Though strong showings by Mike Pelfrey, David Wright and Jose Reyes left most of Shea Stadium’s paying customers satisfied Tuesday evening, the New York Sun’s Tim Marchman considers the shameful scenes that took place last Saturday, when Johan Santana was abused by Mets fans nearly as badly as he was by the Milwaukee Brewers.
The American public, including that part of it that roots for the Mets, is bound by no reciprocal pledges to any players, and is under no obligation to observe any standard of conduct toward players that can’t be printed on the back of a ticket. But that doesn’t make it any less wrong to boo a player such as Johan Santana, who plays hard and well, keeps himself in shape, and behaves like a decent human being, and so does everything anyone has any right to ask of him.
When Santana was jeered off the field Saturday after giving up three home runs, it wasn’t in itself anything extraordinary; Mets fans have long prided themselves on trying to break the wills of their pricey new stars. Mike Piazza was treated so viciously during his first summer with the Mets that there was serious concern among the faithful that he would refuse to resign with the team after the season. Carlos Beltran has been treated like Gregg Jefferies for such offenses as playing through leg injuries that should have had him on the disabled list, and going 0“7.
It was the very boorishness of the whole spectacle that keeps it relevant four days later, though, and that should genuinely scare Mets fans. The drunkest lout in all of Flushing would doubtless acknowledge that Santana certainly hasn’t done anything to deserve a single catcall, just as what was certainly the drunkest lout on the East Coast a decade ago freely acknowledged to me that he was taunting Piazza essentially to make a man out of him, and not because he was in a batting slump. But an outpouring of even feigned anger toward a pitcher who, his significant talents aside, is basically a living “I’m sorry” present from team management to enraged fans can only be taken as a sign that the mood of the fans is edging near full-fledged disgust. Usually this sort of thing doesn’t matter; the diligence and faith mentioned in baseball contracts extend to an expectation that players will do their best regardless of how fans at the home park behave, and they nearly always do. Members of baseball management, though, have no such clauses in their contracts, and those employed by the Mets in fact have a long history of overreaction to displays of fan apoplexy. (Note which jersey L-Millz is wearing tonight if you don’t believe this is true.)
Marchman’s certainly correct in recalling Metal Mike rough reception during the summer of 1996, much as Carlos Beltran was jeered so rabidly after all but two games of the 2006 season, you would’ve thought the back of his jersey read “ROGERS”. And while I don’t think there’s any point in condoning Ferrallian behavior after all but 10 games, I don’t believe Santana’s vocal detractors are representative of the fanbase any more than the vocal minority that pestered Beltran.
Mets tickets are awfully expensive. The drunken asshole that attends maybe, 1, 2 games a year, is hellbent on having a full Shea Stadium experience. He’ll boo Santana at the earliest available opportunity, because Johan won’t be able to hear insults lobbed at a television screen in July.