I guess after a decade-plus of bad baseball in Baltimore, it should be easy to forgive the community at large for not knowing how to actually root for the team anymore.
I’m trying to be patient, I swear, but the reaction from some of you people over the weekend is hard to forgive.
You’re nuts. Well, a lot of you are, that is.
Of course, this is precisely the same behavior exhibited by fans of the football team year-in and year-out, but because the Ravens have been very good for six of the last seven seasons, most of the fan-base-whining goes unnoticed.
Still, this over-reaction to losing and the asinine post-game analysis that follows isn’t isolated to just the baseball team. One football loss and it’s the same deal.
I understand that anytime the Orioles lose to the Yankees, it’s a hot mess. It’s not all that different around here when the Ravens lose to the Steelers, although that doesn’t happen much anymore. Lose a game to the White Sox and it’s sort-of OK. Lose to the Yankees and all hell breaks loose, like it did on Friday night when Jim Johnson came in and played give-away-the-game in the bottom of the 9th inning.
“Trade that guy tonight.” – was one of the Twitter demands I saw.
“Buck needs to go if he’s going to insist on shoving Johnson down our throats.” – tweeted someone else.
A caller to sports talk radio on Saturday offered a real doozy — “This reminds me of the same way Harbaugh screwed up the McKinnie situation last season. Same thing. Didn’t have the guts to do the right thing, just like Buck doesn’t have the guts to bench this Johnson guy and let someone else close the games.”
“Let Kevin Gausman close,” someone else said on the air.
And these are four people in Baltimore who are probably – in their own mind, at least – among the more connected and passionate baseball fans in the city.
Trade your closer in mid-season, fire the manager if he can’t figure it out, and let a kid go into the biggest pressure cooker there is – closing games – even though he has no experience doing it. Oh, and let’s not forget the Harbaugh comparison and the way the coach “screwed up” the McKinnie situation. Boy, if only Harbaugh screws up like that again this year and we win a second straight Super Bowl, huh?
I’m embarrassed reading and listening to some of this craziness, because it just reinforces to me that you’re not really paying attention to the way sports works.
You THINK you know how it works.
Alas, you don’t.
There’s no question that Jim Johnson is a problem on this edition of the Orioles. Based on his offensive numbers and the general lack of success he’s experienced this season, so is Matt Wieters. But, because Johnson is a specialist – a la a football field goal kicker – he’s expected to perform with 100% effectiveness each night he gets the ball. I don’t hear anyone saying “play Taylor Teagarden more” when Wieters goes 0-for-4 with 2 k’s.
I do understand that Johnson’s role is much more definable than anyone else’s on the team. He comes in with the lead and is supposed to still have the lead when the game ends. That’s simple enough to figure out.
It doesn’t work like that all the time, of course, because the other team has players who are also trying.
Remember, I’ve said on numerous occasions that I’m concerned about Johnson. I have been for the better part of six weeks now and you can go back and read any number of blogs I’ve posted where I’ve all but predicted his struggles. That said, there’s no one else on the roster right now capable of closing games as efficiently has Johnson has over the last two and a half seasons. If you think Tommy Hunter can be a bonafide major league closer, you’re probably wrong. Darren O’Day? No, he can’t close, either.
Jim Johnson is the team’s closer.
For better or worse.
I have a bad feeling it’s going to be “for worse” unfortunately, but you have to play the cards you were dealt and JJ was what they were handed in March.
That doesn’t mean, though, you should fly off the handle after every loss, the way a lot of you seem to do, particularly when there’s no real solution. And no, you just saying, “I don’t give a flying eff…anyone’s better than that guy. Just put anyone else in there to close”, doesn’t constitute a “real solution”.
Here’s a fact about baseball: If you go 3-2 every five games, you’re making the playoffs. You just have to win three times out of five games and you’re a great team.
Hell, if you get three hits every ten times you get to the plate, you’re a Hall of Famer, as long as you didn’t use steroids along the way.
You can fail seven times in baseball and be an elite player.
But, you obviously can’t do that as a closer.
Seven failures out of ten attempts will get you in the unemployment line.
And while I understand the temptation to go nuts and want to fire the manager, the closer and the bat boy when the team blows a game in New York, I’d ask that you be a little smarter about your post-game rants between now and October.
You’re only embarrassing yourself…no one else.