I used to have some strong opinions about when it’s OK to boo or not OK to boo. And I still think that some instances of booing are worse than others depending on the circumstances. But I’ve changed my mind about booing pretty substantially over the past couple of years and refuse to get all that worked up about it anymore.
Personally, I rarely if ever boo someone — or if I do, I do it somewhat ironically — but I’m mostly done caring if other fans boo someone. When you compare it to the intensely personal things about players and their character that some fans will say in comment threads, some sports writers will write in their columns or some talk radio guys will bark over the air, booing looks like a pretty minor act. It may be worth noting with amusement — I expect to continue to write amused “[Team’s] fans booed [Person]” posts in the future — but seriously taking fans to task for booing or not booing someone seems kinda silly to me now.
Booing is not nearly as personal an act as it’s often portrayed as being in the sporting press. Look no further than the Robinson Cano/Jimmy Fallon bit from last night. Fans booed a cardboard cutout of Robinson Cano and then immediately changed their tune when the real Cano came out. It was pretty inspired, pretty funny and it gave us a bit of insight, I think, into the nature of booing. Maybe it’s not the most polite thing ever, but a given fan’s investment in booing is so fleeting and minor. I’d guess 90% of the people who do it at a ballpark do it because other people started doing it and group activities are fun. I’d also guess that the negative impulse to boo someone is gone before the guy in question has taken his first pitch. It’s just a thing you do at the ballpark sometimes. Like the chicken dance.
Which brings us to tonight’s Mariners-Yankees game. Cano is back in New York for the first time since signing with the Mariners, and the topic of whether or not Yankees fans should boo him is floating around on talk radio and on the web today. If I was a Yankees fan I’d probably not because, like I said, my baseline is generally not to boo and Cano didn’t do anything wrong or evil that would make me change my feelings about that.
But I expect he will be booed and I really don’t care. If it happens it’ll be a generalized “you don’t wear the same laundry” boo that runs about as deep as an Arizona creek. It won’t be based on real animus or a set of misguided ethics. It won’t be aimed at a person who is fragile or a stranger to big crowds and intense feeling. It’s Robinson Cano. I suspect he can handle it.
Earlier, Craig wrote about the latest in the Mets’ search for a new general manager. Their list has been pared down to three candidates: Chaim Bloom (Rays senior VP of baseball operations), Doug Melvin (Brewers senior advisor), and agent Brodie Van Wagenen (of Creative Artists Agency).
It’s a diverse list, for sure, which makes one wonder what process allowed them to arrive at these final three candidates. Bloom is new school, Melvin is older-school, and Van Wagenen is… just inexperienced. Van Wagenen in particular is an interesting candidate as he has spent years advocating on his clients’ behalf. As a GM, he would do the exact opposite: he would try to take advantage of his players whenever possible, like every other GM in baseball does (e.g. manipulating service time).
Per Mike Puma of the New York Post, agent Scott Boras thinks there would be a conflict of interest if an agent were to become a GM. Boras, in fact, says he has turned down opportunities to lead front offices. But there is no verbiage saying that an agent must divest himself of his business interests before taking a job in a front office. Dave Stewart and Jeff Moorad are two examples of agents who later went onto the ownership side of the business. Stewart, in fact, moved into the front office after retiring and held various roles in with various organizations until he started Sports Management Partners (renamed Stewart Management Partners). He transferred control of the agency to Dave Henderson before he joined the Diamondbacks’ front office near the end of the 2014 season.
Ownership and labor are in constant conflict, even when things seem peaceful. Ownership wants to extract as much labor as possible as cheaply as possible. Labor wants to be paid for their work as much as possible. Their goals contradict each other and yet they need each other. While not required, usually being deeply on one side or the other — as agents and GM’s are — speaks to one’s personal ethos about the eternal tug-of-war. That Van Wagenen is so eager to switch sides speaks, perhaps, to opportunism. I would be, at minimum, unsettled if I were a client of Wan Wagenen’s at CAA. How might he use the sensitive information he was privy to as an agent to his advantage as a GM?
We have seen the analytics wave take over front offices around baseball. As ownership looks for ever more ways to pocket more cash, Van Wagenen’s candidacy may signal an upcoming wave of agents transitioning into front office roles. Hopefully that doesn’t become the case. There may be no one better equipped to take advantage of labor than someone experienced on that side of the battlefield.