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June 14, 2006

To Boo Taboo

A-Rod: To boo or not to boo? That seems to the question in Yankeeland these days. So, I thought it was time to weigh in with an opinion.

First off, I believe there are two camps of A-Rod boo-ers at the moment.

In the first camp are those who were always looking for a reason to boo him all along - and Alex's recent (and terrible) slump is just a great opportunity for them to let loose on him.

Why do they hate him? It could be the insane money he makes? It could be the bad remarks that he made about Derek Jeter (to Esquire Magazine) in 2001? It could be because his middle name is Emmanuel and they once had a bad experience watching one of those "Emanuel" movies?

Are these valid reasons to dislike someone? Nope. But, since when does someone need a valid reason to have disdain for someone else? People have been doing that as long as there have been people.

In the second camp there are those who see something specific to this season. They're most likely to have never booed A-Rod in the past. In fact, they probably championed him during his Yankees MVP season. But, there are things happening this year that they see which are upsetting enough to make them want to boo.

They see the guy who is now bolting from the Yankees Clubhouse as soon as the game is over. They see a guy who used to have red-light fever when the going was good - but who now seems unwilling to answer the nasty questions. They see a player with good overall stats - but with terrible stats under the overall numbers when it comes to hitting in the clutch or delivering in front of the home fans. They see a player who has butchered more plays in the field (this year) in less than three months than he did in entire past seasons.

Basically, they see someone who is under-performing in key moments. And, they want him to know what they feel - that, despite what appears on the surface, all is not right.

Otherwise, in their minds, the player will probably continue to work under the mindset of "As long as my overall numbers are good, that's all that matters."

Yes, in case you haven't caught on, I'm in the second camp.

To be honest, I have yet to physically boo A-Rod. But, I have booed him in my heart (lately).

In my mind, playing well for the New York Yankees is not about your overall stat line. It's about coming through when the fans expect you to come through. Actually, the best way to describe what I mean to convey here goes back to the way that I watched games as a kid.

When I was a youngster, whenever my favorite Yankee could come to the plate in a big spot, my heart would race. There were times where it felt like it (my heart) was about to jump out of my chest (because it was beating so hard and fast). Why? Because I wanted that player to come through. He was my guy. And, when the player would come through in that spot, the discharge of accumulated tension was, well, you probably get the point.

This is what it's all about with A-Rod this season. He needs to start "coming through" in spots where the fans expect him to come through. They want to see him get big hits at home. They want to see him get big hits against tough pitchers. They want to see him get big hits that bring the Yankees back into games where they trail by just a few runs.

They want to release that aforementioned tension. And, if they can't do it in celebration, it's going to come out in the form of a boo.

Now, if someone does boo A-Rod, does that make them not a "true fan" (quotes added for sarcasm) of the Yankees? The answer here is "yes" - if you like to wear Yankees Blinders. However, the answer is no - if you believe that fans of a team have a right to display their feelings (good and bad) regarding their team's results or the performance of a player on that team.

OK, suppose this was not A-Rod in 2006. Let's say it was Kenny Rogers in 1997. If a Yankees fan booed Rogers in 1997, would they not be a true Yankees fan? OK, Rogers did not win an MVP in 1996. So, maybe that's not the same thing.

How about using Danny Tartabull? From 1992 through 1994, he was a very "productive" batter for the Yankees - according to the stats. He had a good on-base average and a fairly high slugging percentage - much like Alex Rodriguez in past seasons. But, in 1995, Tartabull was terrible for the Yankees at the plate. If a Yankees fan, in 1995, booed Tartabull when he was slumping, would they (the fan) not be a "true fan"?

How is the current A-Rod situation any different? You have an All-Star player, who has done well for the Yankees, albeit briefly, in the past who is slumping terribly at the present moment. Is it only OK to boo if his name is Danny Tartabull and not OK to boo if his name is Alex Rodriguez? Is that fair?

Also, Mickey Mantle was booed by Yankees fans - until Roger Maris came along. And, Reggie Jackson was booed by some Yankees fans - until Dave Winfield came along. And, I seem to recall Jason Giambi getting booed - until A-Rod came along. Were those who booed Mantle, Reggie and Giambi not true Yankees fans?

OK, that's everything that I have on this topic at the moment. It is sad that this is the biggest issue in Yankeeland today - when the team is in first place with 100 games to go. But, then again, maybe that's why the fans boo Alex - for bringing cause for this whole debate at what should be a happy time?

That's almost too chicken-and-the-egg, right? They boo because he made some others boo him? Whoa, I'm getting dizzy even thinking about it.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at June 14, 2006 03:57 PM

Comments

Agreed on the "heart-racing" comments. I can see the fans booing A-Rod. The only problem I have with it is that, as a fan of the team, you want everyone to do well. Right now, it seems like the fans are booing him because the team wins despite his lack of production. What if everyone else's production begins to decline? It's impossible to say we don't need A-Rod's bat. His glove is equally important. So fine, boo him, but watch what happens if the team starts to go downhill.

Posted by: Rich [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 14, 2006 07:03 PM

Personally, I couldn't care less if fans want to "boo" ARod. I do find it a bit amusing, given that he's the defending AL MVP. That he came here without making any waves about playing 3B.

I'm not going to get worked up over the "Oh, Man, That's Not Right!" page; it's 81 AB's over a season that even isn't 1/2-way done. It takes a lot of work to whittle the numbers down to get that result. He has 12+ years in the league, I think I can give him the benefit of the doubt.

Like Rogers, ARod has been hammered from day 1 in NY. Then people are suprised (disappointed?) when they put up numbers consistent with their careers. Rogers had a good year in 1996, right in line with his career. He was hurt & recovering from surgery in '97. But for whatever reason, people got in their heads that he couldn't pitch in NY.

We're starting to see the same with ARod. He just can't win... So he should just go out and play his game, because the "what have you done for me lately" fan mentality gets a bit old sometimes.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 14, 2006 11:36 PM