Is Rios done in Toronto? And that fan was a bum.

In today’s Toronto Sun, Steve Simmons says Alex Rios may have talked his way out of town, following the now infamous exchange with a fan this weekend:

” Alex Rios has turned into a $10-million embarrassment for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Never mind that he plays the outfield with a not-so-reckless indifference. Never mind that he has taken his five-tool gifts and squandered them with his lack of passion and apathy. Never mind that the hitting numbers aren’t anywhere near where they are supposed to be.

All that pales when compared with his foolish act of the other night, exchanging swear words with a fan after turning down an autograph request from a kid, at a charity event no less. Available in today’s technology for all to see on YouTube.

Whether management will see it this way or not, Rios essentially is done as a Blue Jay. Failing on the field can be accepted. Failing off the field reflects a certain lack of character. All the apologies in the world may not be able to correct that. ”

First of all, if you haven’t seen the clip, here it is:

In case there’s video trouble, here’s an excerpt:

“The way you played today, Alex, you can be lucky somebody wants your autograph,” a man shouted as Rios walked toward a waiting car.

“Who gives a f—?” Rios shouted back. “Who gives a f—?”

The same man then yelled “You’re a bum” three times. Rios responded with “F-you” and “You’re a f——idiot.”

Someone else in the crowd said: “You’re overpaid.” Another shouted: “You forget where you come from.”

Obviously, not a smart move, PR-wise, for Rios, who certainly isn’t having a great year at the plate (though reports of his struggles are overblown). But it also raises the question of heckling off the field. Like Simmons writes, it’s one thing to fail on the field, and another to fail off it. Rios should not be swearing at fans, and he should be signing autograph requests for kids.

But what gives that fan the right to heckle an athlete in public? In my opinion, it’s the same deal – Rios, and other athletes, need to accept that they will get booed during games, especially if they struggle. But to get called a bum on the street?? I mean, really? Athletes are people too, and there is no excuse for some idiot on the street getting under his skin, while expecting no response. I certainly wouldn’t heckle an office worker who messed up during the day, even if they screwed up an assignment. As ‘Duk writes on Yahoo! Sports:

“Rios is obviously frustrated with his freeswinging performance as of late, so it’s not too hard to imagine why he’d blow up at a bum on a sidewalk calling him a bum. (Honestly, I don’t really blame him for yelling back at someone who has nothing better to do than yell at athletes, though not signing for a few kids who were obviously waiting around for awhile earns him his sixth strikeout for the day.)”

Agreed, 100%, although I’m open to the argument that public figures should show restraint.

Well, Rios has apologized, though his public image will probably take a hit. Some, like Simmons and TSM, think he’s on his way out of town. Personally, I’m not sure. It’s one thing to trade a player – it’s another to trade a big contract, while that player is struggling. I would be fine with a trade, if the Jays get proper value back, but I’m not on the “he’s done in Toronto” bandwagon just yet. No comment yet from J.P. Ricciardi, and time will tell how this situation ends.

For what it’s worth, Rios had a nice day on the field today, going 2-4 with a pair of stolen bases, as the Jays knocked off Kansas City 4-0. Inspired by the “fan,” Alex?


Simmons is here.
‘Duk is here.

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Garrett Bauman
June 7, 2009 9:57 pm

Steve Simmons has a reputation as a sensationalist, so after a while you tend to expect this sort of angle from him. His column will generate a lot of hits for the Sun, and Simmons will continue to be viewed as a valuable commodity by the Sun brass because of that … no matter how baseless and speculative his point may be.

That said, articles such as this most recent one by Mr. Simmons, which are written in a reactionary (e.g. shoot first and ask questions later) tone seem to be rapidly becoming the rule as opposed to the exception, especially in sports reporting. The problem is, articles of the reactionary nature tend to be devoid of fact … even though they purport to be factual (“x will happen” as opposed to “I think x might happen”), despite all evidence to the contrary. That sort of tabloid journalism, and its increasing presence, is in my personal view a huge problem in newspapers today.

In Steve Simmons’ case, I find it a bit odd that someone who has been around the sports scene for as long as he has would call Rios’ actions embarrassing (which they are) but then proceed to make the logical leap that Rios is definitely on his way out of town because he … oh my goodness … swore in public. Sure, his actions are unacceptable, but by the same token they hardly justify such extreme action as Mr. Simmons suggests.

Fact is, a player won’t get traded just because he let a fan get under his skin. Perhaps Mr. Simmons should do a little research into just how many athletes have been traded because they did something embarrassing to their team in public. Especially when said athlete has a previously-clean record of behaviour.

Unless there is some new law against cursing in public that no one else seems to know about, Rios’ actions are really not that big of a deal. He swore at a fan, in front of a kid, which is definitely not cool from an ethical perspective. But from a legal perspective, where is the criminal offense?

What I’m saying is, it’s rather ironic how the moral police will dust off their keyboards when a player they don’t like to begin with does something embarrassing, and yet fail to notice what happens to players players caught cheating with illegal drugs, or pulled over on DUI charges, or domestic abuse cases. It’s hardly plausible to suggest a guy should be sent packing for verbally losing his cool, when the majority of players who commit far more serious offences – as in those which are a violation of the law – are offered second chances by their respective teams, and respective fan bases.

Myself, I believe that writers – even when writing opinion columns – should be held to a higher standard than they currently are. Many want to make bold proclamations in order to generate readership and create some buzz around their publication, which is fine … but is it too much to ask for these guys to provide a little evidence to back up their point? It’s not just Mr. Simmons … I’m using his article as an example in this case, but truth be told this sort of thing is rampant in all kinds of media these days. The way I see it, if a writer wants to be viewed as an expert, or someone with greater knowledge than the average fan, then perhaps that writer should provide a little context in their reports, rather than simply stating a point of view but offering little support to justify that point of view. Otherwise, that reporter is just another guy.

There’s a reason that sports blogs are really taking off these days, many generating more hits per month than the columns of some of the more notorious columnists. People are sick of baseless points of view, and want some actual discussion, and context, in regard to whatever the topic of the moment happens to be. Traditional media is losing that in favor of the sensationalistic approach. The majority of fans do not want blanket statements such as “he is on his way out” … rather, they want thoughtful, insightful discussion, in this case asking the question “should he be on his way out?” would be far more preferable, far more contextual, and far more thought-provoking.

I don’t think that sort of approach is too much to ask for from writers who are deemed professionals within their field. Then again, I’m not a professional writer … I’m just a fan, so what the heck do I know, right?

June 8, 2009 7:54 am

This brings about the Seinfeld story angle .. somebody should just go around an heckle Simmons and see how quickly he drops the f-bomb.

That “fan” is a jerk ..

Al from Burlington
Al from Burlington
June 8, 2009 10:03 am

I think a share of pro athletes, actors, musicians, politicians are all guilty of acting like this at some point in their careers. The recording technology and instant internet access that exists today captures these moments for all too see.

I remember years ago seeing a boxing match with Billy the Kid Irwin at the Constellation Hotel. There were a bunch of Maple Leafs and Don Cherry in the audience. Some drunks started railing on Tie Domi and his reaction was a lot worse than what Rios did.

June 8, 2009 11:08 am

From watching the video I’m unclear what the hecklers motivation was. If he was waiting around just to heckle Rios in public as he left a charity event then yeah he’s a jerk. From the video it seems like the fan became angered by Rios’ refusal to sign an autograph for a kid. If I saw somebody being rude to a kid I might have a hard time biting my tongue as well.

June 8, 2009 11:09 am

Rios should put up or shut up

The fallout would have been alot worse in a major baseball market,at least a fan was showing a pulse

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