Bauers said. "You see guys jumping around on the mound and getting fired up after a strikeout are sometimes the same guys who get pissed off at somebody who flips their bat after a home run."

Pitchers don't necessarily disagree with these sentiments, either. Many know that there is a step too far. As long as it isn't personal and for the team, it's all good.

"There's something different between doing that or just being a douche, screaming at me on the mound because you got me," Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger said. "When it's just him pumping up his dugout, maybe even getting a chuckle, that's all part of the game we play.

"If you're disrespectful to me personally, I'm still going to be a grown man handling my business. But you flip your bat to make your teammates laugh or pump your dugout up, you're supposed to do that."

Recently, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson hit a home run off Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller. He flipped his bat, yelled to his dugout and was later hit with a pitch, which sparked a benches-clearing altercation.

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer told MLB Network Radio that he thought what Anderson did was great since it was for his own dugout, and MLB should do more to mirror some elements of the NFL and NBA. Clevinger agreed, saying he had no problem with Anderson's celebration.

"Like with what he did, threw his bat down, screamed at his dugout? Hell, yeah," Clevinger said. "That's exactly what this game should be. It was pure emotion. It wasn't acted out, it wasn't choreographed. It was for his dugout."

But the idea that Clevinger would ever drill a hitter for a bat flip like that? Please. The new school has overtaken the old school. And the former has it right.

"I'd rather throw hands than balls at people," Clevinger said. "We can throw a few hands and get it broken up and handle it that way. I like that a lot better than throwing a baseball at a defenseless guy. He's defenseless and I have a rock in my hand."

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.