Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Great Divide?

Pssst - the Jays are 24-17.

You know, the team predicted by most to finish in the basement of the AL East? Behind the Orioles? The Baltimore Orioles? It's still early to predict - yet having passed the quarter-pole, not unreasonably early - but I think it's safe to say this team will exceed expectations. Let's face it - it's a fun team to watch. Exciting young arms. An offense that relies on the long ball. A manager we all love to hate (OK....not as much fun). It seems to be a good group, and you can sense a camaraderie within the dugout.

And yet, an all too familiar phenomenon is occurring once again down at the 'dome. The fans have turned on one of their own, and it's not sitting well with The Player (h/t Ricciardi) or his teammates.

And why should it? Lyle Overbay has been on the receiving end of vitriol not seen since the '09 version of Vernon Wells. You all remember '09 Wells, don't you? The cat on the $20M contract (the nerve!)? The dude who fished for sliders down and away and seemingly enjoyed popping up a good fastball? "GODDAMNIT!" That Vernon Wells? Remember him?

If you're confused, it 's the same Vernon Wells who was among the team leaders in most offensive categories for the better part of a decade before '09, and has re-emerged as such this season. The same Vernon Wells who will hold most of the Jays major all-time offensive records given another season or two in uniform. And yet, the combination of awful season and untradeable contract left the fans calling for blood. It was hard to watch, man. And while I understood the sentiment - I did watch about 150 games last season, y'know - I could never understand the hostility. While I can't track down the exact quote (but I swear I'm not making this up), I recall a line from Wells that left me uneasy: "I can forgive, but I won't forget". Or something along those lines. Stone cold.

And here we are again. This time, Lyle Overbay feels the wrath. Perhaps on a smaller scale (have you seen the crowds? Heyo!), but on the receiving end nonetheless. And Lyle is none too happy about it:

Overbay, jeered after making two errors on the same play in Monday's 8-3 loss, silenced his critics by driving in three runs, including an RBI double in the first. The game drew 27,981, Toronto's biggest crowd since opening day.

Overbay refused to answer questions when approached after the game.

"I'll make it easy on you guys," he told a media crowd waiting at his locker. "No comment."

Evidently, neither are his teammates:

"I've been there and done that," Well said of being booed. "For me to go through it is completely different than watching someone else go through it. I can deal with it. It's tough for me to watch someone else go through it, but he's handled it well and he's going to come out of it a better person. I know I did. You learn a lot from your struggles. But like I said, it would be nice to come in here and have it feel like a home park and be supportive, no matter what," Wells said.

Lest you think I'm just a total shill for the players - I'll repeat: I understand the sentiment. I really do. Overbay has had an awful 2 months to start the season, just as Wells was awful for most of 2009. Fans are clamoring for change, and they see Brett Wallace slugging in Vegas. Buying a ticket to the game gives you the right to express your feelings however you see fit.

But that doesn't necessarily make it right.

Likewise, Overbay could probably have handled today's post-game better. It can't be an easy thing to throw your hands in the air and say "you know what? I've been lousy. The fans want more. I get it. All I can say is that I'm trying." Instead, Overbay's comments only serve to create an even bigger "story", and perhaps drive a deeper wedge between the fans and the players - because you know that lockerroom is tight.

It shouldn't be this complicated. The Jays are playing good baseball. They're exceeding expectations. They're fun to watch. Alex Anthopoulos has the club headed in the right direction. Wallace will be here soon enough, and in no more than 120 or so games, Lyle Overbay will be on his merry way.

In the meantime, can't we just get behind them?


bkblades said...

Agreed on Lyle's handling of the situation is just going to elicit more jeers and vitriol. I don't necessarily blame Overbay for feeling betrayed, especially since he was inexplicably platooned for Kevin Millar. However, in such a fickle city like Toronto, Overbay's non-response is probably the worst way to garner favour. Maybe he truly doesn't care, but somehow, I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Fans need to get behind the whole team!!

Tony said...

I agree with the majority of the sentiment here, but I can't recall seeing Jordan Bastian as out of joint from a player brush-off before. That says something to me. I just don't know what.

dlbrows said...

Bastian is king, he puts out solid stories and seemingly writes non-stop. Buuuuuuuuuuut kind of baby when it comes to this stuff. You don't need Overbay to say shit to write the story he already has written.

Anyway, the sad part of all this is for a player to come through it a "better person" I'm guessing you have to take on an attitude of home fans = away fans. Just don't care what they say. Which sucks.

Maybe I'm a little bit of a wiener but I still like to think players see their fans as apart of the team is some far-stretched way. But teammates don't boo each other and in Toronto only a select few get that unconditional support; Halladay, Gilmore, Pinball Clemons. All others get thrown under the bus.

And Vancouver is just as bad, so don't think I'm getting my TO-hate on. But I guess most cities are like that, save Winnipeg. Winnipeg is just grateful.

Winnipeg Blue Jays. Doesn't sound bad to me. Canwest Park is small but it's a great place to watch a game. :)

Dark was the night... said...

That's quite a different article from yesterday re - Overbay. It isn't Overbay's fault he hasn't been benched or at least given some time off throughout this.

But he has stunk. Nothing that happened today changes that. So no comment was the right answer. Tell me you told me so Overbay when you have 10 games like this.

Andrew Forsyth said...

Sure fans are entitled to their opinions and their owning a seat for a game means they can vocalize them. However, there is never an excuse for booing one of your own players at home. They may have bad games, they may have bad seasons, but few of them ever truly give up- the majority of them love playing too much. Leave the fans in Montreal to be the ones that boo their goalies after a shitty game. It's time for Toronto to wake up and start supporting a team. For god's sake, be happy that you have a team to watch while the rest of the country tunes into Sportsnet.

