Before I get started, let me just say that I am delighted that Joey Rickard had such a promising Spring Training. I hope that he continues to blossom in to a successful Major League player, and I hope that he contributes to a playoff run for the 2016 season. I’m no humbug – I appreciate the fact that Rickard arrived as a Rule 5 pick, and won a starting role on a club that badly needs solutions in the outfield. This is a Good Thing. This is a good thing for the Orioles, and a good thing for baseball. These are the kind of story lines that make us love this game.
I think the enthusiasm for Joey Rickard has gone a little overboard, and has done so way too soon. The fans at Camden Yards treated Rickard like a returning All-Star. I had no issue with the warm greeting as he trotted down the Orange Carpet. Nor with the ovation he received when Orioles public address announcer asked for the stadium’s attention to recognize Rickard’s Orioles and MLB debut. This is the sign of a savvy fanbase.
But then we lost our way.
At one point during the marathon opener, fans in the lower bowl were chanting Rickard’s name as if he were Eddie Murray: Jo-ey, Jo-ey, Jo-ey, Jo-ey!!! They even did that thing that Red Sox fans do… you know, cheering when one of their favorite players makes an out… as if they are thankful just for the privilege of being present.
Look, I want Rickard to be good. And I think he’s earned playing time. But let’s not give too much away here, Birdland – make him earn it. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that Rickard is the next Manny Machado: that he is going to take the league by storm and solve all our problems in a position of need. Joey Rickard looks like he might be a good baseball player. But there will also be growing pains. There are going to be times when Joey Rickard is a very not good baseball player. And we, as a fan base, need to be able to handle that.
— Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) April 5, 2016
That means when he has his first extended slump, or a shaky couple of games in the field, we can’t turn on him. We can’t boo him (the way some did to Hyun Soo Kim this afternoon). Maybe the secret for not getting too down on him then, is to refrain from getting too high on him now. Let’s hold on the Joey Rickard hero worship. It’s a little premature.
Check back with me in October. I might be right there with you, prominently displaying my Joey Rickard Fan Club pin. But until then, I’ll remain even keel.