Wednesday, April 05, 2006

When Good Boos Go Bad

Admit's fun to boo.

It's certainly cathartic isn't it? I mean, who has more inner angst to let loose with than New Yorkers. It's a stressful city, and the least its patrons ask for is an honest effort from their sports heroes who they pay good money to watch perform. Especially from their sports heroes who make $12 million dollars a season.

But is it too early in the season to boo Carlos Beltran? Sure Beltran's 2005 season, while not a complete disaster, fell well short of expectations of someone who inked the contract that he inked. And there are many who think that Beltran got himself a free pass last season, from fans and media alike. So, in the true spirit of making up for lost time, Met fans booed Beltran with gusto after his 0 for 3 became 0 for 4. Benefit of the doubt, which served as Carlos Beltran's guardian angel in 2005, has flown away. You're on your own now, Carlos.

But therein lies a bigger question. Would a player who's constantly booed be better served with a little TLC from fans? I guess that it depends on who the player is. Some players love being booed and thrive off of it...Barry Bonds is one who comes to mind. But there are very few who can take boos, especially home boos, and turn it into a positive. Judging on the awful series Beltran had in Houston last season, where boos replaced breathing, I don't think he's that type. Besides, New York fans generally will not choose supportive cheering over booing when their target isn't going well. Cheering regardless of production is something seen 'round these parts as small market with a touch of backwater. Such behavior isn't seen as sophisticated enough for New York fans...and I say that in response to a reader who mentioned that he thought Mets fans were more sophisticated than to boo in response to an 0 for 4 on opening day. My response to that is that I get the feeling that Met fans almost equate booing to sophistication...proof that they're paying attention.

Now I'm not about to blast anyone for booing (considering I once booed my mother for putting too much salt on the meatloaf, that would seem a tad hypocritical for me, and take that from a guy who was once booed at Shea Stadium), but one night after Beltran felt the wrath of New York's craziest came proof that the TLC method can work.

Consider the case of New York Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes. He became a Ranger initially with the role of starting goaltender. But as is often the case, another goalie catches fire, starts a love affair with the fans, and Weekes is not only banished to the background, but somehow held to a higher standard than starter Henrik Lundqvist as Weekes has been the one target of whatever angst Ranger fans have left. When Weekes started a recent home game against Buffalo, his first home game in about six weeks, he was pulled after two periods of not being able to stop a dump truck in favor of Lundqvist who shut the door and saved the game. But tonight against the Flyers, the kind of team Ranger fans think Weekes has been facing too much, there was no safety net as Lundqvist was out with a hip flexor. To the fans' dismay, it was Weekes or nothing.

The recipe for disaster simmered as Weekes gave up two big rebounds leading to Flyer goals to give up the lead. The predictable moaning and groaning (along with the booing) commenced, along with the derisive cheer for each Weekes save, no matter how easy. But then something strange Weekes heated up...a sprawling save against Joni Pitkanen...a breakaway save against Sami Kapanen...he won the fans over. Sure Weekes had to earn his cheers tonight, but to hear not only cheers, but sustained cheers and even a chant of "Weeeeeeeeeeeekes" or two, this was something a bit different. This was the New York fan in a Florence Nightingale moment. This was the New York fan saying "hey, we're going to need you...we're behind you. Let's keep this going." And you could tell that the fans' support buoyed Weekes, who only gave up one inconsequential shootout goal the rest of the way as the Rangers clinched their first playoff berth in eight seasons...who would have thought that a long awaited playoff berth would be clinched on the back of Kevin Weekes. Being at the game tonight, I'm not sure I've been part of a moment quite like that. The fans didn't have to get behind Weekes in quite the manner they did, but Weekes earned it, and the New York fan responded with...gasp...a little TLC.

In terms of Beltran, everybody has to make their own decision on a day to day basis on whether to boo or not. Here's the bottom line to me, and it's something to consider: Just as one can have high standards on certain things, as a Met fan I have some high standards when it comes to booing. The Mets have had so many players come through here that truly deserve boos, that it takes a little more than struggling by itself to get me to boo. I guess that's why I've always (well, mostly) defended Braden Looper. Looper struggled in year two, but I put Armando Benitez in a higher class of boo, for not only blowing saves, but for being a big baby about it. At least Looper was injured last season and tried to keep it to himself...the anti-baby. So I'll boo Benitez, not Looper. I'll boo Kaz Matsui...but really, his only crime is being scouted as more than what he was. Find me those scouts, and I'll boo them louder and longer. Roger Cedeno? Yeah, his second stint with the Mets was garbage, but he had a pretty damn good first stint, which is more than you could say for Bobby Bonilla, who had two stints littered with threats and earplugs and ace high straights. And don't get me started on Robby Alomar.

