Today the topic of booing caught my attention after someone posted a blog referring to Oakland Athletics fans in a group that I run that has over 5,300 members.
It was a given that Baltimore Orioles third basemen Manny Machado was going to get a rude welcome in Oakland. First for his reaction to a tag by Josh Donaldson, which Fernando Abad obliged Machado by brushing him back off the plate, yet it didn’t end there for the Orioles third basemen as he threw his bat towards Alberto Callaspo who was playing third base. The result for throwing the bat a five-game suspension from Major League Baseball.
So, it wasn’t surprising when Machado came to Oakland that he got greeted by boos in each of his at-bats. He seemingly put those boos to rest in game one of the series as he recorded two hits including a go-ahead two-run home run off recently acquired Jeff Samardzija. Instead it was Donaldson who got the last laugh with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning launched a walk-off three-run homer off Zach Britton.
Overall in the series, which the A’s took two of threes, Machado picked up three hits, drove in three runs and walked once while striking out out three times.
Oakland fans have been known to boo their own players and for opposing fans that might not get seen often and it seems counter intuitive. For fans visiting in game two the boos got directed at reliever Jim Johnson who came over from the Orioles and was supposedly going to become the replacement to Grant Balfour as closer and anchor that role as he recorded back-to-back seasons with 50 or more saves. In 37 games this season he hasn’t come close to pitching effective.
Maybe it was a bad omen that in his first game with the franchise and at home he allowed two runs on two hits and on top of that walked one and hit a batter and only recorded one out. What didn’t help is that in his first save opportunity he allowed three runs on three hits in less than inning against the Cleveland Indians. Being on the road didn’t help as against the Minnesota Twins even though he registered a hold, Johnson recorded an out while giving up two hits, two walks and two runs.
In his first 22 games he recorded an era of 6.55 and long after Johnson lost his closer role, he seemed to have found a groove over his next 11 games with hopes that his season would turn around. As in 14 innings of work he recorded an era of 2.57, yet July hasn’t been kind to him as his era sits at 16.56 in four appearances and his era sits at 6.25. For those who have watched Johnson in 2014 his problems are easily seen, he has lost his control has walked 23 in 40.1 innings and since he can’t find the strike zone he’s giving up pitches to hit (56). To put into context in 2013 he walked 18 in 70.1 innings and gave up 72 hits.
As the second highest paid player on the roster behind Yoenis Cespedes and a team known for not giving out big contracts, Johnson has not lived up to expectations and as a result he’s getting booed consistently. I would also note that since he replaced a fan favorite in Balfour, the boos might have come quicker than in other years, say if he was replacing Huston Streetor Andrew Bailey.
What are A’s fans supposed to do? Their biggest off-season acquisition hasn’t done much to get cheered for. Instead of booing should the crowd become silent? At least when booing it’s acknowledging that he’s actually in the game. Booing is part of being a fan, it’s a way to voice displeasure at opponents, umpires and even at times their own player, though for the most part it is rare.
For Johnson it comes to the point where he needs to drown out the boos. It does appear that the A’s are looking to deal him, yet there aren’t any takers. Oakland isn’t likely to eat his contract, so if he truly wants to see what makes A’s fans the best in baseball he needs to start starts pitching like he did in 2013, then those boos will turn to cheers. Oh and one more thing the fans are enjoying their team and showcasing why it’s one of the most passionate fan bases in MLB.