Even during batting practice, Comcast's Chuck Garfien reported on twitter than Rios was getting heckled by the fans. Playing along, Rios tipped his cap to the fans. Ozzie Guillen took a direct punch at the kidney's of Jay's fans and responded with "We need people in the ballpark just to come out and boo Alex. Please, we haven't seen many fans out here in the last 3 or 4 years. Come out just to boo him."
The question is, why were Jays fans booing Rios so harshly?
Rios was offered a contract with the Jays in April of 2008 that promised him $69 over 7 years. They had little trade options last season based partly on their contractional obligations to Rios. The Jays simply didn't have any payroll flexibility. Not surprising when your team pulls on average 8,000 fans a game- there's not a lot of revenue coming in on a nightly basis.
Jays fans who actually paid attention to their team rejoiced when Toronto placed him on waivers, begging any team to take him off their hands so they could secure Halladay for another 2 years. I remember specifically when Rios was placed and it was rumored that KW would pick him up. All I heard from Jays fans was "good riddance!"
What's mind boggling is that Jays fans were offering to give up Rios for a few ash bats and a Vernon Wells jersey and now, when Rios returns to Toronto, they're booing him as if he broke their hearts by leaving.
Let's examine what I like to call "AJ Pierzynski Syndrome."
In a ballclub that routinely pulls one of the lowest attendance in the majors, on opening day you're going to get a packed house full of bandwagon fans. You just simply are. So one guy starts booing Rios because he thinks its funny, and then everyone other d-bag in the stadium follows. People have no idea why they're booing Rios, but they do it, laugh, and cuss at him the entire game. Classless and unintelligent.
I've spent the last few hours this morning talking to Jays fans and most of them, who are real Jays fans, can't understand why the booing went on. They were happy that Rios was playing well this year, and proud of his accomplishments on their team.
What I'm realizing is- the majority of the people there just simply had no idea why the booing was going on. They were going along with the pack. Hence "AJ Pierzynski Syndrome." Just because Minnesota and San Fransisco boos AJ, the entire rest of the fans in the MLB do it. They dont know WHY they do it for the most part, they just do. Because, you know, it's AJ Pierzynski and that's the thing to do.
Ozzie equated the entire thing to when Cleveland fans booed Thome we he came back to their park, but honestly it's not even the same situation. Jays fans wanted Rios gone for the simple fact that their idiot GM, J.P. Ricciardi decided to actually sign Rios for that $69m/7yr deal and Kenny Williams had to come bail him out and pay off his debt. Alex Rios didn't leave on horrible conditions. He didn't request a trade. He didn't end his contract and decide to take up a larger contract with another team. He was placed on waivers.
Okay. For those of you who I've been going back and forth with on Twitter, let me explain something to you.
Waivers are a tricky thing and sometimes hard to understand.
When a team is in a situation such as the Jays were with their contractional obligations to a mediocre player like Alex Rios, they can chose to place him on waivers. (actually, a team can chose to place a player on waivers at pretty much any time at all during the season, but most people tend to pay attention to the waiver claims that happen after the trade deadline.)
When that happens, 3 things can go down.
The team that places the player on waivers can either a) trade him outright to the team that claimed him for another player, b) take back their offer and call the whole thing off completely (if that happens and the team decides to place the player BACK on waivers again, then they aren't allowed to use the option of taksies-backsies a 2nd time) or c) allow the team that claimed the player to have the player, take on that guy's payroll, pay a small waiver fee to the waiving team, and place the player directly on the 40 man.
A lot of the time, teams will grab a player on waivers strictly to blockade any other teams from getting them. If that happens a player is claimed by more than one team, then priority is as follows:
The team in the same league as the player (With Rios, it would have been the American League) with the worst record gets him. If no team in the player's league claims him, then the team with the worst record in the other league gets him.
A player can also "clear waivers" which means that if after the 3 day span of being able to be claimed, no one claims him, then he's cleared waivers and the waiving team can option to send him to the minors. When that happens a player can either go down, or refuse assignment and become a free agent.
The entire thing is really just a cat and mouse game, but a good tool to help managers shape their team.
