The Best Fans In Baseball
Yesterday, I-70 Baseball examined the thought that Ryan Franklin was simply a victim of “bad luck”. The pitcher seems to be finding a way to deflect all the blame from the concept that maybe, just maybe, he does not have what it takes to get big league hitters out consistently any longer.
After a tough outing in game one of a double header, Ryan Franklin was asked about the reaction of the fans as they booed him coming off the field after surrendering a home run and a walk in his second inning of work. Franklin took exception to anyone who would boo a player from the home team. The quote that jumps off the page, however, was “You should go write stories about the fans booing. They’re supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right.”
Later in the evening, Franklin would release a statement explaining the best he could about his frustration that led to the comments and apologizing for saying things out of emotion.
What does that mean? Does that mean that 50,000 people poor into the park every night and refuse to say anything bad about the players that wear the colors of the home team? Does it mean that, no matter what, they will stand behind their own? No, it does not.
When the term was used for the fans in St. Louis, it was used to describe a fan base that was intelligent, understood the game, and expected the best from any player that set foot on the grass of Baseball Heaven. When an outfielder dives and makes a miraculous catch, when an infielder stabs a ball that was a sure double, when a player shows respect to the game, and when a veteran has given his blood, sweat and tears to this game, the crowd acknowledges it. The crowd cheers. When someone speaks out against the team, when someone disrespects the game, when someone under performs and refuses to acknowledge that something may be wrong, they boo. It is not because they dislike or even like the player that gets the cheers or boos, it is based on the knowledge of the game and the desire for the player to act appropriately.
You see, the best fans in baseball will boo. It is their right. When you retire, when you hang ’em up, and when you walk onto that field for the last time, those same fans will give you the ovation you deserve for your entire body of work in St. Louis and in baseball as a whole. The reaction in the middle of a ballgame is not about your career, it is about your current work.
Maybe Ryan Franklin should shag some fly balls with Rick Ankiel this afternoon and talk to him about the fanbase here. Ankiel was not always cheered and adored in St. Louis. A year later, he realizes how supportive these fans were to him and he acknowledges that. The visiting team’s center fielder showed class and received a standing ovation when he approached the plate. The home team’s relief pitcher simply states over and over that it is not his fault and he gets booed.
The fans may boo. They may cheer. They may even be indifferent. But in the end every player to wear the birds on the bat will tell you there is no place quite like St. Louis to play baseball. They may not love their players blindly, but they will reward them accordingly when the time is right.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
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3 thoughts on “The Best Fans In Baseball”
This is a wonderful bookend to my rant on The Redbirds Report. Though I took a far different take on the matter on my blog, I do not disagree with the view put forth here. It is a complex situation on a team decisively coming out of a period of utilizing it’s veteran talents piecemeal to plug gaps, to a cost-contained homegrown roster that allows the franchise to maintain payroll above it’s market slot. There is turmoil in the fanbase on what direction the front office & field manager are taking, and it is formulating in anger at current players and clutching on to memories from a simpler time that isn’t very far removed chronologically from the present. Myself, I will lean to using proven players, but continuously root for any kid to change my way of thinking, though it’s hard to let young talent prove itself on a perennially contending team.
Fans who boo a person…a p-e-r-s-o-n…so clearly hurt by what is going on in his world right now irritate the hell out of me, and I have no patience for them at that moment.
The severe inability to simply realize that the booing of Franklin – and the god awful treatment of Izzy – serves no purpose but to selfishly fulfill the fan’s own need to vent. On the other side, the impact it has on that player (who, you know…should probably just suck it up and take cause he makes so much more than us in his paycheck) is tremendous.
It still amazes me when a fan will say, “I wish he would perform better,” and then publicly eviscerate that player and contribute to the exact opposite.
I still stand in awe at humanity’s inability to show empathy (not compassion…just empathy) and basic humanity when a guy is hurting as much as Franklin (and Izzy before him).
If your feuding neighbor says to you, “Hey! You suck you little (blank)!”…big deal…but if your own family says the same to you…the impact is a bit different.
I laugh at fans who say, “Franklin was wrong to attack us, but I forgive him.”
Really? That fan publicly destroys a guy…and then that guy responds with one statement…and HE’S THE BAD GUY?!
I’ve argued against this practice for years…and it never does any good. Fans who boo guys like Franklin right now just don’t get it because they don’t want to get it. It feels better personally to boo the million dollar man. That’s all that matters to them. And they will justify their actions in any way that makes them feel better and keep doing it.
And the guy they hurt be damned in the process.
At some point, it stops being about money, baseball, etc….and it starts being about human to human interaction…even in sports…even in a crowd.
Even in St. Louis.