Dbacks Fans Show Swagger With Home Run Derby Boos
Can The Long Held Opinion That Valley Fans are Complacent And Apathetic Now Be Put To Rest?
Justin Upton was given mad props by the hometown fans over All-Star weekend.
By Bob Goodwood
Special For Modern Times Magazine
July 13, 2011 — There was a simmering opinion in the Valley of the Sun over the past week and it had little to do with the summer’s baking temperatures or the vicious haboob. It was a simmer that had to do with a Prince from Milwaukee who had snubbed our fair state and the best player on our local “small market” overachieving Arizona Diamondbacks.
By Monday night’s Home Run Derby at Chase Field and in front of a live, nationwide audience, Diamondbacks fans let their simmer evolve into a full fledged boil as Prince Fielder and Ricky Weeks were showered with boos.
The tension was obvious early on. When local television play-by-play man Daron Sutton did his workmanlike performance as in-stadium host, most fans were waiting first for the opportunity to boo Fielder. Even when Paul Konerko was introduced and Sutton called for some cheers, the stadium was filled with silence. Konerko, after all, is considered a Valley favorite because he went to Chaparral High School 20 years ago.
At that moment, everyone had to know what was coming next and it was an up-close-and-personal look at just how passionate the Arizona sports market is becoming. There have been times in the past when Arizona fans have shown they take things seriously but this was different.
When Arizona State basketball fans chanted “PLO” to Steve Kerr in 1984 after that group allegedly killed his father in Beirut, it was an embarrassment, but also a sign that there are fans here that care so much that they are willing to cross certain ethical lines. The treatment of David Stern in Phoenix since the 2007 incident is another great example. But, it is well known that Stern is booed in many cities around the league — especially those that have been around long enough to have been jacked by him once, twice, or thrice.
But this was different. This was crossing a ‘somewhat ethical’ line. As soon as the booing started when Fielder was announced and ran onto the field with his two kids, it was clear that the kids were not happy about it.
The kids knew it was wrong because it was. Kids know immediately about things like that. But what kids don’t know is that sometimes, it is truly the right thing to do. Sometimes a little wrong can get a big message across. What was the message of the mob at Chase Field Monday night? It would probably depend on who you asked, as it is with most mass booers.
Most likely, though, is that most fans would say, if polled, that they were booing Prince Fielder for not picking Justin Upton to the Home Run Derby squad. But if the probe went a little deeper, the blame might solely be placed upon major league baseball.
Sure, Fielder picked a team that was seemingly assembled for one purpose alone: to guarantee he would not have any competition from anyone on the National League squad. The National League squad — Fielder, Weeks, Matt Holiday and Matt Kemp — hit a combined 19 home runs. The American League squad had 76. It was an all American League final.
Fielder’s picks proved to be a disgrace.
He surely made a bad choice for not picking Upton who might have had a better chance of making it to the second round. He is known for his batting practice displays. He has Cano like power in that he might not lead the league in home runs during the regular season, but only because he is not a good enough hitter to master the league’s pitchers enough of the time. But, if the ball is grooved down the middle, Upton and Cano are two guys that can say sayonara to Mr. Spalding (er, Mr. Rawlings).
Dbacks fans are showing a little of the swagger that the boys in uniform have been showing through the first half. Has anyone ever heard of a team rubbing off on its fans before? Likewise, it is clear that although he may be berated by some, Justin Upton is truly reaching for superstar status in the Valley.
Half the stadium booed one of the best home run hitters in the game today because of him. That is a very high level of respect.
Sure, Dbacks fans have proved local and national critics wrong and they sent a message to Fielder that this fan base won’t take such a snubbing.
But again, it is major league baseball that should take heed most of all. They never should have left it up to two captains — who are current players — to make the decision on their own. These are men that have never had to grow up besides in a baseball sense. If it is left up to them, a ‘captain’ will always just pick his buddies.
Ortiz did the same thing, except that his buddies can hit more home runs.
Maybe next year the captains need to be retired players — someone with a little common sense.
But taking back control over who selects the participants in the Home Run Derby isn’t the only change that MLB should be pondering. A couple more events need to take place on the night of the derby so that more teams can be represented. Take a cue from the NBA (there is no lockout, there is no lockout) which has three distinct competitions the night before the All-Star game.
How about a bunting, pepper, throwing, catching or some kind of pitching competition?
That way, even if a local boy gets snubbed, you can get him on the field and fans can get to see a bit more of the skills of these professional athletes.
There is, after all, more to baseball than hitting home runs.
Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.