Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Boo Birds Bother Ballplayers

Julian Tavarez just completed an interview on the Red Sox pregame show. Tavarez felt hurt by the booing and criticism that he and other Red Sox players received this year. He said that Sox fans boo whether the team was six games ahead or behind. He also noted that players are embarrassed when they play poorly and are doing their best. Tavarez hasn't overachieved this season, a 2-4, with one save, a 4.72 E.R.A. and a WHIP ratio of 1.59.

But all that misses the point. It's always about the Benjamins. Fans who have paid the highest prices in baseball feel entitled to boo regardless of the feelings of ballplayers. Fans demand to be heard, irrespective of the consequences. And obviously, millionaires become easy targets for 'ordinary people'.

Although I don't attend many games anymore, I've never gone to boo, heckle, or jeer professionals. That's not my nature, and while negativity doesn't help, although I'm not sure that cheering helps much either in baseball. Having four-tenths of a second to recognize and hit a spinning horsehide requires enough attention that background noise doesn't affect a player much.

Fans expect certain 'obligations' from players, effort, both physical and mental. We expect professionals to act that way, respecting the fans and their teammates. Yet players do get picked off, make errors, and forget how many outs there are. They have the same weaknesses that we do.

Do players have a reasonable expectation of courtesy or humanity from fans? Do they have the right to any expectations, provided that they do their jobs to the best of their abilities? If Mickey Mantle went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, did that make him a bum?

Some fans probably don't believe that players actually have feelings, or just don't care. Certainly through endowment bias we overrate how good 'our' players are. Should we care about players' feelings or only about our own? If you have too thin a skin, or cannot deal with failure, succeeding in high pressure markets won't happen.

If you were sitting in the boxes and yelled, "you stink" (or something worse) how would you feel if you knew the player's family were sitting next to you? Or maybe that he were injured or his grandmother had died the week before, or his child were ill?

I don't have the answers. We try not to be 'not always right, but never in doubt'. Whether you plunk down your hard-earned dough or simply get comped somehow, how entitled are you? Julian Tavarez hasn't had much of a season, but he raises some outstanding points.

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