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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mulliniks’ Moustache #6 – Rogers Centre Fan “Quirks”

Opening day is just around the corner, so I figured now was the optimal time to touch on a few specific instances in regard to the in-game experience at Rogers Centre.

There are three things above all else – “quirks” if you will – that confuse, confound and annoy me about Blue Jay fans at Rogers Centre. I’ve tried for years to figure these out and frankly, I’m stumped. While I have been to baseball games at a couple of other stadiums, I haven’t been to enough to gauge if this is a Toronto-only phenomenon. However, I don’t recall experiencing these phenomena elsewhere, so I feel pretty safe in assuming these are Toronto-centric issues.

In no particular order, they are:

1) Booing every returning ex-Blue Jay player
I can understand booing, heckling or giving the ol’ raspberry to the occasional returning player if the situation warrants it. For example, if a player has committed any of the following atrocities:

  1. Forced their way off the team publicly and without grace;
  2. Bashed the Blue Jays franchise or the fans on the way out;
  3. Quit on the team and then admitted it;
  4. Yelled at a little kid for asking for an autograph;
  5. Opted out of a 5-year contract and then signed with the frickin’ Yankees;
  6. Was caught using steroids, Human Growth Hormone or any other such PEDs.
That is, or course, only a partial list. My point is simply this: while it’s occasionally warranted, booing every single returning player, regardless of circumstance, is ridiculous. If they simply didn’t live up to expectations and were traded – for instance Eric Hinske or Vernon Wells – so what? Doesn’t that benefit the Blue Jays if they’re no longer on the team? What if the decision to leave wasn’t theirs, like if a player left as a free agent because the Blue Jays weren’t willing to ante up (i.e. Carlos Delgado or Chris Carpenter)? Some people refuse to accept it, but the brutal, honest truth is that baseball is a business, and players have to look out for the best interests of themselves and their family.

My memory isn’t what it used to be, but the only two players I can recall that weren’t met with piss and vinegar and various levels of vitriol upon return were Reed Johnson (Toronto sports fans sure like their scrappy “Rudy-type” athletes, eh?), and Doc himself – Roy Halladay. Sure, there have been part-time or lesser players that casual fans don’t remember and thus were spared the pointless booing, but most players of consequence have surely met the fan’s pointless wrath.

Ruthlessly and blindly booing players strikes me as petty and, for the most part, utterly unfounded. Boo A-Rod or any other juicer. Boo our divisional rivals. Boo Jon Lester for “cheating”. Boo any team that claims there was a “Man in White”. Boo the umpires for every call they make. Boo fans that are cheering for the opponent. Boo someone for dropping a beer. Boo me for starting this blog. There are plenty of worthwhile booing options, so there’s no need to invent contrived ones, the end result of which are boos with no effect. As Darryl Strawberry demonstrated to us, heckling can be powerful, but not when you oversaturate and waste heckles on a large number of undeserving players.

2) Thinking every single ball hit into the air is a homerun
On many, many occasions at Rogers Centre, a player has hit a ball with a vaguely upward trajectory. What is the resulting reaction from a significant percentage of the Rogers Centre attendees? They cheer like it’s the ninth inning, Game Six, ’93 World Series and Joe Carter has just made contact with a hanging MitchWilliams slider. All hyperbole aside: if a ball is hit into the air, Blue Jay fans cheer. Do they feel sheepish if the result of the skyward ball is more akin to this: the catcher calmly stands up, tosses his mask and makes an easy catch behind home plate? God forbid the ball goes FORWARD. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in many different locations in Rogers Centre – from the cheap seats to the pimp seats – and it’s really quite easy to get a fairly-immediate idea how far a ball has been hit. Here’s a hint: watch the players! If an outfielder doesn’t move an inch and simply watches the ball go, they’re either Jose Canseco or you might just have the opportunity to cheer for a homerun.

Here’s a basic rule of thumb to follow: stop screaming like a moron for every single ball hit in the air.

Approximately 36% of outs are flyballs, and the number of homeruns hit off those flyballs hovers at around 10%. That means +/-90% off the time, Blue Jay fans are cheering for home team outs. Brutal. Source: Fangraphs  http://bit.ly/OXgLuM

3) Booing every time an opposing pitcher throws over to first base
Of all the quirks, this one might confuse me the most. Actually no, that’s a lie; they all confuse me the same amount. But, really, what’s wrong with an opposing pitcher throwing the ball to first base if there’s a Blue Jay baserunner there? They have to “keep the runner honest”, and try to shorten the runner’s lead as much as possible. Baseball truly is game of inches, so if that lead can be shortened simply by playing catch with the first baseman, then it should be expected. Heck, once or twice in the history of baseball a player or two has been picked off (it’s helped Mark Buehrle out a wee bit). Ask Kolten Wong what can happen. It’s a free out! Oh, and it’s also an integral, well-established part of the game of baseball. And hey, there’s also the chance that said pitcher throws the ball past the first baseman and whomever is at first base can advance a base or two.

That’s it! I’m open to hearing explanations or rationalizations if anyone has them.

p.s. For no reason at all, here’s a gratuitous picture of Kate Upton!

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