Don’t call it a comeback … it’s too early for that. But if Ryan Raburn’s July numbers are any indication of what’s to come, he’ll soon be putting those booing fans in their place (which is at home in front of their TVs, in my opinion).
So, let’s start with that. I was raised to believe that going to the games meant you had a job to do. That if you wanted to just sit back and watch (and tell the people in front of you to sit down and watch – even with the bases loaded in the World Series – yeah, lady in the fur coat, I’m talking to you … still … five years later) you should have just stayed home. Why go to the game if you’re not going to participate?
But beyond that, somewhere along the line, I was also taught that you don’t boo your own players at the ballpark. Now, you want to do it online – on Twitter, Facebook, in your blog, whatever – that’s fine. On the radio? Fine. To your friends? Sure. At home on your couch? Of course. But at the game? No. At the ballpark, your job is to influence the game in a positive way. You can argue with me on this all you want – that’s just the way I was raised. Now, you want to boo the ump, the opposing team, the obnoxious woman who steals a foul ball out of some kid’s hands? I’m good with that. But your own players? Unless they’re deliberately throwing the game – no way, Potato.
So, I don’t join the chorus booing Ryan Raburn. Am I a big Raburn fan? Not really. Do I think he should be playing everyday? Absolutely not. But do I blame Raburn for that? How can I? Jim Leyland is the one trotting him out there. It’s as if Raburn has compromising pictures of his skipper. But I would prefer not to think about that.
Of course, this assumes Raburn wants to play everyday. My guess is he’d probably rather “sit this next one out” every home game. So maybe it’s punishment, then. Maybe Raburn did something to Leyland and now he’s stuck out there – slump and all. Like the old “bologna on the car” trick. Or Visine in the beer. Probably not.
But what other possible explanation is there? I’ve heard them all, and none of them make any sense. Trying to get his confidence up? Then play him on the road so he doesn’t have to face the home crowd boos. Got no one else at second? Ramon Santiago. Will Rhymes. Don Kelly (when we don’t need him in the bullpen, of course). Are they better options? Maybe not. But maybe spreading the playing time around a little would have lessened the damnation of Raburn.
Maybe we go to a five-man rotation at second base – the fifth starter? A new lucky fan each week. (Side note: I’m proposing this as a solution to our little pitching problem, too.)
Statistically, May has not been good to Raburn the past two seasons, with his .115 average this year being the better of the two. June and July have only been a little kinder. And all season I’ve heard about how Raburn doesn’t really get started until the second half. So why play him in the first half at all? If he needs 80 games to warm-up, he can play those in Toledo, no?
Ryan Raburn has a following on Facebook. The group is called “I hate it when Ryan Raburn tries to hit or catch a baseball,” and it popped up shortly after he bumped that ball over the wall with his glove for a home run. Not the kind of following anyone would want. I saw a little kid wearing a Raburn tee shirt at the game get booed on his way down the aisle to his seat – by some drunk guy; yeah, but still. And, when recounting the awesome rib-crushing, diving catch he made last week, I was told, “it’s too late.”
But I know better. Raburn does have a tendency to heat up in the second half. And if that happens, the fans will come around – swear they were with him all along. I saw it happen after that catch – you would have thought it was Brennan Boesch, the way the crowd reacted: Ryan Raburn got a standing ovation. (Though, I’m sure some lady in a fur coat somewhere was telling them to sit down, too.)
Raburn’s troubles at the plate remind me of something I read about Victor Martinez and his 2005 season. In July of that year, one season after making his first All-Star team and sharing Silver Slugger honors (with Pudge Rodriguez), Martinez was batting an uncharacteristically low .236. Granted, Raburn has never achieved at the V-Mart level, but the fall from grace isn’t all that different: he’s batting just .216 this year, after putting up a .280 and .292 in the last two seasons. Here’s the encouraging part: Martinez ended 2005 with a .305 cumulative average.
It can happen.
Ryan Raburn is batting over .300 in his last 10 games.
It could happen.
The jury is still out.
But don’t call it a comeback … he’s been doing this for years.