Booing David Wright, pt. 2

Everyone’s bitter and anxious about the economy and the government and all sorts of awful things, and now baseball — a pastime that’s always provided an escape from all those realities — is inextricably linked to them. The Mets have a brand new home, this throwback ballpark that’s become a throw-back-the-ball park, and it has a bank’s name attached to it, and all those open concourses and fine-dining options and massive team shops make the temptation to spend money even greater. And there’s just not a whole lot of cash to throw around. Plus the team’s off to a slow start after three straight disappointing finishes, and it was 90 degrees on a late April afternoon on Sunday, so maybe the specter of global warming had people hot and bothered, too.

Just so many people and concepts and environmental phenomena to jeer. What a moment for emotivism. What a time to breathe deep, rear back and boo heartily.

But David Wright? Really?

Listen: I will go to my grave defending fans’ right to boo. In the right situation, it’s one of my favorite activities. At the Citi Field opener, when I was roaming the press area of the field and the ESPN folks were setting up their broadcast, I noticed Steve Phillips chatting with Jim Duquette. It took every inkling of my professionalism (of which there is not much) to refrain from booing the pair point-blank, and it was pretty much only the knowledge that doing so would cost me my press credential — my ticket to Mets games — that stopped me….

We hear stories of Red Sox fans booing Ted Williams and Phillies fans booing Mike Schmidt and we cringe. But then here we are, booing the guy who could very well become the defining hitter of this franchise like those players were for theirs, and we’re doing it less than three weeks into a six-month season.

Me,, April 27, 2009.

I genuinely liked that column, and I don’t often feel that way about the things I publish. That’s probably why I couldn’t resist excerpting so much of it here.

But I recognize now that it was pointless. Booing, like cheering, is a spontaneous, emotional response, and attempting to employ reason to argue against it is plain silly. Booing is not something you rationalize.

You never think, “Well, even though David Wright is well on his way to being the best position player in Mets history, I am displeased with his recent performance with runners in scoring position. And though I recognize that his enormous walk totals probably mean he’s not seeing a whole lot of good pitches to hit in general, I expected him to find some way to succeed in this situation and so I will jeer him now.”


And that’s your right, I suppose.

I don’t do it, but only because I think the way I watch and appreciate baseball is now deeply woven into my emotional response to the on-field action. Certainly I get upset when Wright fails in a big spot, but my appreciation for Wright as a hitter, and my knowledge that great hitters will do plenty of great things with enough opportunities, overwhelm the momentary dissatisfaction. I feel lousy, sure, but not angry.

When I’m not in the press box — where booing is tempting, but a strict no-no — I boo when I feel the situation calls for it, even though I realize it’s not, you know, a nice thing to do. (As I’ve said before, if people paid as much attention to my day-to-day decisions, behavior and performance as we do the Mets, I’d get booed on the streets of Manhattan.)

Baseball is entertainment, and the most compelling forms of entertainment provide us some canvas upon which to project, contemplate and untangle our emotions. Booing is a visceral, almost primal response to frustration and anger, but it is inappropriate to boo our bosses if we disagree with their decisions or boo our friends if they fail to come through when we’re relying on them.

So, you know, f@#! David Wright.

It’s not wrong or right, I think, it just is. Mets fans have a lot of pent-up vitriol they’re eager to release, and the well-paid, handsome face-of-the-franchise makes for an easy target when he lets them down.

And I could point out that he’s got a .467 on-base percentage in 15 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, meaning he has not only succeeded in the spot this year but also that he’s probably not seeing a whole lot to hit when he can do real damage. But again, no fans factor that into their decision to boo.

I’m more likely to boo the guys that more accurately embody the things about the franchise that frustrate me, but plenty of Mets fans view Wright that way. And until he gets some big hits, and until the team starts winning, and until those fans feel better about just about everything, they’re going to boo him.

Whatever. Dude can handle it.

25 thoughts on “Booing David Wright, pt. 2

  1. He does have high walk totals, for sure. However, how do you explain his high strikeouts as well? Is it that he’s pressing and swinging at pitches he has no business swinging at? Isn’t that still cause for concern?

    • I don’t know, but I’d guess it’s also a function of not seeing pitches over the plate. Even with as good an eye as his, he’s still bound to swing sometimes, and probably as long as Bay’s not hitting behind him pitchers won’t have much impetus to throw him hittable strikes. He’s certainly missed a few, granted, but that, too, could be a function of not seeing many. Of course it could be mechanical, or even psychological, but I’m guessing the first is most likely. And of course, this is all in an extremely small sample.

  2. Ted, how can you be so sure that the dude can handle it? Maybe he’s failing on account of the pressure he feels in trying to carry this team over the past season. Will booing help him succeed or overcome failure? Or will it put even greater pressure on him to satisfy fan expectations? The dude abides, but he’s not hitting.

    And when DW tests the free agent market because he’s sick of dealing with this nonsense and when other players don’t want to come here after seeing a guy like DW getting booed, these “fans” will have only themselves to blame. Any fan who boos a player like DW who plays hard every night and cares as much about about winning than any fan, can get in their car and drive across the Triborough and join the rest of the phony baseball fans in this town.

    You should only boo when a player doesn’t hustle. Booing failure despite effort is a pointless and mean-spirited endeavor.

    • That’s a reasonable point: In truth, I’m not sure he can handle it. I’m just assuming he can handle it because he’s a Major Leaguer — an excellent one, no less — and Major Leaguers have to be able to succeed under an enormous amount of pressure to get there.

      But you’re right that Wright has probably never faced so much negativity at any point in his professional or amateur career, and that’s a different animal. I just figure he’ll beat it, because he beats everything. And like Chris said, it’ll come and go with the wins and losses, and I figure Wright knows that, or will figure it out soon enough.

      Will it affect free agency? I doubt it. It certainly won’t help, but booing is not exactly a new trend, and it’s not like it’s ever stopped free agents from coming here before. I imagine in general, if free agents concern themselves with the fans at all, a) it’s secondary to money, plus the organization itself and b) they’d rather play for passionate, occasionally angry fans than ones that don’t show up even when they’re winning.

      And when to boo? I think you have a great point, but what I’m getting at above is that the decision to boo is clearly a personal one. And so you might, reasonably, think it’s only right to boo guys when they’re not trying, but someone else might boo a guy for failing just because he thinks he has seen enough of it. Like I said, I don’t imagine it’s something people often think through; it’s just an emotional response to the things that piss them off in baseball games.

      • In terms of free agency, with regards to David Wright, I’d probably put my money on him never reaching free agency until he’s well on the downside of his career. I dont think the Mets will ever let him hit the open market.

      • Piazza ridiculously got booed during the summer of ’98 when he struggled a bit after the trade. A month later the crowd was singing “Happy Birthday” to him, and then he winds up re-signing for 7 years during the off-season. Wright’s going to turn it around, the fans will stop booing, and hopefully he’ll be with the club for a very long time.

      • And when my two year old drops his ice cream on the street, his temper tantrum is an emotional response. But that emotional response will not put the ice cream back into the cone any more than booing DW will make him hit.

        Fans have the right to do whatever they want to do, but people should understand that emotional responses without forethought are generally counter-productive, and booing DW is no different.

        For the record, the last Met I booed was Robby Alomar, who was a dog with fleas.

  3. Bottom line is that if the Mets were winning, no oen would be booing or even be the slightest bit worried about guys like David Wright or Jason Bay.

    Look at this stats comparison. Mark Teixiera this year is making David Wright and Jason Bay look like hall of famers, yet hes not getting killed day after day, and no Yankees fans are panicing over his performance.

    Thats because for one they are winning and 2 they know a guy like Tex, much like Wright and Bay has too good a track record to keep sucking like that, and that he will come around, just like Wright and Bay will.

    • I hit your link and noted that DW is sporting a .917 OPS, while being booed. That’s pathetic. To put in perspective, Derek Jeter has topped .917 ONCE in his entire career.

      • Sherm,

        I didnt even notice that OPS. I didnt look that closely but your are right. It just furthr drives home Teds point about not seeing pitches, since the OPS is clearly only that high due to the large # of walks hes drawing.

  4. It would take a lot for me to boo a Mets player. Maybe if Brett Myers or some other reprehensible person was a Met I would boo him, but I can’t get on guys for mere poor performance. I may not applaud a David Wright strikeout, but I ain’t gonna boo the guy.

    • Eh, Frenchy’s in a slump but his defense and fear of it now that teams have again are helping this team keep runners from scoring and advancing.

      I’m sure the saber-nerds can figure out how much his D is adding to his value although I don’t think there’s a stat for balls hit to right field with a runner on 1st when the runner doesn’t make it to 3rd because of the fear of Frenchy’s cannon. Is there?

      is there a stat for singles held from being doubles and doubles from triples because of the fear than actual assists?

      Because I’m sure witnessing it and I didn’t last year. He has certainly entrenched himself in the right field of Citi and planted the Frenchy flag daring someone to test his resolve. And that is something this team hasn’t had in a very long time. At least since Mora’s brief stint or Alex Ochoa.

      And certainly Bay is making runners think twice two where they dread into the hype and took doubles for granted on him as well.

      Can you imagine if Beltran were (or coming, I’m losing hope) back? I can’t remember the last time the Mets had a solid outfield defense in all positions.

  5. I think the booing is way out hand. If a guy doesn’t hustle on a shot to the wall and ends up with a double when he should be on third (like Soriano the other night), or if he does not try to beat out a double play that can and should be booed. That’s lack of effort. Striking out isn’t lack of effort. Sometimes the guy on the mound makes his pitch, and you tip your cap, because he’s getting paid, too.

    As Larry David would say, “having said that,” Wright’s K spike is a bit alarming. He has missed some very hittable pitches this year, and last year of course. He’s missing and fouling back 89-90 mph fastballs. I think he’s swinging out his shoes right now. Hernandez made a good point last night, he cannot get the higher pitches, because his swing plain is so looped and he’s dropping the back shoulder. High pitches are the ones that are best suited to hit out. If he’s transforming into a low ball hitter, it makes sense that his power numbers are going to decrease.

  6. I actually would boo the people (coaches) who don’t have the nuts to tell him to adjust his swing. He is being stubborn about the outside pitch and refuses to change his swing to adjust to the constant outside pounding of the strike zone. HoJo’s mantra this season for DW is “Go big or go home” is causing this. DW is swinging out of his shoes on every swing, totally out of control. He is beginning to morph into HoJo himself.

    • I was thinking along these lines on the drive in to work this morning: at what point do people start calling for HoJo’s head?

    • Actually, DW is morphing into the complete opposite of HoJo. He can’t catch up to a good fastball, does his damage on breaking pitches, and has been struggling against righties while mashing against lefties.

      As for calling for HoJo’s head, that’s the problem with putting a fan favorite, ex-player in such an important position. Who wants to fire HoJo?

      • Good point. The team should quietly can HoJo and then bring in Barry Bonds as his replacement. If he does a good job, great. If not, you can publicly fire him because pretty much no one likes Barry Bonds.

      • Exactly. the ex Mets from 86 are really starting to make me gag. How many of these dudes are we going to give jobs to? I’m certainly sick of listening to their commentary all the time with the exception of Darling who to me is a complete baseball fan and doesn’t feel the need to exert his baseball experience at every opportunity.

        That being said I think HoJo is very good at being a hitting coach. it’s one of those jobs like Shines last year that gets blown up when players slump.

        People have called for Warthen’s head and yet now they can’t because the pitching has been good with the guys he’s worked with.

        Maybe they should hire John Olerud or someone like Hernandez (although he has no demeanor for coaching) who has one a batting title to do it? I don’t know but I do like HoJo.

    • I dont agree with anything you said. Everything you said from Wright being stubborn, to how hojo and the other coaches want Wright to hit, is nothing more than nonsense, for which you have zero proof.

  7. If I am not mistaken something happened after DR was hit in the head. His batting average has slumped downwards. Even this season when he worked out to be stronger, and I guess hoping that will help him to get over the fear that he seemed to have. So as he started out hitting OK, then he got a pitch close to his head, and then the slump started all over again.

    It is my point of view that it is the managers fault. Because he should be removed from the 4 spot, and be put into a position that may not be so threatening to the other team until he gets over that fear.

    • He’s been hitting third all season so it will be kind of hard to move him from the clean-up spot.

      Also, this makes no sense. If opposing teams thought he was afraid of up and inside pitches, wouldn’t they still do that no matter where he was in the line-up?

  8. I find it frustrating to watch him swing through pitch after pitch. The majority of the pitches he swings at he either misses completely or fouls back. I want to make one thing clear. When a batter fouls a pitch back he is NOT ‘right on it’ as Keith always says, he is late. The bat makes an upward arc through the hitting zone. If you hit the bottom of the ball with the top of your bat, like when you foul a ball off, it means that the bat was not far enough along in its upward path to make solid contact. It means the batter swung late. Right now David is late on everything and he has been late on everything for awhile. This was the problem that Carlos Delgado had all 2007. In 2008 when he started to mash he was interviewed and he admitted that he had been waiting too long on the ball and that when he started to swing a bit earlier he started to mash. This is what David is going through right now.

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