A's troubled by boos of Johnson from home crowd
OAKLAND -- A's players are appreciative of such a passionate fan base, but there's growing frustration in watching one of their own get booed by the home crowd.
Jim Johnson, who racked up 101 saves in his two previous seasons in Baltimore, has not pitched well at home in the early going of his tenure in Oakland, compiling a 14.04 ERA and .465 opponents' average in the confines of the Coliseum. On the road, he has a 1.98 ERA, and opponents are hitting just .208 against him.
"You look at the numbers, home and road, and there is a significant difference," said manager Bob Melvin. "It's not like you can say, 'I'm just going to pitch him on the road and not pitch him at home.' We're trying to get him through a tough period. The ability is still there. The track record is there. We just haven't been able to get him on a roll, and whether home or road has something to do with that, I don't know."
Either way, several of Johnson's teammates have voiced the belief that boos surely won't help the cause.
"It's really, really frustrating," said Sean Doolittle. "From FanFest through Spring Training, we were telling all of these guys how great our fans are and how loyal they are. The very first night, he blows a save and he gets booed, and it's kind of snowballed since then."
"I think it got out of hand early, and now it's just almost like the cool thing to do," added Josh Donaldson. "I don't know. It's tough. It makes everyone feel awkward. I don't know how it helps anything.
"I get that these guys paid for their seats. I don't care what they do. At the same time, I know it makes me think different of our fans. There was a time when we were all kind of one, which made it so special. We fed off them, they fed off us. Now what?"
Doolittle understands the booing is coming from a place of passion. Like Donaldson, he also maintains that fans have the right to boo, particularly for a lack of hustle, effort or preparation.
"Stuff like that," he said. "But there's none of that going on here. He's struggling, and he's really only struggling at home, coincidentally, which is only making it worse.
"My heart goes out to him because I see the preparation he puts in for each and every game, working with [pitching coach] Curt [Young], throwing extra on the side, looking at video. I mean, he's put in so much work and he wants it so bad."
Melvin will continue to find non-closing situations for Johnson, who entered the year with the task of replacing a fan favorite in Grant Balfour.
"The very first sign of trouble, they were jumping down his throat and booing him off the field," said Doolittle. "We were looking at each other going, 'What?' We don't do this here. I can understand that they're frustrated. He's replacing another closer with a great track record who was a fan favorite. I get it. It just seems uncharacteristic."
"It's tough when you get booed at home. It's as simple as that," said Melvin. "I don't pay for a ticket, either. People come in here, they're going to voice their opinions, and we have very passionate fans. Hopefully we get him on a roll so we don't have to listen to that."