When is it o.k. to boo the home team?

Recently Nick Castellanos said that some players were upset that the fans booed the Tigers after they were swept in last year’s ALDS. He basically said that some players have not gotten over being booed last year on Detroit Sports 105.1. I’m here to clear up my take on this.

Booing is bad. I always see this argument come up and have to shake my head at baseball games when players get booed. The practice doesn’t make sense to me. The argument I always hear is that people spend their hard earned money on the games, so they’re allowed to do this. As a person who has been to hundreds of games, and spent money on all of them, I can say that I’ve never booed my home players. I don’t get that argument because if you’re spending your money on baseball games, you should realize how sports work.

There’s one team that’s going to win, and one will lose. Each game is independent which means you can go to a game where Buster Posey goes 0-4 despite being a career .300 hitter and in that same game, the career .110 hitting pitcher pops off two hits. This is true especially in baseball because of the variability in the numbers. So if you’re going to spend money on any baseball game, it’s really your fault if you don’t realize the risk you take. Just like if you bet on the game, it’s not the players’ fault that you lost the money. They aren’t the ones that made you put money down on them, you decided that.

The same is true for attending a game. You assume the risk that you’ll see your favorite team lose and your favorite players have a really bad game. Miguel Cabrera can’t go 3-4 every game, he’d be a .750 hitter if he could. There’s going to be a few 0-fers and one-fers in there, even though he’s about to win his fourth batting title in five years. If a player is struggling over a string of games, that also happens too. Over the course of the season even the best players like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera have slumps and work out of them, if you don’t believe me look at Trout’s August numbers, and realize that he may still win MVP.

Once you’ve accepted this risk you need to realize that if you boo your home players, you aren’t helping them at all. These guys aren’t going out and trying to get out, or give up runs. They’re giving their best efforts. Nobody boos you at your job or when you make a mistake in life, and if they did can you imagine how much more stressful your life would be. The fact that these guys are professional players and make a ton of money doesn’t really correlate with how they handle criticism. Sure there’s the guys who can ignore the booing, but most players, like most people, see booing as more of a putdown. So you aren’t really helping a guy by booing him, you’re making him press more and that increases his chances of playing poorly. Psychology is a powerful thing, and it strikes everyone, even if they have amazing athletic abilities, so you don’t really get anything out of booing players, and I don’t really get how booing can make watching a bad game or stretch of games go away for you.

I think there’s a solution to all this though. If you’re wanting your money to be put into a good time and feel like someone is doing really badly, you could cheer them. Encourage them. Think about this, when you messed up at anything in life, you feel bad.  You want to be corrected so it won’t happen again, because you don’t want to feel a bad feeling again because it’s horrible. You want to make sure it’s fixed. Fixing it is the players and coaches’ jobs. You can help by having their back and cheering them on though. It always is good to know that you aren’t fighting through something in life alone.

When you’re in a slump, that’s no different. It helps to know you still have fans out there that believe in you. I talked to Erie SeaWolves outfielder Wynton Bernard about booing and he said that he doesn’t think fans should boo.

He asked what I thought of this scenario: “How tight would it be if they started chanting your name instead? Just imagine going 0-4 and my fifth at-bat everyone started chanting instead of booing.” This scenario made the most sense to me compared to any other I’ve ever heard about these situations. He also said that it would make him “feel like no one has my back” when he gets booed. Wynton said he just brushes it off, which makes sense because you can’t just hold onto things that are said. This being said it can get to other players I think, and even if it doesn’t make them slump more than they already are, you know they hear and it can affect him, even in small ways.

The same guy you’re booing, may end up fixing his issues and helping your team in the long run. You have to stick with your players through the good and bad and when players face decisions like free agency they remember that. If you don’t think players go somewhere where fans are nice, then why has a player like Carl Crawford been overjoyed to get traded from Boston early, or players refuse to re-sign with teams because they feel uncomfortable? Players don’t want to play in a place that will make troubles worse for them if they go into a slump during their deal.  It’s small things like that, that can sway someone one way or another.

The solution is simple and one that fans can fix. In the end if fans followed my advice, I think everyone would be better off. I know it won’t happen but it’s just food for thought on the whole process of booing players and my reasoning for not doing it even when I’m frustrated at certain things. I don’t because I know the players are giving effort and that it’s a counterproductive practice.

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