A friend who is a Phillies fan gave me grief last week because he didn’t think the Mets fans gave Chase Utley enough love after his 35-game hitting streak came to a halt at Shea last week.
Now, ignore the irony of a Phillies fan giving anyone grief about booing, since the City of Brotherly Love is legendary for it’s ability to jeer.
But I’ve had this question rumbling around in the back of my head since then. How exactly is one supposed to act when a potentially historic feat is to be inflicted by the visiting team upon the home team?
And is merely extending a hitting streak that still falls way short of the record an historic feat worthy of cheers and respect?
We were surprised by the way Tigers fans reacted at the Baseballtruth.com Executive Game III when Bat-chucker was going after win No. 300. Many fans were rooting against the win, and there were even a fair amount of signs telling Clemens he’d have to get that win elsewhere.
We were stunned. You know how I feel about the Yankees. But we were pulling for Clemens that day because as fans, we wanted to witness history.
Clemens, of course, doesn’t work past the sixth inning and left a nice lead in the hands of his bullpen and some of the stone gloves in the Yankee infield.
The Comerica faithful cheeed when the Tigers tied the game after Clemens departed. What exactly are they cheering, Will wondered, that they didn’t get to see history?
Tom Seaver was wildly cheered in his bid for No. 300 at Yankee Stadium, but we know that’s a different case because Mets fans took over the pit in the Bronx for one glorious afternoon.
If John Smoltz takes a no-hitter into the ninth at Shea, are we supposed to root for him to shame us or cheer for Carlos Delgado to break it up? With a 12-game lead we can afford to drop a game or two, but being on the losing end of a no-no is embarrassing. Especially, I might add, when the people doing the hurling are the likes of Ed Halicki and that Astro -- was it Jeff Juden? -- who nailed us in the lowly 90s.
What about an individual achievement that might or might not affect the outcome, like a milestone home run? If McGwire had launched No. 62 against the Mets, would we have cheered? If we were winning the game 5-0, I suppose so. If Mac’s blast produced the tying or go-ahead run, probably not.
Which brings us back to Chase.
A hitting-streak is an individual achievement that’s more hype than substance. It’s kind of like hitting for the cycle. If you get a single, double, triple and homer in a game, SportsCenter goes nuts and you get mentioned in every paper the next day. But if you had two doubles, a triple and a homer, you’ve had a better game but wouldn’t get as much attention.
As for Chase, I can’t blame the Shea faithful. He’s been a Mets-killer for the past two years. But I suspect the reaction might have been a little different had he been in the mid-40s instead of the mid-50s.
Personally, I was pulling for the guy. The hit wouldn’t have hurt us, and wiping a Yankee out of the record books is OK with me.