Fearful fans play game of Heath Bell hot potato

Big League Stew

Let it be noted that just the mere mention of Heath Bell's name is currently raising blood pressures and indignation alerts among the fan bases of the Toronto Blue Jays and Florida Marlins.

Huh. And here I thought C.J. Wilson would be the first free-agent pitcher to induce a mass panic by having his name linked to a potential suitor.

But nope. It's the outgoing closer of the San Diego Padres who's making one fish fan pine for the team's days of frugality and inspiring the popular  #DontSignHeath Twitter hashtag among followers in Toronto. Even Bell's former friar friends are hoping Bell "has come to his post-season senses and will go for the big payday" so the Padres can receive the compensation picks they'd get for him as a Type A free agent.

Bell, of course, is the type of player that most fans should want on their team. He's posted excellent numbers for the Padres over the past three years and has the type of Star Wars-loving, mound-sliding personality that'd make him a fan favorite wherever he ends up.

That's all well and good. The only problem is that today's fans — the ones on this here Internets, anyway — are a bit more informed. They know about things like the impact that Petco Park has had on Bell's success and the folly of overpaying for a closer, especially one who's 34 years old and not what you would call "slim." They see a closer market that has been set at bucknuts wild after Jonathan Papelbon's four-year, $50 million contract with the Phillies and they shudder at the thought of Bell extracting a silly amount from their team's budget. Don't get 'em wrong: They'd love to have Bell at the right price. Just not at the one he's liable to command from somebody (and quite possibly their team's own general manager).

I don't blame these fans for becoming baseball's equivalent of the puffer fish, hoping that their actions will scare their front offices into looking elsewhere. But I do have to admit that it's really fascinating to watch a fan base act like Bell is the boogeyman and they just spotted him underneath the bed.

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