Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gattis booed by tens of Astros fans

So by now you've probably seen (if you haven't, don't worry about it now, just rest your eyes. You're safe and sound now, back in good old 1955...) that the Astros averted getting no-hit by the Indians with one out in the 9th inning on a Jed Lowrie homer. A day after setting a career high with four strikeouts, Evan Gattis went ahead and did it again, meaning that his last eight plate appearances have resulted in him walking back to the dugout, stroking his beard and thinking about being snow-bound in a lakeside cabin, eating fish out of a can and sanding his giant feet.

Apparently the tens of Astros fans in the seats for a day game on a Thursday really let Gattis have it...

The easy thing to say is, "True fans don't boo their own players," and that is a valid point. I have been to the Astrodome (yeah, I was at the Walt Weiss game in '99, and the game after, the last one played at the Dome) and Minute Maid Park many many many times and I can honestly say that - while I have been frustrated to the point of breaking cell phones and remotes - I have never booed an Astro. I have booed former Astros coming back to Minute Maid Park.

An aside: Please don't think I'm taking some sort of fan-based moral high ground here. In between stints of living in Texas, my family spent a couple of years in Indiana, and my dad and I had those weekend season ticket packages to a minor-league hockey team in Indianapolis. There was a player for the Ice - that's what they were called - named Shawn Byram, and I hated him.  He wasn't a terrible player, although I see that he had a -35 in his two seasons in Indianapolis, but those teams were awful. He played for the team I rooted for, and I booed him every time he hopped off the bench and skated on the ice. I was 12 years old. One time I was on him so much - and I don't ever remember that hockey rink ever being terribly full, except for when the Fort Wayne Komets came to town and the Fort Waynians escaped from their shanties to visit Indianapolis - that he turned around and shot me a look that my heart translated as, "What the hell, kid? I play for your team, and you're twelve years old." That look has stayed with me so long that I feel true remorse and vowed never to boo a player in his own stadium ever again. If you Google your name, Shawn Byram, I am truly sorry for the abuse I hurled at you 22 years ago. 

Anyway, apparently Gattis heard some grief today from the Houston fans. I can see how that would be unsettling to him. Having also been to many Braves games, there are times where you can hear someone open a Coke from two sections over, there's also the sound of polite applause. Or if someone says "Chipper," and everyone in a five-row radius yells like they're on MTV Spring Break '99. Braves fans will boo other teams, sure, and William Tecumseh Sherman, but their southern gentility typically stays painted on their faces for their hometown nine. So of course Evan Gattis - a folk hero to the common man - had never been booed in Atlanta by Braves fans before.

But - and I mean no disrespect to Evan Gattis here - Astros fans aren't his fans yet. He's 0x11 with 8K:0BB. He has literally done nothing to cheer for in an Astros uniform.  But it's certainly not an indicator of how he can expect to be received by Astros fans all season. (If it turns out that his current 73% K-rate is unbelievably sustainable, and he has 250 strikeouts by the All-Star Break, though...) Gattis came to Houston as they guy who would strike out some, but by God he was going to hit some shots that would make your nethers go all a-twitter. Hasn't happened yet. So when Gattis makes it happen from time to time, they'll stop booing him

I also don't think that the fans were necessarily booing him, they were more likely booing the fact that it took the Astros until the 6th inning to get their first hit on Opening Night, it took until the 5th inning to get their first hit last night, and it took Jed Lowrie hitting his 5th career 9th inning homer to get the first hit today. That's 17 full innings in three games of wondering if this was going to be the night we saw the Astros get no-hit...while striking out 36 times. That's not really supposed to happen, unless the Astros are playing home games in Milwaukee.

The Astros are not as bad as they've shown the last three games. They faced the reigning Cy Young winner (and beat him), a guy who posted a 2.55 ERA (2.44 FIP) in 2014 and had just gotten paid, and then Trevor Bauer, a guy I feel like I've heard could do what he did today for twenty years. And Bauer walked five Astros. This level of failure isn't sustainable. It's just not. And if it turns out that it is, in fact, sustainable over months, then things will change.

There was no real reason for Evan Gattis to pay attention to the Astros over the last four or five seasons, but it's likely an understatement to say that things are a little testy in the stands. I didn't have Twitter when the Astros won the pennant - Twitter didn't start until 2006 - but when the Astros won their 70th game last season, I tweeted like there would be a ring ceremony coming.

But just to recap for Evan Gattis: the Astros lost 100+ games for three straight seasons, haven't been above .500 after a week of the season since August 2009, got moved to the American League, didn't sign their #1 overall draft pick, get laughed at by Peter Gammons' butt, and the only time Deadspin has taken a break from slamming the Astros is when the snow-cone vendor has to drop a deuce on the clock. Is there anything I'm forgetting?

We're a frustrated fan base, apparently the least loyal in all of baseball. The time for polite applause has come and gone. Gattis needn't worry, though. That first walkoff that knocks the train off the tracks will change people's minds. Unless there's a 12-year old future douchebag in the stands who just starts Hating as soon as he takes the field. (Sorry, again, Shawn).