William said...

I can understand the fans' reaction. Overbay has been awful. Can also understand Overbay's reaction. He's human. It hurts. Got to understand that. But it's a bad situation on what has become a fun season for the Blue Jays and their fans.

The Blue Jays need to do better in PR and in getting people to come out and watch this team.

Holden Ballfield said...

You make a lot of good points, Ack, but people can't be expected to be emotionally and financially invested in something as pointless as the outcome of a professional sporting event (assuming you're not also betting on it) without also expecting all ranges of emotional response.

Jays bloggers who want it their way (no doing the wave, no booing, no fighting, no cheering, no drinking and then acting drunk, no free stuff, no tickle fighting, no gum chewing, no pomade in your hair, no signs, no ordering food that must be passed over them, no Nickelback, no Fred Durst, no lame-o fans from other provinces who are so uncool...) should really do the public a kindness and sit in the same section, so we can sit as far away as possible.

I follow this team and I do the wave. I also want the Jays to load up this season (without trading prospects, just taking on salary). I want all the things that fun-suckers like Wilner loathes. I'm not running the team and I have to be rational in all areas of my life except the Jays, so I won't be. The last few days have me convinced there might not be anyone less fun to see a ballgame with than a Jays blogger.

Ted Rigby said...

I'm a big Overbay detractor, he's underwhelmed not just this season but really ever since 2007. My hate isn't due just to the fact that he's bad, but now he's got a history of mediocrity, so playing even worse this season, makes him the easy target to lash out at.

If Jays fans were wanting to just rip on the players doing the worst, Aaron Hill has very similar numbers to Overbay thus far (even considering his games missed) but his reputation from last year will keep him out of the doghouse... as long as Lyle's around at least.

MC1 said...

Shouldn't you jeer/boo a guy who makes 2 errors in an inning?

The Ack said...

@ HBallfield (and in general)....I get what your saying, but I think you're confusing the (my) issue a little. Do all the things you want to do at a game to max your enjoyment. I just happen to think it's in poor taste to scream at a guy that you think he's a sack of shit. The rest, I don't care about. But that's just me.

And hey, feel free to shoot me an email address and I can let you know where not to sit when I get to town...

fangarello said...

Rigby – a few morons DID boo Hill last week. It was sad.
Ballfield – As someone who detests the wave, I will say there is some validity to some of your other points. Doesn’t apply to Ack & Tao, though.

In general – I’ve never been an Overbay fan. I look forward to the days another player mans first base. BUT this booing nonsense so early in the season is retarded. Newsflash: many Toronto sports fans are retarded.

Matt_CC said...

I would like to make a slight tweak to Ack's statement: "it's in poor taste to scream at a guy that you think he's a sack of shit" THAT IS ON YOUR TEAM.

Feel free to heckle Papelfucker all you like.

Darren Priest said...

Most of my vitriol is misplaced posting it here, Ack. My Y-fronts are in a bunch mainly because of DJF, Wilner, and so forth. They just piss me off -- and yet, I read on. I must like being angry.

My summer plans at this time don't include Rogers Centre. I was there last summer and it's a significant jaunt. The plan is to try to see the Jays in Boston if I can swing it.

I didn't boo Wells last summer when I had the chance. A lot of people around me did, but Niemann was out-dueling Doc -- hardly anyone was getting on base that night.

I post as Holden Ballfield sometimes because I think it's such a clever handle or when I want to hide. Can we still be friends?

The Southpaw said...

There's a noteable difference in "not being an Overbay fan" (which I'm not, particularly, by the way) and "let's rip into his ass because he's slumping"

We should all know by now what O'bay's talent level is, and being unhappy he's not producing at that level is justified - but thinking he's an easier target just because he isn't capable of being Delgado is kinda silly.

fangarello said...

Here here Southpaw & Priesty (can I call you Priesty?). I will be your friend as long as you don't boo me for not doing the wave.

Peter D said...

Here's a hypothetical question, which would be better?

1. The Jays current situation with early season success, yet struggles from Lind and Hill.

2. The Jays having a record 17-24 with Lind and Hill knocking the piss out of the ball and no thoughts of the organization straying from the rebuilding course of action.

The Ack said...

@ Holden Priestfield....Revealed! We're cool, Priesty. I don't get worked up about commentary criticisms. With exceptions, of course..

@ Peter D....moot point, I think, because I don't think AA will be swayed from his original vision despite a winning record. Maybe if the Yanks and Rays were struggling along with the Sox, but they aren't.

Darren Priest said...

I'm always geeked by player movement (other than the bowel variety of course) rumours, so I would love to see AA acquire somebody. As I said earlier, though, I wouldn't want to see him move our best prospects, but if someone wanted to dump salary and maybe take Frasor and/or Overbay, I'd be all over a rental. The WS Jays had a few rentals.

Speaking of Rentals, why not make this the next Rock Out?

Leaker19 said...

It's tough to watch the death of a dream. So long, Ruiz. After the end of '09, I was looking forward to seeing what he did 2010. Good luck in Japan.

Contract years are usually good for guys, but it hasn't helped Lyle. Someone said somewhere that Overbay is playing like a guy who thought he was going to be somewhere else. I think that is true, it looks like he is mailing it in. He is the king of the half-hearted swing this year. His bat looks slow. Fouls off pitches 85 and slower to the left side. Geez, Lyle, were you a little late on that 83 MPH slide piece?

I have no problems with booing your own. They're professionals, it's the downside of doing it for money. Lyle has been stealing for the last 3 plus seasons, no matter what his teammates think of him.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing Lyle doesn't play for the Phillies. He would never survive that environment.