Work in Sports
Fans say Rocker demotion may be a good thing
Posted: Tuesday June 06, 2000 02:09 AM
ATLANTA (AP) -- Braves fans won't be able to cheer John Rocker, at least for a while.
The Atlanta reliever, struggling on the mound and under fire again for threatening a reporter, was demoted to the minors before Monday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
While Rocker received a standing ovation every time he pitched at Turner Field, some fans supported the Braves' decision to send Rocker to Triple-A Richmond.
"I'm glad he's gone," said Barry Blair of suburban Fayetteville. "A professional athlete should be able to conduct himself in a professional manner. After all, they are role models for our children."
The move came one day after Rocker's heated confrontation with Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman, who wrote a story detailing the pitcher's derogatory comments against gays, foreigners and minorities.
"He's got to deal with some consequences here," said Creighton Kelly of LaGrange. 'The Braves have done all they can to let him work his way out of this. He needs to have some discipline.'
The Braves said Rocker was sent to the minors to work on his control, not as punishment for Sunday's incident. He has 25 walks in 18 1-3 innings. The threats against Pearlman resulted in a $5,000 fine.
"He needs to work on his control, so maybe this is a good idea," Rhoda Wells of LaGrange said.
"It's the kind of move that may help him until it all dies down," added Anne Powers of Alpharetta, "especially since he hasn't been pitching very well."
Mike Ewing of Peachtree City noted that Rocker has 10 saves in 11 chances and his ERA is a respectable 3.93.
"They shouldn't do anything about him," Ewing said. "He's doing a good job."
Bo Rutledge, who came to the game from Shreveport, La., said Rocker shouldn't have to go to the minors to work on his control after saving 38 games a year ago -- one short of the franchise record.
"It won't do any good to send him down," Rutledge said. "If they want to get rid of him, they ought to send him away, trade him. But, no, I don't think they should get rid of him."
In New York, fans were disappointed that Rocker may not be with the Braves when the team starts a four-game series against the Mets on June 29.
Last year, Rocker maintained a verbal war with New Yorkers through both the NL championship series against the Mets and the World Series against the Yankees. And many of his derogatory comments in Pearlman's story were aimed at the city's residents.
"Mets fans are going to be real disappointed," said Ted Bajek, attending Monday night's Mets-Baltimore game. "But he's got to take his medicine some time. When he does, we'll be here to see it."
Rocker is required to stay in the minors only 10 days, but Mets reliever Turk Wendell predicted it will be longer than that.
"If I had to bet, I'd bet he wouldn't be here when the Braves come to town. They don't need that kind of distraction," Wendell said. "He's an idiot. Let him grow up and mature a little bit, on and off the field."
Earlier this season, New York released Rickey Henderson -- a persistent problem to Mets management. Wendell felt the Braves were sending a message about Rocker's conduct.
"The Braves are a first-class organization, a classy organization," Wendell said. "He hasn't handled himself in a first-class manner in any way, shape or form. Before, he could get away with it because he was pitching well. Now, he can't."