Beltran? Well as of now, his only crime is making a lot of money. Hey who doesn't make a lot of money in this sport? The expectations are high this season so Beltran should expect to hear it if he doesn't commence pounding the baseball and stealing bases at a Hendersonian rate immediately. And he would deserve to hear it. I just wonder if some April showers of love would bring some May flowers...or perhaps some October roses as well.


Fredstradamus said...

If memory serves, Mets fans booed the living daylights out of Piazza at first.

Anonymous said...

Don't boo Beltran! This is the team that everyone here LIKES...why in the hell would someone boo 'em for (the horror) the $ that an owner gave him. Boo Wilpon, curse him for thinking that Beltran would hit for 162 games like he hit for the playoffs. But, don't boo Beltran! What's more, booing Beltran in Game 1 (ONE!) makes Mets fans look like a bunch of children. Most baseball fans know what they're getting with Beltran (.290/25/103 or so and good defense) and know that the owners pay the players.

Beltran plays his ass off. His leg was hurt last year and he didn't want us to know about it, he didn't want to let us down. Then, he broke his face (!) and came right back to continue to play! He's a good player and he doesn't slack off. He's not deserving of booing.

Like it or not, he's a sensitive guy from a small town in Puerto Rico and booing him isn't funny and may very well affect his performance. So, how stupid would that be? Mets fans intentionally hurting their team because, well, because the expect Beltran to produce like Pujols.

Boo the Braves, boo Anna Benson, boo (curse) the Yankees, but don't boo a player for the Mets because 1) other morons are doing it or 2) you somehow expect Beltran to be a player that he isn't and will never be. Let the man play and back him up! This is absurd.


Tommy_Calzone said...

In my opinion, the sophistication comes in knowing when to boo.

Like you said, Benitez, Bonilla, Matsui, Cedeno Redux, Alomar etc.

It is simple minded to boo for the sake of having someone to boo which is what it felt like on Monday.

If Belt is hittin .240 in May well all bets are off.

Incidentally you are not alone in booing your mother over dinner.

i_hate_jack_black said...

Hey anonymous, beltran will NEVER hit .290 with 25 HR's. He is a career .270 or so hitter who wil MAYBE give you 20 HR's. Face it we overpaid by about 40 million for an AVERAGE CF. He came on board as a guy who can get things done. And all he has done is fail to deliver in the clutch. If Yankees fans can boo Giambi and A-Rod, we can boo Beltran.

Anonymous said...

He hit .307 with 26 HRs in 2003. My "numbers" are examples of what (I believe) fans expect of him...not of his exact numbers.

Yeah, you can boo him all that you'd like. My contention is that this is counterproductive and childish; booing him in the 1st damn game is chickenshit.

Your ire about Beltran being overpaid is misplaced. Wilpon overpaid for him, Beltran didn't overpay for himself. My contention is to not attack Beltran for playing (and playing hurt) because our illustrious owner paid too much for him. Because he doesn't appear to you to be trying hard enough is also silly and childish.

Beyond that, I'd advise Mets fans to be careful about going after a relatively quiet, all-indications-are-a-nice-and-professional player like Beltran. This organization needs players to continue to want to come to NYC and the National League. There's no reason to burn bridges with players (latin or otherwise) by booing someone during their FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON! Floyd's pissed about it and don't think for a second that the locker room doesn't notice it. Why in God's name would Mets fans alienate their starting CF at the beginning of the marathon?


mr. met said...

Grown men shouldn't boo. That is unless it is Roger Cedeno or Armando Benitez. I just cannot help that. It comes out. Other than that, it shouldn't be done.

Mike has spoken.

iamSINATRA said...

I boo Metstradamus for reminding me about a sport called "hockey".

BTW, with the salary that he gets these days....Beltran better be able to handle the boos.

Omar overpaid for him. We all knew this going in. The problem was that Beltran was the BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE AT THAT TIME. The Mets felt forced to get the best that was out there.

Regardless, Beltran needs to step it up.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Beltran totally has a history of not coming through in the clutch to rival A-Rod's doesn't he? That 2004 postseason wasn't clutch at all right? He totally didn't carry the 'Stros on his back for the entirety of those playoffs. Way not to come through in the clutch Carlos. BOOO! BOOO!


George Mitchell said...

Booing is a part of the game and big league players have to deal with that. It comes with the job, the pay, and the recognition. However, Beltran needs some slack in the early part of this season or this can become a real mess. This could go down as one of the Mets' worst (and most expensive)acquisitions should things move down from here. I'm not sure if the 2003/2004 playoff Beltran is real or the Mets 2005/2006 Beltran? The jury is still out and he is still young. Patience is a hard thing to come by with people these days.