South City Confessions: It’s perfectly fine to criticize professional baseball players without crucifying them

Sports can create a ruthless dichotomy with its fan base.

Baseball is where this particular unhealthy trait can fester the most. Major League Baseball players make mistakes on the field, and there’s a portion of the fans who want it completely forgiven and not pointed out. It’s like in a separate world, they must think the player doesn’t get salary or food money for missing a play or striking out. Nope. They get the big paycheck no matter what.

Friday night at Busch Stadium, Harrison Bader made a crucial error in center field. With the game in hand for the Cardinals, he dropped a fly ball in deep right-center field, which led to a grand slam. Tyler Webb gave up the blast, but Bader’s misplay allowed the Cincinnati Reds-a team loaded with power hitters-to get another life and win the game.

Bader wasn’t alone. The Cardinals offense continues to be a Jekyll and Hyde operation, putting runs on the board for a few innings, but then going completely silent. The pitching hasn’t been top notch either, and the extended bullpen is getting overworked early.

But Bader’s one golden trait is his defense. I am not talking about his arm. He either can’t hit the cutoff or it goes far away from its destination once it leaves his hand. He can track fly balls very well and makes those plays in his sleep. The ball was driven to the track in center, but Bader’s past promised he would get it. Two hands weren’t used but even worse, he took his eye off the ball.

All of this wouldn’t be a huge deal if he produced at the plate. Gone is the 2018 Bader, someone who collected extra base hits and added speed to the equation.

Since the beginning of the 2019 season, Bader is 74-361 at the plate. That’s bad if you don’t have a calculator on you. I do. Bader’s average since then is .204. Lot of strikeouts, little pop, and frequent misses on balls thrown way out of the strike zone.

So Bader’s defense needs to shine at all times if he is going to start, and Friday was a situation where his misplay helped the Reds win the game. He makes the catch and the game is still in hand. A 55-60 season doesn’t have time for blown saves or missed catches, especially from a guy who has serious troubles at the plate.

Cardinals fans can criticize Bader. It’s fair game. Writers like me, opinion dispensers, can take aim at his play. This doesn’t go for the people who turn vile and say very mean things about a professional athlete. Those people should all step on a hidden rake and smack themselves in the forehead. Certain fans need to realize that my job is to be impartial to these players, not getting too close to them. By “too close,” I mean allow them to make mistakes and let it slide.

This is the same thing when I review movies. I can be Frank Grillo’s biggest fan, but if he doesn’t put in good work and the film isn’t great, I will write as such. In the process, I’ll piss off Frank, but THAT’S MY JOB. If not, I am useless and should forfeit my columnist card.

Bader still got paid last night. He got fed. The team didn’t stop talking to him. Mike Shildt didn’t give him the silent treatment. Trust me on this.

There’s a big difference between crucifying a player and simply criticizing his play. It’s happened with Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter too. Some fans just have to get nasty and go after players. I prefer to use stats, game action, and past performance to gauge my opinion. That’s my way.

To all the Bader fans I hurt with my comments, I am very not sorry.

Thanks for reading and please comment, telling me how I am doing.

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