Great Moments In Fandom (Part 1, Phillies Fans)

In case you don’t remember: until recently, Werth played for the Phillies.  More precisely, Werth played extremely well for the Phillies.  In 2008, Werth produced a slash line of .273/.363/.498, for an OPS better than all but two full-time Yankees that year (A-Rod and Jason Giambi). In 2009, Werth’s slashline was .268/.373/.506.  In the 2008 and 2009 World Series, Werth put up numbers of .351/.500/.676 – really good numbers (small sample size notwithstanding).  Last year was Werth’s best: he produced a .296/.388/.532 slash line and was 8th in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.

Werth became a free agent after the end of the 2010 season, and this winter he signed a 7 year $126 million contract to play for the Nationals.  Evidently, this decision upset a number of Phillies fans.

So a large group of these fans travelled south yesterday to Washington D.C. to boo Werth.  Many of these fans purchased tickets in right field at Nationals Park, all the better to boo right fielder Werth.  One Philadelphia radio station held a promotion in which it gave away front-row seats in right field for the express purpose of booing Werth.

Why, exactly, are Phillies fans so upset with Werth? The best answer I can come up with is: there is no reason.

Phillies fans cannot legitimately be upset over players moving from team to team in free agency, because you see, Werth joined the Phillies as a free agent. If not for free agency, Werth never would have played for the Phillies.  He’d still be an L.A. Dodger.

Phillies fans cannot be too upset that Werth did not come back to Philadelphia in 2011. It’s not clear that the Phillies wanted him back.  Werth didn’t think the team wanted him to return.  Philly fan sites recommended against resigning Werth.  Last winter the Phillies offered Werth a three year deal worth $45 million – something like 1/3 the money Werth eventually received from the Nationals. Reportedly, no one in the Phillies organization thought that Werth might accept the Phillies’ offer.

So, if no one expected Werth to remain a Philly, few people wanted him to remain a Philly and the team made a half-hearted effort to retain Werth, why should Philly fans be upset that Werth went elsewhere?

It’s not like Werth spurned the Phils to join a division rival (the way that, say, Johnny Damon left the Red Sox to join the Yankees).  The Phils finished 28 games ahead of the Nationals in 2010.  The Phils finished 34 games ahead of the Nationals in 2009. The Phils finished 32.5 games ahead of the Nationals in 2008.

It’s not like the Phillies are poorer than the Nationals.  The Phillies sport the biggest player payroll of any team in the National League.  During the last three years, the Phils signed Roy Halladay to a 3 year $60 million deal, Cliff Lee to a five year $120 million deal (plus options) and Ryan Howard to an eight year $179 million extension. It’s not as if the Phillies lack money, they simply decided to spend it on players other than Werth.

It’s not like the Phillies are hurting without Werth. The Phillies are grooming super-prospect Domonic Brown to replace Werth.  Brown was injured in spring training, but in the meantime substitute Ben Francisco is doing just fine. The Phillies are picked by nearly everyone to make it to the 2011 post-season.

So again, I ask why these Phillies fans travelled the 137 miles from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. to boo Werth. I cannot find a rational reason to explain this behavior. I can only conclude that these particular fans figured it would be fun to come down to D.C., drown out the cheers of the local faithful, create a negative atmosphere, try to ruin the evening for anyone attending the game to root for the home team, and generally do what they could do to reinforce the common stereotype of Philadelphia sports fans.

Don’t get me wrong.  I personally know a number of Philadelphia sports fans who are both passionate and classy.  It was a small minority of Philly fans who attended last night’s game in D.C. I hope that when Werth returns with the Nationals to play in Philadelphia, we’ll see a turnout of true Philly fans, fans who will use the opportunity to express their appreciation for Werth’s contribution to the Phillies during the previous decade.

But since this has yet to happen, I’m pleased to give my first Great Moments In Fandom award to the (hopefully) unrepresentative minority of Philly fans who booed Werth in D.C. last night.

I can think of no better group of fans to inaugurate this award: fans who went out of their way to express their displeasure at the departure of a player they didn’t seem to want and do not appear to need.  These fans combined boorish behavior with a complete lack of understanding of why Werth was playing for D.C. in the first place.  We can also marvel at the hypocrisy of fans who celebrate the big money signings of guys like Lee and Howard, but cry when other teams use the same tactics to lure players away from the Phils.

