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Sean Doolittle comes to Jim Johnson’s defense regarding boos

May 30, 2014, 11:51 AM EDT

OAKLAND -– Jim Johnson once again struggled and got an earful from A’s fans on Thursday, and one of his bullpen teammates expressed disappointment with the home crowd.

Johnson gave up two runs in the seventh inning Thursday against the Detroit Tigers; runs that proved critical as the A’s battled back before falling 5-4 in the finale of a four-game series.

After retiring the side, Johnson left to a chorus of boos, a scene that has marked his rough first season in green and gold. He’s now allowed nine runs over his last nine outings (8 1/3 IP), increasing his overall ERA to 6.55 in 22 appearances.

A’s closer Sean Doolittle maintains faith in Johnson, saying he believes the sinkerballer has the stuff and track record to turn his year around. Doolittle wasn’t as supportive of the treatment Johnson got as he exited the field.

“We spent all offseason telling the new guys about how great our fans were,” Doolittle said. “And from game one — game one — he got booed off the field. We’re sitting in the dugout looking around. I can’t remember that happening since I’ve been here. We went through some rough patches last year when we were pretty bad, but I don’t remember the boo birds coming out like that.”

Johnson had a large group of reporters gathered around his locker after the game.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “Balls are finding holes. I’m throwing pretty good pitches. I just feel like I’m getting a little bit of bad luck. I don’t think it’s as bad as it really seems, but I think everybody else thinks that way.”

Johnson has found success on the road –- a 3-0 record, 1.98 ERA and .208 opponents’ batting average in 11 games.

At home? He is 0-2 with a 14.05 ERA and .465 opponents’ average in 11 games.

Asked if the boos are affecting him on the mound, Johnson paused before responding: “What am I supposed to do?”

The reason for the home fans’ treatment of Johnson certainly was tied, early on, to him replacing a fan favorite closer in Grant Balfour. And though Balfour left via free agency — and Johnson was only acquired via trade after it was clear Balfour wouldn’t be back –- fans initially seemed to view the situation as a straight-up swap, Johnson for Balfour.

Then Johnson allowed two ninth-inning runs in an Opening Night loss to Cleveland and was serenaded by boos right off the bat.

[RELATED: A’s fall to Tigers, split four-game set]

“I would’ve booed me too,” he said that night.

In defense of the home fans, Johnson got an encouraging reception later in that season-opening homestand. Dealing with boos comes with the territory for professional athletes, and Johnson’s home stats aren’t doing much to win fans over during the first one-third of the season.

Entering in relief of Jesse Chavez on Thursday with Oakland trailing 3-2, Johnson retired his first batter before giving up singles to Don Kelly and Miguel Cabrera. Then Victor Martinez followed with a hard-hit two-run double down the right-field line that made it 5-2.

Still, Doolittle — a fan favorite and one of many A’s players who often speaks highly of the Coliseum crowd — doesn’t like the treatment Johnson is getting.

“I mean, we all take notice of it,” Doolittle said. “One guy was giving him the double-barreled middle finger above the dugout after one of his outings. That’s disgusting. That’s pretty ridiculous that he has to deal with that.”

After losing the closer’s role early in the season, Johnson finds himself pitching earlier in games and often when the A’s are already trailing.

“Guys have to respond to the opportunities they get,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We’ll continue to try to find a good spot for him and get him going.”

  1. tbird05 - May 30, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    Yeah, the double-barrel is probably a bit much. However, it does come with the territory. What are the A’s supposed to do? Maybe administer IQ tests prior to selling someone beer.

  2. daveitsgood - May 30, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    The double middle freedom rockets is a bit much, but that being said, why is it a bad thing to boo his sub-par performance? If fans shouldn’t boo as a critique of a poor performance, should they then not applaud for good performances? It’s a two way street and if they want the good, they have to take the bad, provided it’s not out of line offensive. Apropos of nothing, if JJ thinks that he made good pitches, then he either lacks a complete sense of self-awareness or doesn’t understand what a good pitch is. According to pitch/fx the two good pitches he made and got outs on were down at the bottom of the zone, everything else was right in the middle of the plate in the middle of the zone. That’s probably why he gets lit up. Maybe if he looked at the charts and data, he would “get it”.

    • adventuresinfresno - May 30, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      Freedom rockets. I love it.

  3. sportsdrenched - May 30, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    I don’t support double birds, profanity, or getting into a players family situation (unless it involves a police report, then it’s fair game in some instances). But I think booing and heckling are perfectly acceptable fan activities.

  4. illuminancer - May 30, 2014 at 1:41 PM

    I’m very opposed to booing players on your own team. Anyone can have a bad game, or a slump, and it’s not like the players aren’t going crazy trying to figure out what’s going on. Booing the guy isn’t going to help, and it’s likely to make him perform worse.

