Sean Rodriguez

Payback’s a boooooo! Phillies fans give it right back to Sean Rodriguez

Payback’s a boooooo! Phillies fans give it right back to Sean Rodriguez

A day after hitting a game-winning home run in the 11th inning, Sean Rodriguez was in the Phillies’ starting lineup for Tuesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ordinarily, a walk-off home run the night before would earn a player a nice ovation during pre-game introductions.

But Rodriguez was booed by fans as they settled into their seats before the first pitch.

He was booed again before his first at-bat in the second inning.

It would take a significant offense for fans to turn on a guy who won them a game the night before. Rodriguez stepped into the lion’s den when he called fans “entitled” after Monday night’s 6-5 win.

Instead of basking in the glow of his game-winning home run, Rodriguez became defensive and confrontational when a reporter attempted to ask him how good it felt hitting a home run after previously being 1 for 20 with 11 strikeouts in the month of August.

Rodriguez used the question as a launch point to fire on fans and others who have been critical of him and his place on the roster. He extended his commentary to those who have been critical of the team in general (see story).

Rodriguez called fans “entitled” and that did not sit well on the executive level of Citizens Bank Park. It never does when someone disrespects the paying customers.

Manager Gabe Kapler, whose long relationship with Rodriguez dates back to their days as teammates in Tampa Bay, said he spoke to Rodriguez about his comments on Tuesday afternoon.

“Sean's a fiery, fiery guy,” Kapler said. “He's a fiery player. And I think what he was attempting to convey was that he supports his teammates and thinks his teammates perform best when they feel that support, too.”

Kapler was asked specifically about Rodriguez’ use of the word “entitled.”

“I don't think our fans are entitled,” Kapler said. “What our fans are entitled to do is feel what they feel and express themselves accordingly.

“Let's go at it directly: Every great player in every sport that's played here in Philadelphia has gotten booed, right? Charles Barkley was here and spoke to our club not that long ago. Charles Barkley got booed. Ryan Howard got booed. Jimmy Rollins got booed. Mike Schmidt got booed. Some of the greatest athletes in Philadelphia history. It's part of playing here. And I think the best thing for all of us to do is have the thickest possible skin and not take this personally at all. It's not personal.”

Slumping Rhys Hoskins was booed after popping up with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Monday night. The popup capped an 0-for-5 night. He did not take the booing personally.

“We won the game,” he said. “I couldn’t care less (about the boos.) We won the game.”

Hustle, good play and winning remain the ultimate boo repellent.

“Go out and do our jobs every day and do it well,” said Kapler, who was booed before managing his first game in Philadelphia in April 2018. “When we do, we're going to get cheered quite a bit. We see that. We walk off and the stadium erupts. Bryce Harper hits that home run (against the Cubs during the last homestand) and it's all anybody is talking about for several days straight.

“When we're doing our jobs, when we are playing great baseball, we're cheered. And I think that's what we should strive for always.”

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Counterpoint: Sean Rodriguez was right when he called some Phillies fans ‘entitled’

Counterpoint: Sean Rodriguez was right when he called some Phillies fans ‘entitled’

Before you want to tar and feather a baseball player for saying something about Philly fans, let’s take a look at a good portion of what he actually said in context.

From Jim Salisbury’s story following the game last night in which Rodriguez hit a walk-off home run and was the hero.

Rodriguez admitted that he was aware that his spot on the roster had become an issue with fans and critics alike.

“Who’s looking bad and feeling entitled when you hear stuff like that?” he 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. 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.’ “

Notice the “that seems pretty entitled” follows him saying “I’m not the one saying pretty disgusting things at times.” The people saying "disgusting things" are the ones he’s calling entitled. And he’s not wrong. He then goes on to clearly state he’s not talking about all fans, pointing out the plenty of good fans.

Salisbury’s piece ends with another quote from Rodriguez in which he’s defending his teammate who has been struggling mightily.

“The guy has 60-plus homers in three years and you’re booing him,” Rodriguez said. “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?”

This point is a little less cut and dry to me. There’s nothing wrong, in my opinion, with booing per se. Boo whoever you want. Booing is meaningless. It’s a verbal sign of disappointment or unhappiness or whatever you want it to mean. If you can’t take a simple boo, get out of the kitchen. It’s when fans take things a step further and verbally abuse players, that's crossing a line.

