There's a lot of anger out there when the home team fails. It's not a good thing.
There’s something inside most of us that wants to unleash some rage after the home team loses. There’s something inside of us that wants someone to express our outrage and deliver our wrath. Then again, I look around, and I don’t see any shortage of Pete Franklins out there. I would say in the sports world today, wrath is being delivered.
- Joe Posnanski
I've recently discovered joeposnanski.com , the blog belonging to the celebrated KC sportswriter, and I'm having a blast reading through his archives. But when I came across his essay 'Anger (at) Management' from late November of last year, I started thinking about what I'd seen online of late.
Go read the comments on Joe Christiansen's blog, or on Aaron Gleeman's blog, or really on any blog that gets a sizable amount of traffic from folks who'd be considered 'lunchpail sports fans'. Heck, we even see it here in the longer game threads. There are people out there who really get pissed off when the sports world doesn't match up with the way they think it ought to be.
Here's the kicker: for these people, when these bad things happen, it's not because pro sports are played at a very high level and it's hard to sustain that high level on a consistent basis, or because sometimes balls bounce funny and weird and unpredictable things happen. No, it's much simpler and more accountable than that:
- When Francisco Liriano comes back from an 18-month hiatus and shows that he's still not fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, it's not because it's probably harder to come back from TJ surgery than some folks have speculated (after all, look at Joe Mays), it's because Liriano is 'lazy'.
- When Ron Gardenhire turns to Juan Rincon instead of Joe Nathan in the bottom of the 10th in a tie game, and Rincon gives up the game-winning run, it's not the downside of a calculated risk that would have allowed you to go with your own best reliever in the event that you do manage to get a lead in extra innings but still have to face the opposing lineup one more time. No, it's another brick in the 'Ron Gardenhire is an idiot ' wall.
My favorite in all this has to be the ongoing saga of the Twins Hitting Coach.
In 2005, with a struggling Twins offense being a major factor in the club being unable to win a fourth consecutive AL Central title, then-hitting coach Scott Ullger came under a whole lot of criticism from fans and bloggers alike. Why wasn't Ullger showing Joe Mauer how to hit for power, Justin Morneau how to stay consistent for a full season, and Nick Punto...well, anything? It may have been bowing to fan pressure, or it may have been a front-office realization that it would be a heck of a lot easier and cheaper to replace the hitting coach than to replace four or five guys who weren't hitting with guys who'd likely be better hitters, but before the 2006 season, Ullger was moved to third-base coach and Joe Vavra was promoted from minor league coordinator to hitting coach.
At the time I remember wondering what it was about making sure the batting cages and other equipment in Rochester were put away before gametime that would qualify a guy to be a big-league hitting coach, but the Twins had a magical 2006 season in which most of their offensive regulars had career years and they won the Central again, so obviously something worked, right?
Well, flash-forward to 2008, and once again the Strib's blogs are beginning to fill with mutterings about how Joe Vavra obviously isn't a big-league hitting coach because the Twins offense is back in the toilet. It can't be that the Twins play in a ballpark that's become more and more pitcher-friendly over the years (the Metrodome's multi-year park factor for 2007 was 96 according to baseball-reference.co, with anything below 100 being favorable to pitchers). No, when bad things happen, there has to be someone who can be blamed, so dammit, we're going to dig until we find someone to blame!
Now I'll admit that I occasionally throw a few bombs out there just to see who's paying attention and how they'll react, and I have to say that for the most part this community is pretty solid at looking at facts and solid speculation rather than just hopping on the emotional rollercoaster. (Actually, BD57's post on Liriano and the response to that is probably an even better indicator of the degree to which the folks who cruise around here aren't your typical Joe Sixpack sports fans.) It just astonishes me that so many 'fans' seem to be using their fandom as an excuse to be vindictive, bitter bullies against anything that doesn't go the way they think it should go. In that sense, it seems almost eerie that 1500 KSTP radio would feature at least one plug every half-inning for former Strib sportswriter-turned-radio-blowhard Joe Soucheray.
Or am I in the minority on that, too?