By Jim Caple
Page 2

Baseball is a fickle sport. One summer you're kneeling down in front of a player and chanting "We're not worthy." The next you're kneeling down in front of a player's car and slashing his tires.

Such was the case for Red Sox fans this week when Johnny Damon apparently made his return to Fenway for the first time since signing with the Yankees (I say apparently, because it was hard to find any mention of this event in the mainstream media with its notorious Midwest bias). What do you do when a player you applauded so heartily suddenly signs with the enemy? It's easy to say that you should show your appreciation for his past performance and wish him the best of luck in the future, but it's a little like catching your spouse sleeping with The Boss. No matter how fond the memories are from your honeymoon you're still going to hire a damn good divorce lawyer.

This was never an issue in the days before free agency. Back then, when a player changed teams (and despite conventional wisdom, they did so nearly as often as they do now), it was never at his wishes -- so if Duke Snider wound up in a Giants uniform, or Juan Marichal finished his career wearing Dodgers blue (as indeed they did), it wasn't their fault.

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So … to boo, or not to boo? Here's the basic rule of thumb. You never boo a player on your own team for a poor performance as long as he's trying his best. So what if he signed a $64 million contract and swings the bat like Robert De Niro in "Bang the Drum Slowly"? As long as he's giving it his all, you can't hold the money against him.

And after that? What about players who leave your team for another? Just plug the proper numbers into the baseball booing index:

• Add one point for every season he played for your team.

• Add two points for every season you punched his name on an All-Star ballot.

Johnny Damon
Elise Amendola/AP Photo
Most Boston fans decided that Damon deserved to be booed mercilessly.

• Add three points for every pennant he helped your team win.

• Add four points for every world championship he helped your team win.

• Add five points for every replica jersey/specialized T-shirt of his you ever bought.

• Add six points for every replica jersey/specialized T-shirt of his that is still hanging in your closet.

• Add seven points for every replica jersey/specialized T-shirt you still wear.

Now come the negative points …

• Subtract one point if he left your team via free agency.

• Subtract two points if he left via free agency even though your team made him a reasonable offer.

• Subtract three points if he left via free agency even though your team offered him more money.

• Subtract four points if he ever requested or demanded a trade (in the case of Manny Ramirez, a maximum of 12 points is possible in this category).

• Subtract five points if he signed with a last-place team that offered the most money even though he previously stated that the most important thing in his decision would be whether the team could win the pennant.

• Subtract six points if he's been arrested/testified before a grand jury.

• Subtract seven points if he was convicted/lied to a grand jury.

• Subtract eight points if he ever used any of the following lines at his press conference:

"I really wanted to re-sign with my old team but they didn't show me respect."

"I wanted to play for a winner."

"I just wanted to be closer to my family."

"It wasn't about the money."

• Subtract nine points if he appeared in the movie "Fever Pitch."

• Subtract 10 points if he signed with a team that wears pinstripes, plays in the Bronx and is owned by George Steinbrenner.

Now just punch the numbers into a calculator. If the result is greater than zero, no jeers are warranted. Just tip your cap and wish him well with his new team. If the result is less than zero, feel free clear your throat, load up on the rotten tomatoes and let him have it. If he doesn't like it, he shouldn't have hired Scott Boras as his agent.

Joel Pineiro
Ted S. Warren/AP Photo
Joel Pineiro, didn't get a strikout or walk a batter, but he got the win.

BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
You don't see lines like the one Seattle starter Joel Pineiro produced Monday night very often:

9 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

A complete game without any strikeouts is pretty rare. But a complete game without any strikeouts or walks? According to Elias, the last time a pitcher pulled that off was in 1994 when Pedro Astacio did it. The last American Leaguer to do it was Bill Wegman in 1992.

LIES, DAMN LIES AND STATISTICS
How old is Julio Franco, who recently became the oldest player in major league history to hit a home run? He's older than two players in the Hall of Fame, Ryne Sandberg and Kirby Puckett, and just two months younger than a third (Wade Boggs). … Through May 2, Albert Pujols has as many home runs as the entire Royals roster (14) and Bronson Arroyo has more home runs (2) than Adrian Beltre (1). … As alert reader Don Alpern points out, one month and 105 plate appearances into the season, Jeff Francoeur still hasn't walked. He has just 11 career walks in 362 plate appearances.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com and the author of "The Devil Wears Pinstripes." You can order the book, reach Jim or read the new chapters of "24 College Avenue" at his recently re-designed Web site, jimcaple.com.




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THE BOOING INDEX