Cheap Seats

What's with all the Franklin venom?

Yeah, I get it. Ryan Franklin was horrific this year.

He averaged almost one run allowed for every inning he pitched and, although it seemed like much more, gave up a homer every third inning pitched. It was certainly time to go.

But does anyone honestly believe that he callously wanted to go out there and stink it up in front of 40,000 people a night?

If not, why the barrage of comments on the Cardinals web pages about not letting the door hit him where the good lord split him not to mention the offers to drive him to the airport or help him clean out his locker?

Ryan Franklin is from Cardinals country. He grew up, by his own admission, rooting for the Redbirds. And, when he signed with St. Louis a few years back, he said pitching with the Birds on Bat across his chest was a dream come true. It seems cruel and unusual for Cardinals fans to turn on one of their own like that. I can only imagine, if I had been able to pitch for the Redbirds, what it would feel like to have that uniform be taken away after a slow train wreck that I was powerless to stop.

We've had discussions before on these pages about whether it is fair game to boo players for the home team when they don't play well. My position, and maybe it's naive, is that when fans like myself boo after a bad performance they're booing the situation, not the player.

Say, for example, Franklin is brought into a game when the Cardinals have a three-run lead and two outs. He gives up a homer to the first guy he faces. Then he gives up a homer to the second guy he sees. Still, there's no one stirring in the bullpen and he walks the bases loaded and eventually gives up the game losing hit.

Am I going to boo? Probably. Am I booing Franklin the man? Absolutely not. I'm booing because of a gamble that failed. Because of an opportunity lost. It's just the emotion of the game. It's how the fans express themself when something bad happens. It's the opposite of how we cheer when something good happens.

There has never been a Cardinals player that I have wished personal ill will to because of failings on the field. And the only reasons for which I would boo a Cardinals player personally are 1) a Garry Templeton type show of utter disrespect for the fans or 2) a lack of hustle or sincere effort.

But people are personally attacking Franklin like he wanted to lose games for the Cardianls as part of some vendetta against the fan base... I just don't get that. That sort of venom just isn't typical of Cardinals fans. Especially toward a longtime player. While I think the team is better for his forced retirement, I still feel terrible for the guy.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals let this problem build up for too long. If Franklin would have been let go a month ago instead of being sent out to be humiliated time after time, this all would have been forgotten by now.

But, as a person who went to bed one night in my twenties only to wake up one morning on the wrong side of 40, I guess I can sympathize with Franklin for the one thing of which he is truly guilty: He got old.