Oh.  Another reason why I’m so happy to bestow my first fandom award to these Phillies fans.  Last night Werth went two for three, with a double, home run and two runs scored, leading the Nationals to a 7-4 victory over the Phillies.

Isn’t it wonderful when karma is a bitch?

33 thoughts on “Great Moments In Fandom (Part 1, Phillies Fans)

  1. We watched him give us a fist pump with his homers, nod his head when we cheered him on the field, and he made sure the fans knew when something wonderful was happening and made us respect it by motioning us to stand for them. Can't wait to wear my Werth jersey and welcome him back to Philly with full-on appreciation for what he helped the Phillies do these last few seasons.

  2. they probably booed because its an away baseball game. how bout you revisit this when then nationals play on the road in Philadelphia?

  3. You're right. Booing an ex-player is way worse than beating a pregnant woman (Angels Fans).

    • You might want to get over the idea that a post condemning a particular action is a tacit statement that the action is the worst thing in the universe. Otherwise please see my response to spinner below.

  4. I would have cited the Dodger "fans" involved in the savage battery on opening day, for the inaugural award. Perhaps, the response should include stadium public address announcements, early in the game, welcoming out-of-town guests/fans, and late in the game, encouraging everyone to help each other to arrive home safely.

    • spinner, I thought about this. I LIVE in L.A., and for that reason my writing about L.A. fans might have been the more appropriate choice. The actions involved in the incident you cite are criminal actions, and are light years more serious than anything I wrote about here. Of course, there's no way that I'd give a mock award to people who seriously injured others and belong in jail.

      At the same time I cannot examine an incident involving a handful of so-called Dodger fans, or four so-called Angels fans (in the incident cited by Bryan) and think that the right response is to blame the incident on Dodger fans or Angels fans as a group. I might just as well blame Yankee fans if I happen to get mugged on the street by a few guys wearing Yankee caps. A few thugs do not become representative of anyone's fandom simply because they wear gear and attend games.

      I agree with you (and disagree with Anthony) that baseball and its fans are responsible for maintaining a civil tone within the confines of a baseball stadium (and evidently, within a stadium's parking lot). A certain amount of friendly back-and-forth between visiting and home team fans can add to the fun of attending a game, but the back-and-forth has to be kept within limits. I DO think that baseball can do things to promote and encourage these limits, starting with your suggested P.A. announcement and perhaps ending with (perish the thought!) eliminating alcohol sales at games involving highly charged rivalries.

      It's more controversial to link the boorish (but legal) behavior of a minority of fans to criminal acts committed by and against people attending baseball games. Personally, I think there IS a link, just as there's a link between these acts and the quantities of alcohol consumed by the criminals involved. I recall a comment here last year from a Yankee fan (who is probably a terrific human being and MEANT well) to the effect that Yankee Stadium had become too friendly a place for opposing teams, and that fans needed to do more to make opposing teams feel unwelcome. That particular comment made me shiver.

      But at the end of the day, criminal acts are the responsibility of the criminals involved. Our response should be to punish the criminals and take reasonable measures to protect the noncriminals. For means of protection, I'd start with better security. But I also believe that we fans should have zero tolerance for drunken and loutish behavior at baseball stadiums.

      I appreciate your comments. Perhaps this topic deserves a more thoughtful response from me. I saw some fan behavior last night that bothered me, and I commented. Maybe I could have done a better job. I DO think about this, and I've given you a thumbs up in large part because you made me think some more.

      I'll end my thoughts here, though as you might imagine we can and should say a lot more on this subject.

  5. Perfect idea– I plan on getting completely loaded up and bashing some skulls, but a well placed PA announcement will curb my aggression.

    • Wrong interpretation. The announcements would not be aimed at thug-like gentlemen such as yourself, but rather at those would-be good Samaritans that could be inspired to intervene against your plans of world domination.

  6. I always thought White Sox fans were the worst. They had two incidents within one season where fans attacked someone on the filed in Chicago. If I remember correctly one was a first base umpire, the other Kansas City first base coach Tom Gamboa.

