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Booing Fools

Mike SteffanosSunday, April 13, 2008
By Mike Steffanos


Game 10: Brewers 5 - Mets 3

I was at this game yesterday, and then Lisa and I spent some time in New York afterwards. I didn't get home until very late, which is my excuse for not getting this up sooner.

I won't talk much about the game. Of course I was disappointed that Johan Santana didn't pitch better in his Shea Stadium debut. I'm concerned also that the radar gun at Shea was reporting Johan's fastball sitting in the 88-90 mph range. These will be topics for a different time.

What I really found appalling was the booing of Johan Santana as he walked off the field. Here is what Joel Sherman had to say in his Hardball blog for the Post:

OK, I get it. Met fans are angry. You don't like a lot of recent history, notably how last season ended in such historic misery. But come on, booing Johan Santana in the home opener because he gave up a few homers. I mean this was not Tom Glavine lasting one out on the final day of the season and crushing your spirit. It is mid-April. Look, if Santana turns out to be a mistake, it is not like you are going to miss your chance to take out your self-loathing on him. He is signed here for six years, after all.

Once again, a local columnist feels the need to criticize all Mets fans for the actions of a minority. I can assure you that more fans gave Santana polite applause as he walked off the field than booed him, but the boos were, as usual, louder. While Sherman can use this as license to identify all Mets fans as self-loathing sore losers, there is a more important issue here.

I've had debates, both in this space and face to face, with Mets fans who defend to the death their right to boo. I feel a more comprehensive piece on this issue coming at some point this summer, but for now here are a few thoughts:

One, booing a guy like Santana this early in his Mets career is ludicrous. Do you understand how many fans of other clubs would have loved for their team to have gone out and acquired an ace pitcher? Do you realize how many Twins fans would have loved for their team to have been able to keep him?

The minority of fans who chose to boo Johan Santana for having a bad day in his first game ever at Shea made the rest of us also look like the ungrateful, self-indulgent poor sports that they are. I'm tired of media types like Joel Sherman making snarky references about Mets fans because they lack the capacity to differentiate between those that love the game and their team and those who feel that simply coming up short in performance is worthy of scorn.

Two, whatever you feel your booing is accomplishing, after two years of watching the Mets play tight, uninspired ball at home can you even accept the possibility that your ballpark tantrums are having a negative effect upon their performance?

I've been watching this team for a long, long, time, and I've had my share of heartbreak and disappointment. I've seen years of bad baseball and bad management. Until very recently, I have never witnessed such a willingness -- even an eagerness in some cases -- to vilify players who are putting forth effort simply because they come up short in performance.

Teams usually have an advantage at home because they feed off the support of their loyal fans. Shea Stadium used to epitomize that. Whenever the Mets managed to field a contender, the fans always embraced their team. Now it seems that the minority of fans who are unwilling to accept anything except perfection has created an atmosphere where one bad inning will bring out condemnation.

Yes, I know. The players make a lot of money today. Real fans still support their club and its players, both when they are doing well and when they are struggling. Only a lack of hustle and effort should earn a player boos.

View Johan Santana's Full Season Stats

Box Score

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In the blog post quoted above, I really objected to Sherman's comments about Mets fans. We didn't all boo Johan, and we're not all angry and filled with self-loathing. I left a polite comment on his blog calling him on it, and I would ask more Mets fans to add their own comment or email Sherman [joel.sherman@nypost.com] to calmly and respectfully let him know that we didn't appreciate his characterization of Mets fans.

Comments (10)

AS usual Mike you are dead on! I have been a Mets fan since 1967 and can't believe how some of our fans are behaving. I strongly believe, like you, that this behavior is hurting the team. I also believe that we know longer have a home field advantage because of the constant booing. I will also go out on a limb and say that if we would have finished last season away from Shea, we may have won the division. Just my opinion.

Thanks again for your outstanding work.

Ed

You might have a point about last year, Ed. And you're certainly right that this team enjoys no home field advantage.

Yeah, it's a bit much to boo Santana, but c'mon Mike, it's quite obvious what's going on here.

This club spent all of last year looking for all the world like a team that was bored by the regular season. They skated along in first place but anyone who watched them knew that they were underperforming. The "don't worry about us" quotes from both Willie and the players were getting under everyone's skin for most of the season, and then came "The Collapse" during which both Willie's and the players' attitudes came across as more of the same. I'm not saying that they should have been panicking, but show some fire, for chrissakes.

Willie, who should absolutely, positively, without question have been fired, is kept on, even though it's common knowledge that he and Omar don't get along, and, it seems, that many or most of his players don't think much of him.

During the offseason, Omar trades the one young player with some upside and life in his legs (not named Wright or Reyes) for two guys that no one was very excited about - and it seemed to a lot of folks that it was exactly Milledge's fire and passion - his cockyness and the chip on his shoulder - that got him run off this team. Then Willie apparently heads down to the DR to confront Reyes to tell him TO TONE IT DOWN of all things. As if the team's problem was that they were too excitable, having too much fun, playing with too much fire. I mean, please.

Yes, they go out and get Santana. And it's a typical big splash Omar move. And maybe even a brilliant one. But the problem with last year's team wasn't really the lack of one starting pitcher. It was something deeper than that, and the fans knew it.

So they come out of the gate - bench full of senior citizens (Ruben Gotay and his .295 average not good enough to beat out anyone here, apparently) - and spend the entire spring with half the club nursing injuries or out.