    Watching last year’s 19-3 Giants blowout of the Dodgers from last year, I was struck by the way the Dodgers fans booed Nolasco when he had to come out in the 2nd. Yes, he was bad. Really bad. Historically bad, even. But he’d been lights out since he’d been traded to the team, and you’re going to boo him for one bad start?

    • brianc6234 - May 30, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      That’s Dodger fans for you. How many threw broken bottles at him?

  5. aceinthehole12 - May 30, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    I live in Chicago so I obviously don’t see them in person that much, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t boo. Do I mind that others boo ? Of course not, it’s their money/time being spent and they’re displeased with the on-field performance they have the right to let it be known. I DO NOT support swearing, threatening, flipping the bird, throwing thing etc at players in general whether they’re “your” squad or not. That’s just not right.

    I think it’s mainly cause Johnson in the new/expensive guy on the block who’s replacing a fan favorite, we all loved seeing Balfour Rage, and the first week or so was his audition and he failed. Now it’s almost June and he’s still not getting it done. Also we as a fan base have expectations now and know that we can’t afford to lose to many games like yesterday or any other one Johnson, Gregerson or anyone else in the pen blows.

    Reddick and Sogard have been pretty terrible at the plate but we don’t boo them, why ? Because they’ve been here and have proven their worth. Johnson just needs to tune out the home fans and get the job done, we’ll like him in a few months if he turns it around.

  6. spittingcobras1303 - May 30, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    As an Orioles fan, I hate to see him struggling again this year with his new team. By all accounts, he’s a great guy, great team mate and great around the community. I want to say he deserves better, but what do any of us deserve. Just keep your chin up JJ, keep doing your best and let’s hope you get this turned around.

    • randomdigits - May 30, 2014 at 5:14 PM

      As an Orioles fan I am tickled to death they didn’t sign him to an extension and instead packed him and his iffy peripherals off to Oakland.

  7. APBA Guy - May 30, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    The A’s are drawing over 20k now, so you are going to get the occasional bad actor, as you will in any park. No excuse for that individual fan. Booing is ok, middle fingers are not when there are kids around, as there are at A’s games.

    • brianc6234 - May 30, 2014 at 6:08 PM

      Wow, 20,000 a game? The A’s have won the division the last couple years. They’re in first place. You’d think they could fill up that lousy ballpark once in a while.

      • clydeserra - May 30, 2014 at 7:01 PM

        monday’s 35,000 seemed to have surprised the food contractor.

  8. rcali - May 30, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    Bring out the Wahhhhhhmbulance. When you stink it up in pro sports you get the business from the fans, but you also catch big phat checks. I’ll take that trade off any day. I know, I know, thumbs down from the people who believe in participation trophy’s. Were all winners, I get it.

  9. rawdog2013 - May 30, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    He’s getting booed because he’s getting $10 million on a small payroll team. If Beane is paying $10mil/year he better pitch like an ace. We Oakland fans aren’t use to seeing that kind of money dished out.

  10. brianc6234 - May 30, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    Doolittle must be smoking something. Since when have A’s fans been great? They don’t even show up for their home games. The A’s need to make sure Jim Johnson pitches a lot in the Angels series though. Maybe the Angels can sweep the A’s and take first place from them.

    • clydeserra - May 30, 2014 at 7:06 PM

      they are showing up. that’s the thing they were showing up last year and this.

      When they were crappy, from 07-June 12, people still showed up, but far fewer. those who did show up are great. that is what he is talking about.

      there are drummners in left and right, both bleacher sections have distinct rituals that sometimes catch on throught the stadium. For example the rf bleacher people started pumping there fists when Balfour came in the game. by the end of the year in 2013, the entire stadium was doing it. It was quite a sight at the playoff games that got to 48,000 I think.

  11. jimeejohnson - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I support Jim Johnson. Whadya mean “I’m biased?”

  12. don444 - Jun 6, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    I’ve always felt that feeling the need to boo and hurl insults at players at sporting events is largely the domain of the childish and stupid, but with that said the A’s decision to hand $10 million to Johnson seems like a very poor decision at this time for a team with limnited resources as the guy has been absolutely putrid for the most part. Fans, unfortunately at times, do indeed have the right to express their opinions and, while well-meaning, Doolittle would do well to keep his nose out of such things and simply let Johnson handle it like the professional and big boy that he is. Also, like many others in the majors at this time Doolittle needs to devote a bit more time to grooming himself as he’s way more scraggly than he needs to be. Not saying you need to be the Yankees or the Reds, but these girlishly-long hairdos and forest-like beards that are so common these days would not be on display on MY team.

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