  7. Speaking of Phillies, I think Cliff Lee’s wife might have something to say about poor fansmanship.

  8. Seriously spinner? That is going to resolve the issue of violence at baseball games?

    To begin with, this is overly reactionary. It is like putting a moratorium on deep water drilling because one well bursts, or suspending construction of all nuclear plants in the US because of what is happening in Japan.

    Is there REALLY a large problem with violence at baseball games? Do you know who commits felonious acts? Felons… as long as you have these people at games, these events will happen. A point often discussed on this site is sample size– there are 50k people at a game, you are going to get SOME criminal element.

    The only way for this to happen is to charge $150 for upper deck seats……..At least if you change the demographic you will lower the occurrence of these types of actions. Which is impractical of course. You can not allow people into the game with a BAC over x amount, or stop selling beer (with its 99.999999% profit margin), which is even MORE impractical.

    Hate to say it, but it is what it is………

    • Anthony, agreed. Baseball fans are representative of the population, meaning that we're going to get a certain number of rotten people attending every game, some of whom are there for the express purpose of committing criminal acts, and others who will commit the acts if the opportunity arises or the wrong mood strikes.

      But when criminals choose their victims based on the victims rooting for the visiting team, or the victims wearing the caps and jerseys of the visiting team, then we're dealing with something in addition to bad people attending baseball games. If the caps and jerseys belong to a visiting team that is also a rival team, then we're dealing with something else again.

      Does the assault at Dodger Stadium happen if the victims were also Dodger fans? Probably not. Does it happen if the victims were fans of Manchester United? Probably not. Does it happen if the victims were fans of the Baltimore Orioles? Probably not.

      This is, I think, part of what spinner is addressing.

      To you and me, there may be a clear line between some lout screaming obscenities at fans of the visiting team, and some thug directing an act of violence against fans of the visiting team. For others, this line may be blurry to begin with, and may be further blurred by alcohol and the atmosphere created by loutish fans. No question, at the end of the day the primary responsibility for a criminal act lies with the criminal. Also no question, if it's our goal to prevent or at least discourage criminal acts, we have to look at actions that can be taken by non-criminals. The first and most obvious of these actions is improved security.

      I think that we fans need to look at the way people act in sports arenas, and ask whether those actions contribute (even in a small way) to acts of violence. I think this is a question worth asking. I'm not saying I know the answer.

    • Wrong interpretation again! But this is where I jump off. Have fun baiting someone else.

  9. Phillies fans boo Worth because he's not on their team. You have to be pretty dense not to understand that. Whether his leaving is justifiable isn't the point, and, frankly, you know that.

    How did we get to the point where fans expressing their likes and dislikes of baseball teams and players is boorish behavior? People who just like to see a well played game, or who root for the best players no matter the team, are a very tiny minority of baseball fans. If you take away fans' rooting for their favorite teams and players, baseball would wither and die.

    And booing is not boorish behavior. It's a perfectly acceptable, harmless way to express yourself and have fun as a fan. Jason Werth is going to get paid $126 million because there are fans who care enough to boo people running around with sticks trying to hit balls.

    Mocking fans for booing is pure arrogance, and less understandable than booing players. Fans have an emotional investment in their teams. That's human. You having an emotional investment in not allowing fans to have fun rooting against players on other teams is just pathetic.

    You succeed in taking booing away from fans, and there won't be any baseball left.

  10. Well, if you're gonna be all nice about it, then forget the whole thing.

    Actually, I was regretting the tone of the comments I made. And I agree with you that taunting other fans is bad behavior, and really is boorish, as well as foolish and possible dangerous. Probably there's lots of middle ground here that we'd both be happy to share.

    I personally have gone to root for visiting teams, and I don't boo, basically because it's rude, and I'm a wimp.

    But I'm been prickly for the last couple of decades because everything is framed in terms of teams and players, and no one ever sticks up for fans. I resent almost everything that starts with "Fans shouldn't ….". Unless you're talking violence or threatening, I'd like everyone to get off the fans' giant collective generous irrational emotional bad-behavior-tolerating ass.

    Two specific points:

    1) A free agent who comes to my team gets cheers. A free agent who goes elsewhere gets booed. Hypocritical or not, it's understandable, and benefits the sport overall.

    2) If I actually sold tickets on a bus to go to Atlanta to boo Omar Infante, you'd buy one. And don't pretend otherwise.

