For four years now, Yankees fans have had a love affair with right-fielder Nick Swisher. The always smiling, laughing and jovial “bro” who happens to be a ballplayer would always interact with the fans, giving away baseballs and always engaging in light conversation, even as a game was in progress. Now, it appears that love affair is cooling off, thanks in part to Swisher’s performance on the field and his subsequent comments after Game 2 yesterday in which New York was shutout 3-0 by the Tigers. In what is likely Swisher’s last season with the Yankees, he may very well leave on a sour note.
What Swisher doesn’t realize is that just because he’s built up a relationship, probably unlike any other Yankee has with the fans, doesn’t mean that he is immune to criticism. See, the fans in New York have a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. Just ask Alex Rodriguez, the guy who put the team on his back in 2009 en route to a championship, who is still labeled the “poster-boy” for postseason failure.
October in New York, where players are ultimately judged, Swisher has received a failing grade, and that might be an understatement; he has failed in October for his entire career. This postseason has been the tipping point for fans, as they have become fed-up with his lackluster play both in the field and at-bat.
Swisher has an average of .167 (177 plate appearances) with four homers and seven RBIs for his career in the playoffs. These numbers span over 11 series – 45 games; he’s never had more than an RBI in any given series.This postseason, Swisher is hitting .153 over seven games with no homers and no RBIs. For lack of a better word, he’s struggling. He’s not the only one; the numbers are well documented and not worth repeating.
To put things into perspective, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter has an RBI (one more than A-Rod) in the NLCS already after one at-bat. Russell Martin, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Swisher each have an RBI the entire postseason, and they all have come to bat at least 25 times.
According to Bryan Hoch, the Yankees beat writer, Swisher said this about getting booed and harassed by fans: “That’s the last thing that I ever thought would be in this ballpark, that people would get on you that bad.” Oh, so the numbers I listed above are worthy of cheers? Why is he acting surprised? Granted, Swisher said the fans blamed him for Jeter’s injury, which is obviously unfair and idiotic. The play before Jeter went down, Swisher “lost a ball in the lights,” which allowed the go-ahead run to score in extra innings in Game 1, which the Yanks eventually lost. The next day, Swisher misplayed a foul pop-up that lead to Detroit scoring more runs, which brought on more boos. Before Game 2, however, Swisher wasn’t his normal self. Clearly upset by the booing, he barely acknowledged the Bleacher Creatures and fans in right-field, and took his warmups close to the infield.
According to head-creature Vinny Milano, more commonly known as “Bald Vinny,” Swisher seemed like “he felt obligated to acknowledge the fans, rather than want to.” Now there are reports that the fans threatened Swisher’s family, and those fans that do that should be ashamed of themselves. It didn’t come from the bleachers, as Bald Vinny has continuously said they don’t allow such talk out there. As for being booed for a poor at-bat and for continually failing with men-on-base, that’s fair game. “To go through a stretch like this where it’s kind of a negative attitude, a negative type setting, that’s tough,” Swisher said. He went on to say “It hurts. Sometimes I’m a sensitive guy and some of the things people say, they get under your skin a little bit.”
That quote right there is exactly why Swisher doesn’t succeed in the playoffs, especially in New York. You need to have thick-skin. Swisher’s personality is to please everyone, and when he doesn’t, he tries to do too much. In baseball, when you try to do too much, you fail more than you succeed. This isn’t football where the harder you try the more results you get. Now that Swisher is failing for the fourth straight year, the fans are fed-up. They want production. It’s a vicious cycle; the more Swisher struggles, the more fans get on him. The more fans get on him, the more he struggles. Swisher is clearly fragile, looking overwhelmed and overmatched game in and game out.
The thing is, is that nobody cares or wants to hear about how “tough” it is to be booed. I know these guys are human, but with being a professional athlete and getting paid millions comes the possibility of criticism. It comes with the job. Put up the numbers, get a few big hits, win some games and that will take care of everything. A-Rod, who has probably been the most vilified athlete in New York Sports history, understands that concept. “You can’t blame our fans. We’ve got to go out there and score runs. We have the ability,” Rodriguez said. “We haven’t scored a run in a long time. I’m right there with them. You can’t blame them.”
For Swisher and the Yankees, it’s time to shut-up and play baseball and make this series competitive. It stats tomorrow on the road against the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.