Do closers (or other high-leverage relievers for that matter) deserve to hear the wrath of the baseball public for those times where they are not successful? Does an abundance of positive results preclude them from harsh statements on social media and booing from the fans at the ballpark?
New York Yankees closer David Robertson came into Tuesday’s game in the top of the ninth inning with the game knotted at four against the Houston Astros. Robertson was faring well in non-save situations this season and had converted 33 of 35 save opportunities.
Robertson has a tendency to make things interesting and Tuesday was no different. While he might have been being pinched by home plate umpire Paul Emmel, he was also pretty far off the mark with some other offerings.
With one out and runners on first and second, both via walks, Chris Carter came to the plate having struck out in each of his four plate appearances on the night. Robertson fell behind 3-0 and then grooved a fastball which Carter launched into orbit having been given the green light by Astros manager Bo Porter.
Robertson could not get the next batter out and was subsequently removed by Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. As Robertson walked off the field he did so to a loud chorus of boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd. Deserved?
Well the YES Network’s Michael Kay suggested on air that while it was the right of fans to boo, he didn’t understand why they would considering Robertson’s entire body of work this season.
Hey everybody, boo to your hearts content. You have the right. My opinion is the guy has been GREAT all year, not good, so I felt it was odd
— Michael Kay (@RealMichaelKay) August 20, 2014
Kay received a slew of replies to his tweet, some bashing him and others agreeing.
Booing a player has always been a bone of contention. When it is appropriate? But should we even be discussing the “appropriateness” of booing?
Fans have few ways of voicing their displeasure with a player or team. Some write blogs, others take to social media or if they are in the stands they can simply boo. It’s not like a fan can call the Yankees clubhouse, ask to speak to Robertson and directly question what his issues were Tuesday.
To other fans, booing is something that is not done to its own players or team. It is reserved for the opposition. Regardless of a player’s or team’s performance there are fans that basically refuse to boo when in their home ballpark and find it repulsing when they hear it from a guy wearing the home team's jersey.
To me, either choice is warranted. While I tend to side with those who do not boo their own players (I use this venue and social media to constructively voice my displeasure), I would not turn the guy sitting next to me and tell him to 'stifle it' if he booed Carlos Beltran after rapping into an inning-ending double play with runners in scoring position.
Getting back to Kay’s remarks, should Robertson get a pass for Tuesday’s performance because of his previous outings this season? I suspect if Robertson was allowing runs regularly and had blown more saves, he might actually have heard more booing than he did. I believe he did receive a pass from some of those in the stands.
Part of the issue and I’d suppose some of the booing was not necessarily geared directly at Robertson but at the general perception among many Yankees’ fans that this team is underperforming across the board. Robertson just happened to be the player who let the game get out of control Tuesday.
Yes, Robertson has been clearly one of the better players on the team throughout the course of the season, but fans are fickle and remain in the present. The Yankees seem to be going nowhere for the second straight season and a fanbase with a short fuse is grumbling. It just so happened that Tuesday night saw Robertson’s performance directly lead to a loss so he (and the Yankees) heard the fans loud and clear.
Booing is a right of the paying fan as Kay suggested. Like it or not, we should respect the viewpoint of the guy sitting next to us whether he's a cheerleader or a boo bird.
Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.