And here they are, 5-6, with major pieces injured, and looking like the same club that could barely be bothered to show up at the stadium as last season - oh, except now without Jose's handshakes - cuz, you know, it's bad form to be excited about playing big league ball or something.

Booing Santana might have been wrong as far as Santana goes - he's not at fault here, and we should be thrilled to have him, and I think we are - but it's a way for fans to send a message to Omar, and Willie, and everyone that it's not about spending 400 gazillion dollars on a pitcher, it's about having a team that looks like it cares at least as much as the fans do.

whozgotnext - I don't get the feeling they're playing bored this season, just not very well so far. The negativity at the ballpark was palpable, and I believe it really has cancelled out any sort of a home advantage for the Mets.

The Mets are like the girl that really hurt you. If you decide you want to stay with her, you have to forgive her. If you can't do that, you're both just miserable. Mets fans need to move on from last year and start fresh with this team, for their own sake.

I want to go to the ballpark and cheer my team on. I'm tired of the anger, aren't you? Baseball is supposed to be fun. If it isn't fun, why waste our time on it? Our lives are tough enough.

I hate to say this but you're all over the place with your logic. Number 1, starting pitching was most likely the #1 reason our bullpen fell apart last year. Our starters routinely worked 5-6 innings which taxed the bullpen. Santana has already showed that he can work 6 2/3 innings yesterday and 7 innings in previous outings which although he is not winning games yet he has helped the ballclub by the number of innings he works.

#2 regarding Millege. The last time I looked, Schneider and Church look pretty good and so far I am excited about having them. Both are strong defensively and both look pretty good offensively. The only thing Milledge proved during his time with the Mets was that he had outstanding potential and that he made some waves in the clubhouse, to the opposition and with his musical lyrics.

#3 You say that booing Santana was wrong - then you say that the booing was a message to Omar. First of all give Omar and Willie a chance to win this year. Last year is over and although it was horrible, we as fans have got to show restraint and patience. If management didn't make adjustments in the off season then a message should be given to Omar, but he made changes and in my opinion pretty good changes. Finally, no matter what you say, the booing was directed at Santana, and that is just WRONG !!!

My final point, which to restate Mikes point, The constant booing has had an affect on the ballclub at home. I have no doubt about it. Just look at Beltrans numbers at home compared to away! Booing should be reserved for ballplayers who are not trying and do stupid things. Not for the reasons irrational Mets fans boo. I know that Mets fans are passionate and that they want to win so bad (I am living proof of that) but the only thing the fans are accomplishing when they boo Santana and others is that the next time they come into a game, they may put so much pressure on themselves to succeed that they fail.

I have so much more to say but will end it at that.

Ed

just a couple of points after watching todays 4 hour display..1)i've read that oliver perez does not want to play on the east coast next year and will not resign with mets.if i was omar minaya, i would be very careful giving him a big contract for 4-5 years.he is maddingly inconsistent as he showed today.2)as per mike's post, i agree that anybody that booed santana yesterday is an idiot.he has pitched very well 2 out of three times.i'll take that all year long.3)replays showed church and schneider were safe at first on 2 double plays today..willie?? how about coming out to argue..4) we gave santana 137 MILLION DOLLARS..WHY ARE WE NOT STARTING HIM ON 4 DAYS REST..THIS IS TWICE ALREADY THIS YEAR WE PUSHED HIM BACK..this equates to LESS STARTS for a great pitcher over the course of the season.what is going on here??could this be messing up his effectiveness a little.to me this makes no sense.5)i still sense willie is a lame duck manager and the players know it and are playing accordingly.thsy should have canned him last year.6) in my humble opinion, management pissed off a lot of fans by immediately raising prices after the worst 17 game collapse in the history of mlb..if the mets don't right the ship, the booing at home will get a lot worse..

Mike, I agree with you completely about the booing issue.

Gary, you raise some good points. One thing, however, about starting Santana on 4 days rest. Given Santana's velocity hasn't peaked yet, I think he may not be at 100% and thus the Mets wanted to give him an extra day the first couple of turns through the rotation especially considering they will play 14 straight days after the off day today. The hope being that giving him an extra day will allow him to give us 7-8 innings instead of 6 innings.

In some respects, Willie is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't with respect to his use of Santana. If he doesn't start him on 4 days rest, he gets criticized for not getting the most out of his ace, However, he also got some criticism for leaving Santana in one batter too long on Saturday. If you can't trust your $137 million ace to get Gabe Kapler out in the 7th inning, who can you trust?. Granted the pitch count was high, but Willie was hoping to not have to go to his bullpen for one additional out. Over the course of the year, those additional outs add up and result in a bullpen being fried by late August.

For what it's worth, I think they're giving Santana more rest because they think he could benefit from it, maybe having to do with the decrease in velocity he has experienced.

Mike,

Well said! I could not agree with you more. These are our guys, we should be supporting them. When Heilman has a poor outing, we should stand by him, maybe he will take something from that. He is our guy and we should have his back. This is doubly true for Johan. He did have a poor outing on Saturday, by Johan's standards anyway, yet he still kept his team in the game. What did these booing fans hope to accomplish? Do they really want to put more pressure on Santana than he already has? Pitiful.

Don't these fans remember 1991-1996 or 2002-2004? Management deserved to be booed then. Glavine deserved the boos last year. As for April 2008, these fans need to keep their mouths shut.

Great job with the site Mike.... Thank you.

Thanks for the kind words, Steve.

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