    • See? See what comes from being nice? Imagine if those Phillies fans had gone to D.C. and given Werth a standing ovation. There wouldn't have been a dry eye in the house. Ten of them would have been invited to appear on "The View".

      I disagree with you only around the margins. But I get being prickly. I've been feeling prickly for the past couple of days. It's probably the rainout. On everything else I mostly agree. At least the Nationals sold a few more tickets, and hopefully they'll use the extra money from these tickets to lure away more Phillies in free agency. I love karma.

      So … the plan is that we're going to get a bunch of Yankee fans together to travel to Atlanta the next time the Marlins play the Braves, so that we can boo visiting Marlin Omar Infante, just to prove once and for all that no matter where we are and who's playing we don't like players who aren't Yankees? It's a genius plan, made no less genius by my having to look up in Baseball Reference who Omar Infante plays for.

      • "Imagine if those Phillies fans had gone to D.C. and given Werth a standing ovation. There wouldn't have been a dry eye in the house. Ten of them would have been invited to appear on "The View". "

        I think it's more likely they would have been invited to appear in straight jackets at the Coatsville Psychiatric Center.

        OK, so I forgot that Infante isn't with the Braves anymore. It's the National League. But no, we don't boo Omar Infante to prove that we don't like players who aren't Yankees. That should go without saying. The point is, if for some reason we particularly don't like Omar Infante, then going to a game and booing him is an excellent way to express that. And driving down to Atlanta or Miami or some other God-forsaken NL baseball town with a bus full of Yankee fans, and booing our lungs out at Omar Whateverteamheplaysfor Infante would be more fun than I've had since I went through a hole in the fence in MacArthur Park in Syracuse and stood on the Syracuse Chiefs mound, pretending I was pitching in a AAA World Series.

        For cryin' out loud, I'm a baseball fan!

        All right, all you fans out there, together on the count of 3:



        • The View, the Psych Center: why not both?

          No offense meant, personally I wasn't sure which league Infante plays for. Since travelling to the other half of the country to boo Omar Infante is pointless, I'm on board your bus only if we agree that there is no point to it. If you don't know what team he plays for and I don't know what league he plays in … oh, never mind. I will now go through life booing Omar Infante in the canyons of my mind.

          You are good at booing. How'd you get that Boo to end on the right margin like that?

          • Deal! Glad to have you on board. If the press asks you questions, remember to stay on script: we have nothing against Omar Infante personally. We boo ALL utility infielders who play in All-Star games.

            And we boo because we love.

  11. P.S. As far as being older goes, I've been around, too. Since I've been rooting for the Yankees, they've made more than 150,000 outs. And I've paid for every one emotionally.

    • mmm. You ARE a Professor! OK, time to hit the ol' calculator. I'm going to guess that the Yanks have won about 60% of their home games (where they would have made 24 outs instead of 27), so if I discount walk-off hits and rainouts that were never made up … and add in a factor for extra inning games and official games called for weather short of nine innings … and if I figure you've been a Yankee fan since the age of 7 … that would make you 42 (150000/27 equals number of games, divided by 162 equals years, plus 7). In which case I think I'm wearing a pair of socks older than you.

      • You forgot the strikes. (And it's probably closer to 160,000 than 150,000 but 150,000 sounds better.) Still, close enough for general purposes.

      • Larry, to continue the conversation from above regarding violence directed based on team apparel:

        I believe it is still the nature of the people, not the institution as a whole. While anecdotal, we have all been witness to the type of event that happened in Dodger stadium (without knowing particulars). We have all seen someone in jersey X, while surrounded by thousands of his brethren, get obnoxious with person in road jersey Y. Again, its a sample size issue, and also mob mentality issue. The hope is person in road jersey Y takes it well.

        There is nothing worse than someone taking a discussion saying 'it is what it is' and ending the dialog, as I am doing right now, I know that. But as long as there are assholes in the world, there is nothing you can do to curb this problem.

  12. Great post, Larry, and an even better job of responding to the comments in an open-minded, respectful and often humorous way. Nice job by Professor Longnose and spinner of adding to the commentary.

  13. By the way: as an L.A. resident, here's what I have to say to Kobe Bryant: