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.
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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 [firstname.lastname@example.org] to calmly and respectfully let him know that we didn't appreciate his characterization of Mets fans.