For fans, it’s only natural to let our teams have it when they don’t perform up to expectations. Whether it’s shouting a few choice words at Josh Reddick for flailing away at another breaking pitch at the dirt, or berating Ryan Cook for blowing a late inning league, we are not afraid to share our frustrations. Whether at the ballpark, in our living room, or on Twitter. We feel entitled to share our displeasure with the world. We are the audience of the Colosseum, cheering and jeering for our green and gold gladiators as they give their all on the field of the glory. We are nothing, if not entertained.
So when we dismiss Cliff Pennington or Jemile Weeks for their lackluster play with the universal thumbs down, we feel justified. Myself included. I’ve long led a vocal resistance against players who consistently fail to play fundamental baseball at the big league level. Hence, my aversion to Pennington, and my disappointment in Weeks’s transformation into the post-2009 Chone Figgins. What I want to remind myself and others, is that there is a human element to baseball. Professional ballplayers are conditioned not only to fail, but to accept it and grow from it. They are also employees of a business, who are subject to termination, replacement, or demotion if they don’t meet expectations. Clearly, they have a lot to worry about.
With that said, I did my best to sympathize with Pennington, Weeks, and Adam Rosales as the acquisition of Stephen Drew was announced on Diamond Vision during Monday nights game. The reason being, that they stood to be the players most adversely effected by the addition of Drew. While the news was met with an auditory applause from the sparse crowd, each players place on the team was now in a precarious position and it became inevitable that an infielder would be on his was out. For Weeks and Rosales, they had to put their worries and ego aside and finish the game. For Pennington, he was forced to sit awkwardly on the bench for the remainder of the game, knowing full well that he had been usurped as the starting shortstop of the Oakland A’s. For each player, the remaining innings must of felt like an eternity. Once the game was completed, you had to wonder what was going through each players head.
When the dust settled the next day, Weeks was the odd man out. He of the .220/.305./.302 split. He of the endless 4-3 groundouts, pop ups, and strike three swings through chest high fastballs. Enough was enough in the eyes of A’s management, and Weeks packed his bags for Sacramento. Despite his sluggish stats, it’s not everyday that a team in the midst of a pennant race demotes their stating second baseman in late August. For Weeks, it’s a reality check. A wake-up call, that consistency on offense and defense are a must in the majors. To his credit, he checked his ego, displayed confidence in himself to improve and promised to be back soon. For Rosales, he dodged the Sacramento yo-yo and lived to hustle another day in Oakland. While Weeks lost his place on the team, Pennington lost his home at shortstop. Forced into a platoon with Rosales at second base, a position in which he hasn’t played since 2008. While Rosales may have drawn the large straw, his place on the team is tentative at best. Did I mention, the A’s are in a pennant race?
The players above have been changed. Their careers altered and futures uncertain. While performance is largely to blame for the results, one can’t help sympathize for each man displaced by position or level. They need our support as fans, not to belittled and personally assaulted on Twitter. It’s the human element of professional baseball. The risks, when you don’t play well are obvious. Eat or be eaten. Speaking of which, does anyone have any feelings about the Bartolo Colon suspension?