Apparently “real fans” are supposed to shut up and be quiet

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My Braves post this morning struck a nerve, it seems. The nerve belongs to an emailer who apparently believes that sports fandom is an “either you’re with us or against us” proposition and that it’s somehow illegitimate to be unhappy when your team sucks and the people who run it don’t seem to care.

He writes:

The real reason you hate rebuilding is that you were never a real Braves fan in the first place.  You’re a you fan, a navel-gazer, a carpet-bagger and a front-runner.  The Braves don’t care about front-runners, nor should they.

Real fans can embrace a rebuild because they’re rooting for the same team that they’ve always rooted for.  A real fan can accept a few years of pain in the name of a solid rebuild.  Given that you don’t really follow the team or spend any significant money on your fandom – why should any Braves fan or any member of the team care what you think at all?  You’re a nu-fan, expressing nu-fan whines.  There’s a place for such expression on the internet and that place is at G.E. on the blog of a network that doesn’t even cover baseball.  Talk about a fart in a dust-storm.

I have no idea who this person is or how old they are, but I’ll observe that I’ve been a Braves fan since the mid-1980s and, unless “nu fan” has some counterintuitive definition, I’m not exactly that. There’s a decent chance, in fact, I’ve been rooting for the Braves longer than my correspondent has been alive.

Not that any of that matters, as how long or how deeply anyone has been a fan is beside the point. Indeed, the very idea that fans are subject to some sort of test of their loyalty or depth of their fandom before they are able to have opinions about the team they root for is one of the lamest, most retrograde notions in sports fandom today. It’s record store hipster elitism imported to sports, purporting to judge who is and who isn’t entitled to be entertained or to voice their opinion.

It’s also the sort of sentiment which institutions, be they sports teams, governments or companies of any kind, count on in order to not be accountable to their fans, citizens or customers. An implicit “you don’t get it” to defend bad behavior, followed up with the enlistment of the super devoted to “correct” the putatively less invested and to get them to accept the institution’s lines. If you criticize our leader, you’re not really loyal. If you don’t like the new product, you’re not one of their preferred customers.  If you don’t agree with the team’s rebuild, you’re not really a true fan. Please. Loyalty tests will only tell you who the first ones will be to drink the Kool-Aid and who the last ones will be to realize they’re dead.

I’m not sure when trusting the plan of a baseball team’s front office, regardless of how it’s carried out or communicated, became a test of one’s devotion to a team. I know it had to be before Dayton Moore famously told Royals fans to “trust the process,” because that was roundly mocked and, eventually, the Royals realized that the proof was in the pudding, not in the words. Maybe it’s from the early “Moneyball” era when A’s fans didn’t have much reason for baseball hope but did see a smart front office doing unconventional things. Worth noting, however, that as far as I can recall Billy Beane never scoffed at fans the way Coppolella did with his interview. Whatever the case, that kind of fandom is weird to me and seems rather unpleasant. I’d rather have fun with the dilettantes in pink hats watching a fun team than sit in misery while swearing loyalty oaths and professing faith in the men in charge.

All I know is this: winning will always be what fans want more than anything else and they should not be ashamed to want it. If that’s not possible, fans should not be ashamed of at least wanting an entertaining product and should not be shamed if they lose interest in a boring, losing team, however temporarily. Rebuilding is something all fans will accept if they are convinced that it is necessary and if it’s carried out in a competent manner. And no matter what the team is doing — winning, losing or rebuilding — fans will bristle if the club condescends to them or acts as if their feelings about the team don’t matter. The Astros may be an instructive example here. They made no bones about the fact that the organization was in chaos and there was no reasonable disagreement with that notion. They were up front that they had to tear it all down. They were up front that the process was going to be painful. And, as the pain endured for several seasons, they didn’t lash out at fans for their lack of patience and loyalty. Fans left when it wasn’t very fun. They came back when it was. No one died.

As I said this morning, the Braves are doing an OK job with this. They never have made a convincing case that the rebuild was the only course of action possible, and to the extent it is the only course of action it’s because of the unreasonable constraints the team’s ownership has put on its baseball operations folks. But, of course, that ship has sailed. They’re doing an OK job on the baseball side of things in terms of the trades they’re making and the talent they’re stockpiling. They’re being pretty damn dismissive, however, of fan sentiment with all of this, and as the pain wears on, they need to do a better job of appreciating their fans.

Even the nu fans, whatever the hell that is.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Toronto Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round playoff series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason.

Blue Jays players embraced on the diamond at their temporary home of Sahlen Field in Buffalo after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it.

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh, pitching around Clint Frazier‘s leadoff single by setting down the next three, including pinch-hitter Aaron Judge. The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second, his eighth.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Judge is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, manager Aaron Boone said.

BIG HIT

New York infielder D.J. LeMaheiu went 1 for 5, dropping his MLB-best average to .355. A former NL batting champ seeing his first AL title, LeMahieu is well ahead of White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson. The Chicago star went 0 for 4 in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, dropping his average to .338.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.