I’ve been a Dodgers fan for a very, very long time. Let’s just say that I’ve been a fan long enough to remember the Dodgers winning the World Series. Twice.
I’ve been present at Dodger Stadium for plenty of incidents that made me angry towards individual players, the Dodgers, and of course, at their opponents. I’ve been frustrated with home team pitchers who blew leads and batters who didn’t move runners over, or who threw balls into the stands instead of the base they were aiming at. I was at Dodger Stadium on the night they gave away baseballs and fans threw so many balls on to the field, the umpires stopped the game and declared a forfeit. You best believe I didn’t throw my precious souvenir away.
I’m the type of eternally optimistic Dodger fan who expects my team to win the World Series every year. I stick with the boys in blue through thick and thin. I’ve seen plenty of mediocre players – and some lousy managers – come and go, and my loyalty to the team has never wavered.
I’m that guy who NEVER leaves the game early. I was once at a game when my brother suffered an epileptic seizure. While we were in the stadium’s emergency medical center, I was straining to catch a glimpse of the game through an open space that allowed me to see an overhead view of the action at home plate.
I’ve seen a lot at the stadium over the years, and I’ve seen Dodgers booed before, but this is different. This incident has set off a blue civil war.
Last night Dodgers fans booed Pedro Baez when he was announced as the pitcher coming into the game. They booed even louder when he walked the first batter he faced. Luckily Baez pitched his way out of the mess by striking the side out, and he walked off the mound to a chorus of cheers. It remains unknown how many of those cheering had been among the boo birds just minutes before.
After the game, Dave Roberts let the home fans know he didn’t think booing the home team was a good idea.
“That’s something that really (ticked) me off tonight. Where this guy’s grinding, trying to find his way through things and has done a lot of good things for us. He’s pitched big innings. And these are our fans, who come here and welcome him with boos? That’s ridiculous.” – Dave Roberts
Roberts has a point – up to a point. It’s usually not a good idea to boo your own team. That said, there hasn’t been anything usual about this season in Los Angeles. Dodgers observers, fans, and I suspect the team itself, have all been awed by one incredible event after another all summer.
New stars have appeared, possible Rookie of the Year and NL MVP candidates have emerged, incredible winning streaks have taken place, impossible come from behind victories occurred over and over, and multiple franchise records have been broken. A normal season would have one or possibly two of these things happen – this season has seen all of that, and more.
That “and more” part brings us to the fractures between the manager and the fan base, and between the fans themselves. First off, I’m going to take a stand on the point that fans who paid to watch their team have every right to boo (with a TV blackout, it’s the only way many of them can see the team). Sure, many fans have jumped on the bandwagon because the team has been incredibly successful, but I’m willing to bet there were plenty of others booing who have been fans for years.
We’ve all been on a magical ride this season, and now we’re all experiencing a terrible crash after that high. The Dodgers’ record-breaking winning ways have been replaced by a losing atmosphere that has fans and writers pointing fingers at blue scapegoats, gnashing their teeth, and realistically worried the Dodgers may never recover enough mojo to win what many of us felt in our bones was inevitable. That’s just the fan base. Can you imagine what’s happening inside the team clubhouse?
Everyone is tired and nerves are torn and frayed. Roberts and the team felt the fan’s frustrations when they booed Baez. That ire wasn’t just directed at one pitcher. It was at the agony of collapse, and what fans saw as Roberts repeating steps that got us all to that point, when ultimate victory seemed so certain just days ago. I feel it too.
Dave Roberts has expressed unyielding confidence in his players through all of this, as any good field general should. What he failed to recognize was the angst beneath those boos. It’s been a generation since this town has had a World Series contender, and many are feeling it slip away. The fans in Los Angeles pay for more than entertainment. They want success. They get to boo. Roberts gets paid to keep those boos to a minimum.
He was frustrated and reached some type of breaking point himself last night. The fans were heard, and he let them have a piece of his mind as well. That’s what happens when people are emotionally close. The fan’s hearts are in this together with the team. After a wonderful honeymoon season, adversity came along and everyone reacted a bit angrier than they perhaps should have. These things happen.
The Dodgers will take the field again, and I trust they will all do their best to win. Whether successful or not, they’ll still be my team tomorrow, and no matter how the season – and postseason – plays out, next year I’ll still be betting on them to win it all.