It’s difficult to gauge what was uglier at the Rogers Centre this weekend: what was happening on the field, or what was happening in the stands.
When I arrived at the ball park yesterday, I was pretty excited. When the Red Sox come to town, there’s usually a good crowd at the SkyDome. This time was noticeably different, though. Typically, Red Sox fans, if not a majority, are a visible presence around. There’s never quite as many Pedroia jerseys are there are Bautista, and it’d be an exaggeration to call the Rogers Centre Fenway North, but there’s enough of a contingent around that a Sox run will get an audible cheer. Not on Saturday. There were Red Sox fans around, but they were clearly in the minority.
It was good to see. As a fan who wears both hats–I’ll happily cheer for the Blue Jays when they’re not playing Boston–I was happy to see a lot of energy following this Toronto ball club. These fans had a lot to cheer about yesterday: J.A. Happ managed to keep the Red Sox batters off the bases. With a home run from JP Arencibia and a moon shot from Colby Rasmus, the Jays cruised to an easy win.
Some of that energy, though, got channeled in some pretty ugly directions. Toronto fans were taunting their former manager John Farrell all game long. I get that. Farrell didn’t leave Toronto under the best of circumstances, and I think that Jays fans are justified when they give him a hard time. If it continues during the next series, it’ll probably start to get a bit tired and excessive. But for now? Sure. Why not.
The problem comes, though, when that vitriol gets directed at other fans. Late in yesterday’s game, I saw at least two altercations where Toronto fans started to gang up on fans wearing Red Sox gear in the stands. I’m talking about a group of probably ten or twelve Jays fans hurling insults at a couple of people in Red Sox hats. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it, either. The worst thing I’ve ever seen at a ballpark was a group of young Jays fans up in the 500s throwing garbage at a family of Red Sox fans, including a couple of kids who were maybe seven years old at most. After the game, nobody would even let these Red Sox fans step out into the aisle to exist the ballpark. This isn’t being a Jays fan; this is being an obnoxious human being. This season, it’s only going to get worst as you get the bandwagon jumpers and fair weather fans coming out more often.
Indeed, today’s game has been even uglier. The score’s one thing. The Red Sox essentially won the game in the first inning, tagging R.A. Dickey for five runs. As the game went on, the Red Sox continued to treat the Red Sox pitching like they were throwing batting practices. Will Middlebrooks hit three home runs, and Daniel Nava and Mike Napoli added their own. Right now, it’s the bottom of the eighth and 13-0 for Boston.*
Worse than the score is the way fans are reacting. R.A. Dickey–new to the city, new to the team, and a guy who was more frustrated than anyone with his own performance–was hearing boos from the crowd. On Twitter, fans are already starting to treat the season like a failure, asking about how long Rogers will let the team struggle before giving the axe to Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopolous.
It’s utterly ridiculous. As any seasoned baseball fan recognizes that it is a long season. As the old axiom goes, in baseball, you know you’re going to win a third of the games, and you know you’re going to win a third of the games. A slow start, or a hot start, doesn’t mean much of anything. Just ask any Red Sox fan about September 2011.
But Toronto sports fans can be extremely fickle. Those fair weather fans–the ones who came out just to boo Farrell, the ones who harass fans of the visiting ball club–are going to get ugly. The real fans will have patience with the team and not over-react. I hope the latter group sets the mood in the Rogers Centre from here on out, otherwise watching baseball in Toronto is going to be much less enjoyable.
* Globe and Mail writer Jeff Blair suggested on Twitter that the Blue Jays pitchers during the game that it was time for the Jays pitching to start throwing at Red Sox hitters:
I’d throw at somebody right now.
— Jeff Blair (@GloBlair) April 7, 2013
He was implying that the Red Sox were running up the score and that they deserved a good plunking. He argued (based on what?) that the Red Sox would if they were in the Jays’ position. Consider instead, though, that the Red Sox are themselves exacting a little revenge for the way their manager’s been treated all weekend. No blame on the Jays’ players themselves, but I think Toronto fans were asking for this all weekend. And Tweets like Blair’s only reinforce that point. It’s been kind of a shameful day to be a Jays fan.