Phillies utilityman Sean Rodríguez wasn’t performing so well for the Phillies entering Monday night’s series opener at home against the Pirates. He had a meager .659 OPS for the season and was 1-for-19 in August. However, he played the hero, belting a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 11th inning.
While it was a feel-good moment for Rodríguez, he couldn’t let go of the criticism he and slumping first baseman Rhys Hoskins in particular were hearing from Phillies fans. Many wondered why the team was letting him occupy a roster spot. Hoskins, batting just .164 with a .336 slugging percentage since the All-Star break, was regularly getting booed, especially after popping up with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.
For his own struggles, Rodríguez explained that players like him tend to face the opposing team’s best relievers, and said it’s tough to stay sharp with limited at-bats. He said, via Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, “I’m just defending that position, not me as a player, per se. I think that’s the misconception a lot of people make. ‘Well, you can’t struggle. You can’t go that bad.’ Every hitter does it. The only difference is when someone is playing every day, there’s a chance that they’re going to sneak a hit here and there.”
Regarding the fans, Rodríguez said, “Who’s looking bad and feeling entitled when you hear stuff like that? 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. That’s tough.” He added, “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.'”
In defense of Hoskins, Rodríguez said, “The guy has 60-plus homers in three years and you’re booing him. Explain that to me. That’s entitled fans. I don’t know if it’s them feeling like they’re owed something. There’s nobody in here that doesn’t want to win. That’s what sucks. When we hear that, we’ve learned to try and take that and use it like we should. But if I sat here and just buried you every single day verbally, is that helping?”
Naturally, Rodríguez’s comments caused a bit of controversy in Philadelphia. Many focused on the booing aspect, but Rodríguez did say that fans were “saying pretty disgusting things at times.” If that’s the case — and it’s very easy to believe it is — then he certainly has a point that Phillies fans need to dial it back.
Fans certainly have every right to boo and jeer (without crossing a line) to express their frustration. But players aren’t obligated to embrace it. Not everyone is Bryce Harper, born with the ability to let their haters be their motivators. Maybe all the booing is causing Rodríguez and/or Hoskins to sink further into their hole.
As with just about everything, there is nuance to the situation. Rodríguez could have accepted more responsibility for his and his team’s woes, and perhaps picked a better spot to express himself. But Monday night might have been the last time he had a throng of reporters around him, so he may have felt it was his best time to defend himself and his teammates. As it happens, Rodríguez is in Tuesday night’s lineup batting seventh and playing third base.