Ryan Franklin has had a rough start to the 2011 season. OK, that is an understatement of gigantic proportion. His early season performance was being compared against the “worst ever”, and it has actually gone downhill since then. And Franklin made matters worse by calling out the St. Louis fans for expressing their displeasure in a recent outing.
Or did he ?
Since Cardinals fans are among the best in baseball, it might be time for us to step back and get a little perspective on this situation.
How many of us have made a mistake at work or at home ? I expect to see every hand raised high on that one. If you are not raising your hand, that is in fact a mistake, and you should raise your hand now.
Unless you happen to take down an email server for 30,000 users (no, I’ve never done that) or are named Adam Osborne, you probably don’t know what it feels like to be Ryan Franklin. Maybe you’ve done something stupid and a spouse or loved one really gave it to you, not letting you forget what you did. Multiply that by Avogadro’s Number (6.023 * 10^23) and then you may begin to appreciate what it’s like for every move, every facial expression and every word to be scrutinized by 40,000 (well, it was more like 2,000 due to a rainout) fans, sportswriters and bloggers. That’s what Ryan Franklin is going through at the moment, and I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
Most of our mistakes are made in private, or at least with some degree of global anonymity. If we are fortunate, our circle of friends and family will rally together and quickly erect a protective shield around us, telling us that the supporters outnumber those who might attack us, and that they will be here for the duration, no matter what. Professional athletes don’t have the same safety net and withdrawal is not an option.
Here’s what Ryan Franklin actually said.
You don't boo your own team. I don't care who you are or what you say or just because you spent your money to come here to watch us play that somebody happens to make one bad pitch and give up a homer and you are going to start booing? They are supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah, right. -- Ryan Franklin, April 20, 2011
If we are going to get upset over his criticism of the fans, then we should also apply some degree of scrutiny over the other parts of his statement. If nothing else, we should be consistent, right ?
“One bad pitch” is where I immediately become defensive of Ryan Franklin. Not because the statement is true – it isn’t. I watched those games and he has served more meatballs this season than Pasta House Company on all-you-can-eat spaghetti night. That statement shows that he has lost perspective on the situation, so whatever follows might have the same flaw. And it does. The only thing that quote tells us is that Ryan Franklin is a human being and is frustrated by what has happened.
In the last few interviews with Fox Sports Midwest, Franklin’s body posture and word choice showed a baseball player that had been defeated. In one interview, all he said was “It’s tough”, over and over. No in-depth discussion about a batter’s tendency to look for a first pitch fastball, or that he might be vulnerable to an inside breaking ball. That’s Tony La Russa’s territory – the attorney who can form a quick analysis and deliver it with skill and precision – like the way Franklin pitched in 2009 and 2010. But that’s how Ryan Franklin talks to the media, and that does have to be factored in to the equation.
Perhaps I’m a bit protective of Franklin in this situation because I have been forced into a role of public speaking in my career, and it is harder than you think. Oh, it is great fun to snap off a quip on Twitter or throw up a blog (like this one – thank you for reading, I truly appreciate it!), but it is an entirely different situation where an incorrect word or wrong analogy can cost your employer a significant revenue opportunity.
Booing at baseball is a controversial topic, and I’ll steer clear of that one for now. Bill Ivie has written an excellent piece on that subject, so I’ll refer you to The Best Fans in Baseball over at I-70 Baseball instead of duplicating much of what he said.
Ryan Franklin did try to make amends by offering up an apology of sorts. It was not necessary, but the gesture shows a lot about what is under the uniform and that misshapen Chia Pet resting on his chin. Cardinals fans should do similarly and give him the benefit of a clean slate the next time he comes in from the bullpen – and of course, we will. We will do so because we need Ryan Franklin as dependable contributor out of the bullpen, whether or not he is pitching in the ninth inning.
Franklin’s comments were made in frustration. Cardinals fans are showing their displeasure out of a similar frustration. Frustration that several Chris Carpenter starts have been wasted, and an 8-8 record could be 12-4, and an early lead in what may be a long and drawn out divisional race where every win will be significant.
A series of two-out runs, thanks to Colby Rasmus and Lance Berkman, and a brilliant performance by Mitchell Boggs to earn his first career save can go a long way to making us forget all about the first 2 1/2 weeks of the baseball season. If we still need something to turn our attention away from this unfortunate situation – the Cincinnati Reds come into Busch Stadium next.