There has been a shift in baseball fandom as of late that seems to necessitate that a fan must A.) enjoy baseball for no team besides their own, and B.) only care about the winning percentage, regardless of how it affects the clubhouse.
You can’t spend more than 5 minutes in any fan group on social media without the masses crying for a player to be traded or sent to the minors after what statistically amounts to a few bad outings. Fans tend to forget the players and managers are fallible people and like everyone else, prone to making mistakes. Calling for their hopes and dreams to torn away from them because their batting average hasn’t been at league-high levels or because an injury takes them out of the lineup is both ignorant and asinine.
Let’s take Dustin Pedroia, for example. A Boston player through and through, Pedroia has given what basically amounts to his life to the city and the team, but even that won’t catch him a break as injuries cause his eventual spiral towards retirement.
His case is the perfect example of fan fickleness. Pedroia has put his health on the line for his team, he uprooted his family and, as a 4x All-Star and AL MVP, went back to the minors to improve for his team.
And let’s be clear; dealing with an injury to the knee as 34-year-old second baseman is tough enough without being forced to work from dirty, crowded minor league locker rooms while your family sits awake at night wondering if your dream has come to an end.
But it didn’t, and Pedroia managed to grind his way back on the roster at the expense of Hanley Ramirez, who found himself in the spotlight one moment to out of a job the next, waiting patiently for a team to utilize him.
This is the cutthroat business of baseball. One moment you are on top of the world, your dreams a living facet of your imagination, and the next your back at the bottom, a cog in the minor league industry.
Truth be told, no one catches more flack from fans than rookie Red Sox manager Alex Cora, a man applauded by players across the big show for being a man of the people. Cora took a hard stance at the beginning of the season, determined to be a more “modern” manager who put the needs and health of his players before the game. And so far it has worked out splendidly, as Boston sits third in the MLB power rankings behind Houston and New York, and power hitters like J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts have recovered quickly from any injuries that, under the hand of less mindful leadership, could have ended their season if pushed too far.
At the end of the day, even as a seasoned sports journalist and lifetime fan of the game, I realize that these guys are just that, guys with cool jobs. They are susceptible to emotion, loss, anger, and pressure just like we all are. So lets cut them a little slack and enjoy the game.
“Managing games comes second. Managing people comes first.”
― John Feinstein, Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball