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Booing John Axford Isn’t Really Wrong (But It Is Pathetic)

(Photo: Mike McGinnis)

Listening to yesterday’s Brewers/Pirates game on the radio, it was pretty hard to ignore fans turning on John Axford, who took the loss after giving up four runs in the eighth inning.  Given the circumstances, reports like this one by Adam McCalvy indicate Axford was pretty magnanimous about the whole thing:

“Fans are fans,” Axford said. “I know what I can do, I know what I’ve accomplished here, even if they forget about it. I’ve thrown well recently, and put together with the last few years I’ve been here — I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but it’s better than a lot of other relievers around in the league.

“It’s a short-term memory for a lot of fans. Obviously, they forget what I’ve done in the past, and it’s easy for them to do. Right now, I’m just going to keep trying to get the job done.”

Axford was in an unenviable position.  If he had lost his cool and said something along the lines of, “These clowns have never pitched in the major leagues, so it’s pretty rich for them to think they have any business booing me,” it would be hard to disagree.

But if Axford had said that, it would not have reflected well on him.  Although fans booing professional athletes is (shall we say) gauche, it’s not exactly beyond the pale, and players shouldn’t criticize them for it.  The rest of us, however, can criticize them all we want.

A Partial Defense of Booing Axford…

By purchasing a ticket, you are paying for the ballpark experience – and while that doesn’t entitle you to a certain outcome (or even an exciting game), it’s understandable that you might want to express displeasure in a poor performance.  Adding in other expenses associated with live attendance – parking, $8 beers – there’s something to be said for the “I’m paying to see this team win” argument.

The specifics of Axford’s bad outings are also pretty tough on the live crowd, i.e., the home runs surrendered.  Axford’s role is usually to pitch in late innings with a three-run lead or less, so those homers are especially hard to swallow.  Axford has given up six home runs in 11.1 innings in 2013, after giving up 10 in all of 2012.  At that rate, even Braden Looper would be all like, “Whoa, dude needs to keep it in the park.”

…But Seriously, Booing Axford is Lame

Even if booing Axford is kinda sorta justified, you still shouldn’t do it.  The most obvious reason is that it accomplishes nothing.  Unless you count “announcing to the world that you can’t control your childish emotions” as an accomplishment.  Axford knows he laid an egg out there.  Booing him is the equivalent of being proud of yourself for stating the obvious.  Congratulations, you noticed Axford stunk.  Take a bow.

We’re a long way from the days when fans would attend ballgames in suits and hats, but there is such a thing as decorum.  Part of being an adult is behaving in public and not losing your composure.  For a good example normal grownup behavior, look no further than John Axford.  He always takes questions from the media, and yesterday he addressed the issue of booing fans with poise and dignity.  Given his overall body of work, Axford is right when he says fans have short memories.

Did Axford deserve to get booed for his performance yesterday?  Arguably.  Is he a better man than everyone that heckled him?  Undoubtedly.