We’re gonna cheer, and boo, and raise a hullabaloo at the ballgame, the wonderful ballgame, today!!! -It’s A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame
Top of the ninth, game tied at 2-2. Pedro Baez takes the mound to hold the score right where it is and give his team a chance to come back and take an early season series from the hapless Miami Marlins. Petey has been here before. He knows he has a reputation for making Dodgers fans uneasy. In fact, he’s become a favorite target of the fan’s ire whenever the team struggles, as if it’s all his fault. Now, here, in this game against a terrible team, he has a chance to prove to both the fans, and his manager, that his upper-90’s heat can get those high leverage outs every team needs if they expect to play into October.
“Trust your stuff,” he tells himself as he delivers a pitch to the inning’s leadoff hitter.
Thwack! Base hit to left.
“OK, OK, runner on first. Get the next guy. Maybe roll two.”
Double to left … runner scores from first. Lead gone. No matter that he retires the next three batters in order, too little, too late. Down 3-2 going into bottom of nine. As he walks toward the sanctuary of the third base dugout the chorus of boos rumbles down from every deck of the stadium. He catches a glimpse of the fans standing behind the dugout with hands cupped around O-shaped mouths, “Boooooooooooooooooo!”
He’s failed. Baseball players fail. It happens to everybody. It just seems like Pedro Baez manages to have his failures in a very noticeable way in front of an audience that doesn’t take well to losing. Although it comes with the territory, the boos will stick with him for awhile. How can they not?
But, as fans, people who root for the players in the home whites to succeed, does piling “boos” onto a guy, who was obviously trying to win, help in any way? I wonder.
Now, I fully understand that when you buy a ticket to a major league baseball game it bestows on the bearer the right to a seat as well as the opportunity to express their joy and/or displeasure. You are allowed to cheer. You are allowed to boo. It’s as much a part of the game as the 7th Inning Stretch, hot dogs and $12 beer. But, is booing a player’s performance helpful to the home team? Isn’t he someone you would prefer to encourage rather than berate? There’s a Gospel song covered by the great Ry Cooder called, “Always Lift Him Up, Never Put Him Down” that extols the virtues of positive reinforcement. Granted, Ry may bust a guitar string watching Petey Baez late in a game, still, I can’t help but think our behavior as fans slinging arrows at a guy who’s already dejected can build a foundation for future success.
Or can it?
Giancarlo Stanton was being booed mercilessly by Yankee fans early this season. All it took for him to quiet the jeers was a couple of 450 foot bombs, or “Stantonian Blasts” as they’re called in the Bronx, and now the boo-birds have turned all lovey-dovey and life is grand. After all, these are professional athletes. In Stanton’s case they’re “professional” to the tune of over a quarter billion dollars, so absorbing a few boos from grumpy New Yorkers should not illicit much sympathy. Did the boos help motivate the Inner Slugger of Stanton? Maybe. Could the boos coming from the Pavilions at Chavez Ravine help goose another mile or two an hour out of Baez’s heaters? I sure hope so Dodgers fans.
So, Dave Roberts may not like it, but Baez is a big boy playing in front of discerning fans. If Doc doesn’t want us to boo his player, maybe he should help him use those boos as fuel and force those fans to turn to cheering. I promise, we would much rather applaud Petey than boo him. I bet he’d prefer it too.
Note: Philip Fountain is the cartoonist responsible for creating the Blue, The Dodger Dog cartoons you’ve seen on social media and on DodgersBluePen.com. He has been a Dodger fan since their move to Los Angeles and saw his first game at the Memorial Coliseum. His prized possession is a bat signed by Wally Moon. He currently lives in Las Vegas but commutes to Dodger Stadium as often as possible. Follow him on Twitter @dodgersbluepen
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