Jim Johnson Booed Again (and Again and…)
By Jason Burke
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
After another Jim Johnson appearance in Oakland, the reliever was greeted by a wave from the Boo Birds, and also a fan giving Jim Johnson the double-barreled bird above the A’s bullpen. The booing isn’t my cup of tea, but I can understand it. The double middle finger is reprehensible and has no part in what makes Athletics fans great.
Let’s focus on the good this season: The A’s are 32-22 on the season. The A’s are in first place in AL West at the moment, percentage points behind Detroit for the best record in the AL. The Athletics’ POFF (chances they make the postseason) is at 94.1. There is plenty to be happy about this season, but the storyline that keeps getting brought up is how poorly Jim Johnson has performed at home.
I know I brought up his splits the last time I wrote about this, but lets look at them again:
Home: 14.04 ERA
Road: 1.98 ERA
The boos aren’t helping. Plain and simple. I know many will argue that it’s his on-field performance that elicits the boos. Fair point. Jim Johnson has not had a good experience at home since joining the Athletics. The longer this goes on, the more it creeps into a player’s head. Even our own beloved Grant Balfour commented on being booed in Tampa,
"The fans can boo me and all that [stuff], but it’s not going to help me out. It’s not going to help the team do anything out there when you do that [stuff]. The feeling is, the team’s behind you and everybody’s behind you — the crowd, the whole nine yards. Things are going to go right.But when you start pulling that [stuff], it’s not a good vibe. The team’s pulling for the team, so the fans got to be pulling for the team. Everybody’s got to be pulling for the team. You can’t be back and forth like that. That [stuff] doesn’t work."
Athletics player’s and journalists even started commenting on the issue after yesterday’s game. The players can’t stand it. The “we pay your salary” approach is misguided. We pay to watch baseball and root for our team. If the team that is assembled performs well, more fans show up, generating more revenue for the team to spend on future players. Management spends money to make money. Complaining about Johnson’s contract is also misguided. Entering this season, based on past success, he was worth the money. Billy Beane thought so at least.
Before the season started, players kept saying they loved the vibe in Oakland, and it was being reported that the Oakland vibe could lure more free agents. With the vibe we’ve been putting out there, it’s hard to imagine anyone would sign up for this treatment. Getting paid less, playing in an outdated facility with plumbing issues and getting booed by your own fans doesn’t seem enticing to me.
As I stated before, I understand the booing. This season has been filled with expectations, and Jim Johnson was supposed to be a key acquisition for the bullpen. These expectations for both the team and Jim Johnson have lead to animosity towards Johnson and his current performance. The simple answer would be for us to lower our expectations regarding Johnson. Expect that he will allow some runners. He has since he became a closer anyway. Being a shut-down closer is not his forte.
We could also divvy some of the blame to Bob Melvin, who keeps putting him in when the game’s outcome hangs in the balance. This is a team game, and if Jim Johnson’s performance is hurting the team, it’s essential to find a role where he will do limited damage.
Call me optimistic, but I still think that Jim Johnson could play a pivotal role in the Athletics’ bullpen this season. It’ll just takes a couple of good outings at home, and some support from the fans to get him on a roll. Until that time comes, I hope Santa Claus avoids O.Co.