ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 31: Ryan Franklin #31 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts to giving up a home run against the San Diego Padres on opening day at Busch Stadium on March 31, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Ryan Franklin is hereby sentenced to three Hail Marys and five Crash Davises. In case you weren't a part of the Twitter-fired controversy, a refresher of his conversation with B.J. Rains:
"Sure, I hear it... I guess they have short memories too because I think I've been pretty good here. It doesn't bother me, but it just shows some people's true colors. You're either a fan or you're not... You don't boo your own team... You should go write stories about the fans booing. They are supposed to be the best fans in baseball. Yeah right."
I'm in a weird position here, because I actually agree with Ryan Franklin—I don't like booing period, and I'm not sure Cardinals fans are as The Best In Baseball as we like to believe, at least in aggregate. But I disagree with whatever thought process gave Ryan Franklin the idea that this would be a good thing to tell B.J. Rains.
Cardinals fans are among the most committed in baseball—I'll give us that. Attendance has been steady for a decade now, fans come early, relatively speaking, and stay late, relatively speaking, and we travel well and do all those other things that fanbases are supposed to do. We've beaten football and hockey in town, and we're not famous for throwing batteries at players or beating opposing fans in the parking lot.
But like Tony La Russa, our favorite least-favorite favorite least-favorite manager, we're intense, and that intensity does not always manifest itself in a worthwhile way. Busch Stadium gets too pissed off about strikeouts and not pissed off enough about Aaron Miles; it rewards hustle and small sample sizes to the extent that there are probably half-finished Kerry Robinson and Bo Hart statues in a Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse somewhere in town.
And Busch Stadium has never solved the universal problem of how to deal with closers who are neither Mariano Rivera nor, well, 2011 Ryan Franklin. The false emphasis placed on the save-accumulator has turned average to above-average closers into pariahs before their time across baseball, and Ryan Franklin, like Jason Isringhausen and Dave Veres before him, is no exception.
I can't blame Franklin, at least for having these concerns privately, or the Best Fans in Baseball, who are in all likelihood as tired of Laynce Nix as they are Franklin, for this one—it's just a terrible confluence of events. Franklin has been historically bad in a role that gets hometown boos like few others, aside from strikeout-prone outfielder; and he was pitching in the first half of a listless make-up doubleheader to a guy who's hit six home runs against the Cardinals in 70 at-bats; and he walked Ivan Rodriguez, who across 21 seasons has walked 73 times fewer than Barry Bonds did between 2002 and 2004.
It is impossible not to be frustrated at that moment. Even if you're a pretty-decent reliever, even if you're a pretty-great fanbase. This is why it's a little unnecessary to boo, and extremely unnecessary to tell a sportswriter about it.