In this instance, the Jays put Rios on waivers, the Sox claimed him, taking on his entire contract, and Toronto rejoiced. Sox fans freaked a little with the new acquisition of Jake Peavy earlier in the week and the thought of taking on such a high contract, but adding Rios helped shape our roster for the 2010 season after we freed up some money by not resigning Thome or Dye, two big salary roster spots.
So Alex Rios was dealt by their front office to the White Sox, and didn't technically WANT to leave Toronto, where-as Jim Thome, he was the Indian's 13th round pick in the 1989 draft, came up through their organization, and was the most loved player on their team, decided to LEAVE Cleveland to pursue a larger contract in Phillidalphia ($85m/6yr as compared to $60m/5yr)
As classless as it is to boo someone like Jim Thome in my opinion, I can see where the Indian fans kind of had their hearts ripped out when Big Jim decided to go to the Phillies.
Jays fans don't have the same argument. They rejoiced when he was signed to a 7 year contract, confident that the tag-team of Wells/Rios would bring a championship to Toronto along with ace Halladay. I didn't hear fans booing Rios when he played in Toronto once.
Were there fans that wanted Rios gone to free up their payroll? Absolutely. However to be fair, the majority of baseball fans don't pay that close of attention to payrolls. I don't know a lot of fans that didn't love Alex when he played in Toronto. Most were shocked and surprised when we picked him up, and the backlash is based solely on his leaving the organization.
This is where AJ Pierzynski Syndrome comes in.
Take one ballpark that can fit upwards of 40,000 people, add 8,000 REAL fans, and another 32,000 who are there for beer and hot dogs, and what do you get? An entire fan base of Canadians who are booing Alex Rios for leaving Toronto.
So Rios didn't really live up to the potential of a $69 million contract. Somehow that's Rios' fault. Remember in my last post I talked about how I found it wrong to heckle a rookie player for "sucking" when it was actually management's fault for not keeping him down in the minors to season and get to the point where he can become a solid big leaguer? It's the same with a player who is signed to a huge contract and doesn't technically produce.
So Rios hit upward of .300 for the majority of his career with Toronto and after 1/2 a season of batting under .270, and being traded to the Sox, the fans are ready to call him a joke and a waste.
Toronto fans do nothing more than simply prove to me that there are more idiot fans out there than there are intelligent ones. I talked to a Jays fan on twitter this morning who just kept telling me "He sucks." as the reason why the fans were booing him.
Really? "He sucks"? THAT'S your argument? That he sucks?? The kid doesn't bat under .291 for three straight seasons and after 4 months of a mediocre batting average, he SUCKS? No. He doesn't "suck." Your ex GM sucks. The Rios contract threw away money and was ridiculous. It's one of the many reasons he got fired after last season, and is THE reason why Rios was placed on waivers and let go to another team. It was because your GM was stupid enough to make an idiot contract that allowed him no room for payroll diversity. You should have all been booing your front office, not Rios.
Another smaller reason why people say they were booing him is because of a video leaked on youtube last year in which a fan continuously heckles Rios for not signing autographs as he leaves a charity event. Rios responds by telling them to "F*ck off." Well, you know what? If I was being bombarded by a bunch of clearly unintelligent fans who were spouting off at the seems about ignorant things, I'd tell them to "F*ck off" as well. One Jays fan used the argument "he's mean. try saying hi to him after a game and see what happens."
Well. I'm pretty confident that Alex Rios would not freak out if I came up to him and said "hi." Now if I followed him out to his car screaming "You're useless Rios, you're a horrible player! You're lucky you even have a job! You're lucky anyone wants you! You're f*cking horrible!" I would expect him to tell me to "f*ck off." Just sayin.
Maybe I'm just annoyed with the lack of intelligence, I don't know. However I just don't understand the concept of Jays fans booing him so mercilessly yesterday. I wasn't the only one who didn't get it either. The Jays broadcast team had questions about the booing as well, chucking at the sheer ignorance of it.
The fact is: He was claimed off waivers, he left, the Sox took on his payroll and freed up issued the Jays were having with it. The fans should be happy, or at the very least, indifferent. So he yelled back at a fan who was heckling him last season. The guy he yelled at clearly wasn't a "fan" so who cares? At least it fires Rios up and he clearly fed off the negativity at the Rogers Centre last night going 3-5 with a run scored. But then again, you know. He sucks.....
Booing a player for un-baseball related reasons is for the bar. Keep it out of the ballpark.