Last night, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Sean Rodriguez hit an 0-2 pitch into the left field stands to win his team the game. That was when the problems started.
The Phillies beat the Pirates 6-5 on Monday to move a game back of the Cubs for the NL’s second wild card. New father Bryce Harper homered earlier in the night, continuing his blistering second half. JT Realmuto delivered three hits and threw out three more baserunners. The team still has its issues, but it’s almost September and the Phillies are in the playoff hunt and fresh off a thrilling win.
And yet, at the risk of generalizing too broadly, it’s fair to say that Phillies fans didn’t entirely enjoy Monday night’s win. After the Phillies took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, Hector Neris gave up a homer the next inning. The Phillies had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but Rhys Hoskins fouled out and Bryce Harper struck out. They had runners to first and second with nobody out in the 10th and didn’t score. Hoskins, who has struggled in the season’s second half, went 0-for-5 and was booed several times, especially in the bottom of the ninth.
Rodriguez wasn’t having it. Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer transcribed Rodriguez’s thoughts on Philly fans booing him and Hoskins this season:
“Well, think about it. Who’s looking bad and feeling entitled when you hear stuff like that. I’m asking you,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not the one booing. I’m not the one screaming. I’m not the one saying pretty disgusting things at times. That seems pretty entitled. You’re just making yourself look pretty bad as an individual, as a person, as a fan.”
“You’re making guys not want to sit there and say ‘Hey, they’re going to support you. They’re going to want you to do this.’ That’s tough. There’s still a lot of good fans, though. Those are the ones I hear and pay attention to. The few that might be behind home plate and say ‘Hey Sean, keep doing your thing. Don’t worry about it. Things will come around. Hey Rhys. Hey so and so. Hey Bryce.’ Through the thick and thin, that’s when you get to show your true colors.”
“When you act a certain way towards somebody because you don’t feel like they’re doing what they need to do, just look at life in general. We want to win. There’s nobody in here that doesn’t want to win. You just have to basically sit there and say ‘Hey, let’s see if I can help him get him out of what he’s doing. Hey see if I can be encouraging enough to help an individual.’ That’s the harder thing to do. The easy thing to do is just scream ‘boo.’ Let me think of something to say that might actually be encouraging. No, it takes effort.”
Phillies fans and assorted media have since proceeded to spend the day bashing the player who just won the team the game last night. “Shut up and play,” said the guy who co-founded the Wing Bowl. A host of a different sports talk radio station’s morning show contested that fans of a team that has failed as routinely and remarkably as the Phillies could even be entitled. Another person at that station called last night’s hero a “pathetic dude” and griped that Rodriguez “literally used his only time that the media even cared to talk to him, to bash Philly fans.” A Phillies reporter said that Rodriguez “could have built genuine goodwill and portrayed himself as accountable and understanding of the criticism,” but didn’t.
There’s more if you want to search for it. Fans are upset that Rodriguez is complaining when he’s been 2-for-22 the past month, when he’s a career .226 hitter, when he [something, whatever, you get it by now] and, even if he has a point, when he has only played 55 games with the Phillies. Some people want him cut.
Of course many of Rodriguez’s critics are indeed acting entitled. The thinking here goes that because Phillies fans are particularly die-hard (or whatever), or because they shilled out x-hundred dollars for decent seats, they should get to boo or heckle the home team if they want.
Here’s an example, conveniently involving Sean Rodriguez: Earlier this month Philly Voice reported on 44-year-old Bay Area resident Chris Krage, who was identified as a “lifelong Phillies’ fan, a devotion passed along by his father, who lived in the Philadelphia area.” When Krage went to see the Phillies play the Giants this year, his team gave up two runs before recording an out. Krage told the publication he said, “Hey Kapler, way to motivate your team, you bum.”
He got kicked out. Kapler, for his part, said he never asks for fans to be removed from games, and told the publication it was actually Rodriguez who asked the fan be kicked out:
“I did hear that fan, he was definitely all over me, but I never said anything to anyone about him,” Kapler said in a statement to Philly Voice. “I never took my eyes off the field. I did hear what I believe was the same fan who said something about me hitting for Sean Rodriguez with Corey Dickerson. If it was the same guy, he said something like, ‘You finally did something right, hitting for Rodriguez.’ Some of the players got really pissed on behalf of Sean.”
Here’s Krage, on the experience of being kicked out in the third inning of a baseball game:
[His friend JR] Lara, 39, noticed the whole Phillies team looked back when Krage spoke, which surprised both of them, considering they were involved in an important nationally televised game with possible playoff implications. Between the prime seats, parking and concessions, the cost on Sunday came to $713.20, Krage said.
All for three innings of baseball. [...] “I wasn’t doing any of this for publicity. I love my life, I love my girlfriend and I love my Phillies. I walked with the security guards. I put my hands up and everyone there was cheering for me, because they knew there was no reason for me to be ejected from the game. As I started up the stairs, people started booing security.
“I don’t blame security. They were doing their jobs. I took it upon myself to ask security if they minded if I said one more thing. They said they didn’t. So I turned around and yelled, ‘Hey, are you happy now, Kapler? Get your head in the game! Why don’t you go back to LA, where you belong, you bum?’
Two things need to be mentioned, here. The first is that, yes, this whole incident started when Kapler pinch-hit for his starting left fielder in the third inning. The second is that you do not need to work very hard to see where Rodriguez might get the idea Phillies fans were entitled. (This recent article was the second straight season in which a Phillies fan complained to Philly Voice after being ejected for heckling the Phillies at a road ballpark.)
Despite being in the playoff hunt, Phillies fans are understandably disappointed with the team this season. The Phillies have been fun for about a week this year—the first four games of the season, when fans could dream that the front office’s big offseason moves turned the Phillies into a juggernaut, and during the three-game sweep of the Cubs after Charlie Manuel returned as hitting coach, which included an instant-classic Bryce Harper walkoff grand slam.
Between those moments, though, the Phillies have struggled. They’ve been outscored this year. The pitching staff has a below-average ERA. Harper started slow and Hoskins, a homegrown slugger, has struggled recently. Andrew McCutchen was just one of a number of Phillies players who got hurt. Odubel Herrera was suspended for the year after he was arrested for domestic violence in Atlantic City (charges were dropped). The best play in left field all season came from a pitcher. Just a few days ago, the Phillies blew a 7-0 lead to the woeful Marlins and lost 19-11. The team had to file a lawsuit to make sure it didn’t lose the rights to the Phillie Phanatic!
And so fans boo, which is a relatively mild form of showing displeasure when compared to those on display in other other fandoms, or even elsewhere in this one—twice this season Phillies fans have run out onto the field. Earlier this season, Bryce Harper said he’d boo, too. But not everyone has to feel that way.
Yes, Rodriguez is a vet; he should know Phillies fans believe they should get to boo players. Doesn’t he understand their boos are going to make Rhys Hoskins realize he should hit a homer his next at-bat? But, yeah, if you’re Sean Rodriguez, it’s allowed to bother you.
Is it maybe a little weird for him to bring it up immediately after his game-winning homer? It is indeed maybe a little weird. Is this whole thing, the triumph and the pettiness and the sour vibes, perfectly typical for the 2019 Phillies? Absolutely.