If you’ve ever attended a sporting event in Philadelphia, you’ve likely witnessed fans act in ways that are absolutely unacceptable in terms of public decorum. You can’t say whatever you want, including being verbally abusive, just because you paid for a ticket. Rodriguez calls those types of people “entitled.” That’s fine with me. He’s right. Those types of unpleasant people make attending games in Philly a little less comfortable for everyone.

Just be careful when calling out a very specific group of fans because plenty of people who aren’t in that group are sensitive and will think you’re talking about them. And maybe up that batting average before calling out anyone. That always helps.

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What was Sean Rodriguez thinking with those comments last night?

What was Sean Rodriguez thinking with those comments last night?

This might be the first walk-off win in Phillies history that made the fanbase dislike the hero more the next day. 

Sean Rodriguez, harshly criticized for a lack of production at the plate — albeit in irregular playing time — chose last night as the time to air his grievances. 

Some of what he said was understandable. The Phillies are six games over .500 amid myriad injuries and are somehow one game out of the second wild-card spot, yet many in this town have viewed the team through a negative lens for months. There tends to be silence or apathy after normal wins and vitriol after any loss. But you can’t exactly blame the fans for that. They’ve waited nearly eight years for a playoff run and thought this team was the one to break that drought. If that’s “entitled,” good luck convincing many fans they’re wrong for feeling it.

The response to Rhys Hoskins lately has shown how antsy this city is for its baseball team to win consistently. The Phillies have not yet gone on a run and the season is more than 80 percent complete. Hoskins’ second-half slump has affected the team’s ability to make a run, and on Monday night he was booed more loudly than ever before. 

Hoskins handled it well, though. He deflected when asked about it and focused more on the team win. 

Rodriguez’ comments did not sit well with the Phillies fanbase. The key word he used was “entitled,” though his message was a bit more nuanced than that. He was trying to make clear how difficult the role of a pinch-hitter is. And that guys struggle, and boos and harsh words don’t help. 

Look, any time a fanbase, and particularly this fanbase, feels like it is being told how to act, it does not go over well. 

Rodriguez did have a useful point about pinch-hitting, though most every baseball fan knows it is a difficult role. Rodriguez scoffed when a reporter asked Monday night whether the walk-off felt even better given his recent struggles. Rodriguez looked at the reporter like he had two heads, didn’t acknowledge the struggles and spoke about almost always facing a tough pitcher because the bulk of his pinch-hit appearances take place late in close games. 

Not really true, though — it’s not as if Rodriguez has been facing Aroldis Chapman the last five weeks. 

The two biggest reasons Rodriguez is here are to play all over the diamond and to hit lefties. Lately, he hasn’t hit lefties. (Monday’s walk-off was Rodriguez’ first home run against a righty since July 22, 2018.)

In his last 15 at-bats against lefties, he is 1 for 15 with 10 strikeouts. And while that list does include tough lefties Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, there are more mediocre or worse arms on the list than aces or relief studs. 

Here is that list: Francisco Liriano, Jarlin Garcia, Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, Joey Lucchesi twice, Jose Quintana, Connor Menez, Will Smith, Bumgarner twice, Aaron Bummer, T.J. McFarland and Ross Detwiler twice. 

Bumgarner, Smith, Quintana and maybe Lucchesi aside, not exactly a murderer’s row. That sample size of 15 ABs is small, but what matters right now is not the predictive nature of it but rather that those at-bats happened, and they have not helped a team in a playoff push win. Phillies fans have not been wrong to question lately what Rodriguez provides offensively that someone like Maikel Franco or Phil Gosselin cannot. 

Many this morning have gone the route of saying Rodriguez and players in general need a thicker skin. So, too, does the fanbase, because it’s pretty lame to not accept any return fire from the player(s) it buries the most. 

But last night was still such a strange time for Rodriguez to make that the story. It was a moment he could have built genuine goodwill and portrayed himself as accountable and understanding of the criticism while hopeful the fans could alter their approach a bit. He did not effectively convey that message, in large part because he conveyed it in a one-sided way, absolving himself of blame. 

It will be interesting to hear how Rodriguez is received tonight and the rest of the season. Monday night produced an exciting Phillies win, and here we are less than 12 hours later discussing a totally different topic. 

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