Tigers closer Joe Nathan came into last night’s game in the ninth inning with a four-run lead and walked the first two batters he faced, at which point many of the fans in Detroit began booing him.
Nathan, who has six blown saves and a 5.11 ERA in his first season with the Tigers, responded by making a chin-flick gesture that, loosely translated, means something similar to the middle finger.
This afternoon Nathan apologized for his actions, telling Jason Beck of MLB.com:
I think both sides were frustrated. I was frustrated. Fans obviously were frustrated. I think for myself, I apologize for that. I have two kids and I need to be a better example for them thinking how they’re still young enough that they won’t know about this. I do know, and I do need to be better for that. I know both sides are frustrated, but the thing is, we’re on the same page. The fans want to win, want us to win. We obviously want to win.
He went on to say a lot of other stuff along those same lines, making it clear that he has “no hard feelings” toward the fans and repeating apologizing.
It obviously hasn’t been pretty for Nathan this season and at age 39 he seems to be deep into the decline phase of his career after a brilliant decade-long run as one of the truly elite closers in baseball for the Twins and Rangers. He’s also under contract for $10 million next season, so if Nathan and Tigers fans don’t come to some sort of understanding 2015 could be ugly at Comerica Park.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.
Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.
There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.
That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.
The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.
One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.
Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.