Baseball Fans Getting Nasty
by Glenn Dickey
Aug 02, 2006

CROWD BEHAVIOR seems to be getting worse at baseball games, as Milton Bradley can certainly attest.

Bradley was taunted by fans in Boston and Baltimore during the A’s recent trip through the east. Manager Ken Macha sat him down for the final game of the Red Sox series, concerned there would be another incident.

Bradley is known for his short fuse, and fans were trying to get him to explode. This has long been typical of Red Sox fans, who are at best tied with Philadelphia fans for the most obnoxious in baseball, but Orioles fans have never had that reputation. Maybe they wanted some entertainment, which they weren’t getting from their team’s play.

East coast fans have always had the reputation of being more demanding – a polite way of saying obnoxious – than those on the west coast. Alex Rodriguez has gotten so much jeering from Yankee fans this year that there has been serious talk that he’d be traded, an incredible turn of events for a player who is certain to be in the Hall of Fame, most likely on a first-time vote.

But even on the west coast, fans can get nasty, as the Giants learned on their first trip into San Diego this year when a fan threw a syringe on the field, mocking Barry Bonds. And even in the laidback Bay Area, there have been incidents. An A’s fan sitting behind the bullpen got so abusive toward Francisco Cordero, then a reliever for Texas, that he had to be escorted to a different location in a game a couple of seasons back.

Lately, as it has become obvious to everybody but Giants executives that their team is going nowhere, it’s even gotten contentious at Telephone Company Park. In recent games, I’ve heard starters Jamey Wright and Matt Morris soundly booed, when Wright walked in a run and Morris gave up a couple of booming home runs; the Giants eventually lost both games.

The biggest target by far, though, has been closer Armando Benitez, who followed seven straight saves with three straight blown saves. That can happen to even the best relievers – Trevor Hoffman blew three saves in a week, one of them in the All-Star game – but Giants fans have been leery of Benitez since he arrived, because he’s had the reputation of blowing hot and cold.

He even mocked the booing fans at Tuesday night’s game, when he came in with the Giants already on their way to a ninth straight loss, by cupping his hand behind his ear, as if to say “I can’t hear you.”

But when he was asked if the fans’ treatment in San Francisco was the worst he’d encounter, Benitez was incredulous. “Do you know what they did to me in New York?”

On his KNBR talk show last week, Rick Barry said the fans should support Benitez and cheer him to give him encouragement. Barry still thinks like an athlete, of course. That isn’t going to happen. It will probably be this way until the end of the season. The Giants have no legitimate options because they traded Jeremy Accardo, who was being groomed to be a closer. Brian Wilson has a fast ball which sometimes hits 98 on the gun but he’s far from a polished pitcher.

With occasional exceptions – J. T. Snow was an obvious one with the Giants – fans don’t feel the same attachment to players that they once did. They know that most players are mercdnaries, going for the highest possible contract, without any regard for which uniform they’re wearing. Higher salaries have meant higher ticket prices and higher prices for everything involved in the operation, from parking to garlic fries. So, they demand much more from the players. In a World Series in the ‘50s, when Gil Hodges was locked in an 0-for-21 slump, a Brooklyn priest asked his parishioners to pray for Hodges. Today, fans would be calling talk shows to demand that he be benched.

I can understand the fans’ reaction and I don’t blame them for booing. I would draw the line, though, at the racial taunting that apparently was part of the abuse Bradley took, especially in Boston. That’s never acceptable anywhere at any time.

MORE BRADLEY: After the problems on the A’s road trip, an online column appeared that said Bradley’s time with the A’s was nearing its end. This is the kind of journalism that sickens me. The writer was being used by some A’s players who don’t like Bradley, but the decision on Bradley will not be made by the players but by A’s general manager Billy Beane, with whom the writer didn’t speak. A phrase from the article “tired act” was written on a blackboard in the A’s dressing room Sunday. Wonder how those players felt after Bradley hit a walkoff home run later that day and followed with a home run in the A’s Monday night win over the Anaheim Angels?

WOEFUL NL: The Minnesota Twins must wish they were in the National League. They’re only third in the AL Central but their record would have them in front in two of the NL divisions and just two behind the Mets, who are running away with the NL East.

Only five NL teams were above .500, going into today’s play. No division is. Amazingly, the NL West, at seven games under .500, is tied with the NL East for the best record in the league. There are no standout teams in the NL West, but no truly awful team, either, unless it’s the Giants.

INTER-LEAGUE TRADING: The Detroit Tigers made the move which may win a World Series for them, bringing in first baseman Sean Casey to give them the consistent left-handed hitter they need. Casey’s power numbers are down but he hits line drives which should find the holes in spacious Comerica Park. He also is a great presence in the clubhouse as opposed to, oh, let’s say, Shea Hillenbrand.

The Dodgers got headlines for trading for Greg Maddux, but Maddux has little left but his resume. He’s a 40-year-old pitcher with a 5.46 ERA over his last 11 starts. Yes, Ned Colletti certainly did learn from Brian Sabean.


EXAMINER COLUMN: Yesterday’s Examiner column was posted late in the day. If you missed it, just go to www.examiner.com and type my name in the Search box. You can access columns up to the last 30 days.

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