In the Great Debate on How to Greet Jacoby Ellsbury, We Boo Sanctimony

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Dear, Red Sox fans. The next time a former player returns to Boston with his new team, please at least have the decency to greet his arrival by sprinkling the Fenway lawn with rose petals and pieces of gourmet chocolate.

It would make the esteemed members of the Baseball Writers Association of America oh, so happy.

Jacoby Ellsbury returned to his old roots with the Yankees Tuesday night, and we use the word “roots” loosely if only because the only foundation Ellsbury built during his time in Boston was one that could easily be up and moved via “Wide Load” at a moment’s notice. Not surprisingly, he was met with a smattering of applause and boos, an overwhelming grunt of indifference, and a heaping serving of sanctimony from high above home plate.


“Predictable,” wrote’s Brendan Kuty, all with a burrowing sneer, we can assume.

“How fitting Jacoby Ellsbury – the quiet, first-year Yankee whose personality couldn’t be more different from that of the chatty Johnny Damon – took a wholly divergent path Tuesday night,” wrote the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff. “Red Sox Nation booed him seemingly out of obligation in the first inning. By the fifth inning, that obligation had metamorphosed into much louder aggravation.”

From the protector of the gate, Peter Gammons: “And yet there will be boos from the beer lines this week because he is wearing a Yankee uniform, as if any one of those two-fisted lager guys wouldn’t have jumped when someone else offered him twice as much as the next highest bidder, the Red Sox.”

“Ellsbury’s handsome head was added to the Rushmore of Fan Stupidity Tuesday night when the majority of Red Sox fans in attendance gave him the old Bronx cheer when he came to bat against former teammate Jon Lester leading off the first inning at Fenway,” wrote the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.

If I could add a retort? Who gives a $%?

Every sports season it seems we have to deal with some hackneyed debate over what kind of reception Player X should receive when he returns to the town he did little more than work in for six months a year. When Damon returned with the Yankees in 2006, it was on the heels of an offseason during which the former Red Sox outfielder and media fave wouldn’t stop chirping about why he chose New York. Most media members chose to ignore that minor equation when they roasted the Boston fan base for not making him feel comfortable during his first plate appearance.
“Disgraceful” is how Sean McAdam, then of the Providence Journal deemed the evening back then, calling it “a black mark on the fans of Boston.”
Tsk, tsk, Boston. Say a collective 11 Hail Mary’s.
Why exactly is this always a big deal? I mean, besides the transparent layup that is a debate topic better served for brain-dead ESPN2 morning programming, does the matter if a player is booed or cheered upon his return really indicative of the fan base? The same members of the BBWAA who told you that you were stupid for questioning which players were using steroids are the ones calling you ungrateful Neanderthals for not having the decency to remember the likes of Ellsbury the way they were when you cheered for them, Here’s a news flash, and never mind the money behind them: They’re grown men. They can take it. Do they really need Press Box Defense Department to come to their aid every single time? Poor Jacoby and all, but you bought the ticket. Express yourself however you want. Preferably clothed.
Good grief, if you take the view of most of these writers, you’d think that baseball players have a weaker psyche than Ziggy. The only player I remember seeing openly cry due to being taunted was Darryl Strawberry, and he was a cartoon.


“I’ve always said, it’s something I’m not going to worry about because it’s out of my hands,” Ellsbury said in advance of the Fenway reception. “I gave the organization everything I had for nine years in the organization, seven years in the big leagues, drafted by them, left everything on the field. Played as hard as I could. I appreciated the fans, the support they gave me over the years. They were great to me, and it’s nice to see the teammates but I think when I look back, just the fans, how they treated me in my time here, really remember that.”
There’s not a touch of soul or emotion in those words, taken right from the Scott Boras Book of Gratitude (it’s right next to the Scott Boras Book of Lies), but because Ellsbury never gave writers the Carl Crawford treatment, he can do no wrong in their eyes. Ellsbury was the perfect free agent, a talented guy who was going to break the bank anywhere but here, and that was mostly fine with everybody except for the fawning BBWAA and the Tiger Beat crowd.
“How dare you be ungrateful. He won you two World Series.”
He did? And all I got was this lousy T-shirt?
I can only imagine the complete, blubbering mess the Fenway press box must have been when the Red Sox paid tribute to Ellsbury in the second inning with a montage set to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” Springsteen tends to turn your average baseball writer into a 14-year-old girl at her first One Direction concert in any case, never mind paired with a woobie like Ellsbury.
Maybe our knack for booing players is one of the lasting vestiges of the hardened fan base Boston used to boast, slowly disappearing with every “Sweet Caroline” and “Wally Wave.” We used to circle these return dates on our calendars, whether it was for Mo Vaughn or Dave Henderson. Now, the tartuffery of the media and what it deems acceptable fan behavior just doesn’t make it fun anymore. We were supposed to cheer Ellsbury. Supposed to cheer Damon, Ray Allen, and Tyler Seguin, who all left under questionable circumstances. No matter. Laud them.
OK, so the Adam Vinatieri thing I don’t get, but Patriot fans can oftentimes be their own level of boorish when you bring a guy like that back in prime time when the lots open at noon. We’ll call that a hiccup.
Otherwise, booing is not the misdemeanor crime that the scribes might make it out to be. Besides, if Jacoby Ellsbury was so beloved here, only to have fans turn their backs on him, why exactly was Fenway Park about halfway filled when he stepped up to the plate in the first inning?
Beloved? Please.
But just to be safe, bring him a gift tonight, will you?

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