The Texas Rangers have experienced just about as much success as any franchise in professional sports over the past three years. They have been to back-to-back World Series and many consider them the favorite to not only return this year, but to win the whole thing. That success has brought about many knowledgeable fans who can talk knowledgeably about all aspects of the team. That same success has brought about many casual fans that enjoy watching a winning team and can at times bring unreal expectations along with it. Both categories have their place and are needed to bring 3 million fans into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington during a single season. It was Thursday night's game that saw the Rangers' attendance cross over that 3 million mark for the first time in franchise history, but unfortunately the game ended with some of those fans showing the least respect imaginable.
I am all about holding professional athletes, managers, coaches, front offices and ownership to a high standard. I am all about expecting the best players to perform when needed. I am fine with people criticizing the play of Michael Young when there are solid options surrounding him or questioning Josh Hamilton when he spends six weeks of the season swinging at pitches two feet outside the strike zone. I can go with people criticizing the routes that Nelson Cruz takes on fly balls on a regular basis, and I am not talking about Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. I can go with over analyzing and questioning every move that Ron Washington makes. I can accept all of these and many more; however I can't go with you when you jump on Joe Nathan.
Joe Nathan entered last night's game having closed the door 31 games in a row without blowing one. That is not three in a row or ten in a row. It was 31 straight games. Has he had other appearances where he was not great during that time? Yes he has, but there have been many more great ones. Nathan signed what should seem like a very cheap contact this offseason that earns him $7 million this season and next season. In a season where free agent closers have been nothing special, Nathan has been outstanding.
He has been so great that Ron Washington has no hesitations handing him the ball at any time, even if he will be calling for him for a third day straight. He has also been so great that fans expect him to close out a game every single time. This is a ballplayer here, not a robot. They make mistakes and they have bad days and sometimes that comes when the work three days in a row, especially in the month of September.
In my opinion it was pretty obvious that Nathan did not have it when he gave up the leadoff home run to Ezequiel Carrera to leadoff the ninth inning. Nathan is a guy where you can tell if he is going to have it or not. It looked like he didn't have it and I could go with criticism of Washington not getting him out of there sooner, but the truth is that Washington did not have many options and he did not have anyone near ready to enter the game at that point.
The problem here is that after Nathan gave up a second home run to Jason Kipnis which gave the Indians a one run lead and then allowed a double to Carlos Santana, some Rangers' fans were booing Nathan as he left the game. Sorry, but this was the furthest thing from the correct action. How about a standing ovation for 31 straight? That may be taking it too far for some people, but that is how big Joe Nathan has been this season. He has been one of, if not the biggest bright spot on this team and if anything he deserved a bit of respect in that moment.
It was not all the fans who were on his back and I will assume that the ones who were on his back may not have even known who this Nathan guy was, much less that he was working for his third straight day, but it was still uncalled for. The Rangers' fan base has grown in numbers and knowledge over the past few years, but last night showed me that there is still a bit of growing to do. There are plenty of guys to jump on if people feel the need, but now is the time to get off Joe Nathan's back.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
- Sports & Recreation
- Joe Nathan
- Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
- Ron Washington