Being a fan is largely a helpless venture. You choose a team, most likely at a young age, and you’re stuck with your decision for life, good or bad. Very few fans change allegiance mid-stream; chalk one up to the consistency principle. Other than not supporting their team financially en masse, there is little fans can do to change the fortunes of their team. Like being a passenger on the subway, you’re at the whim of the conductors.
In recent years, a trend has evolved to get team followers to influence the powers that be: “Free [Player's Name]“. It was started in the early 00′s by Baseball Prospectus’ Joe Sheehan:
It might be time for a grass-roots effort. Maybe we need to start a guerrilla movement, some fan- based push to get Erubiel Durazo the playing time he so richly deserves.
If you’re at a D’backs game, start chanting, “Free Erubiel Durazo!” Tear up a pillowcase and put the war cry on it in bold red letters. Call your local sports-talk station on the premise of discussing the NBA playoffs or how many letters Eric Lindros has in his alphabet, then shout the mantra to the world. E-mail sportswriters, both in Phoenix and around the country, with just three little words that will take baseball by storm.
We can do this. We can change the world, or at least the NL West.
“Free Durazo” caught on, and all of a sudden fans of any team who were displeased with the starters could send their own message. The concept is simple. Find a player on the team that isn’t receiving enough playing time who is superior to a starter and start a “Free [Player's Name]” movement.
Unfortunately, overuse quickly follows the latest trend. Witness the “jumping the shark” moment for this little endeavor: “Free Eddy Curry.” Courtesy of Newsday’s Alan Hahn:
I think there is no better time than now to play [Curry].
This isn’t about defense or rebounding. This is about space-eating and a legit low-post presence for an offense that has a point guard who is struggling to run a pick-and-roll and a marquee power forward who is struggling to be a post-up player.
So make Eddy the focal. Dump it in and let him bang and draw fouls and also use em. He has six. No way he lasts more than 20 minutes, which means he can use a foul every three minutes. Tell Timofey Mozgov to do the same and now you have 12 hard fouls in the game.
Also Frank Isola of the Daily News lobbies on Eddy’s behalf:
Donnie Walsh predicts Eddy Curry will play this year. But can he put up Mozgov numbers? Heck, I could put up Mozgov numbers. Free Eddy
It’s one thing when stat-savvy bloggers whose outsider view differs from the establishment hope to have their voices heard. It’s another when mainstream locker room writers who use the same criteria as the coach to evaluate players start stumping for their candidate. Heck they don’t have to hold up signs in the hopes that the coach will look into the stands and see them. They can just ask the coach under the guise of their day job: “Coach – don’t you think bringing in Eddy Curry for 20 minutes to bang around in the post is a good idea right about now?”
Is Eddy Curry among the 30-60 best centers in the NBA? Maybe. It depends how motivated he is, and how willing he would be to get in shape and work on his deficiencies. Having a productive season might help move his contract for a star player as well. But let’s not pretend that giving the ball to Curry in the post is a fantastic option either. Don’t forget the lack of passing out of triple teams, and the frequent offensive fouls. He won’t give you 6 fouls on the defensive end, because he’ll use 3 of them bowling over defenders.
More importantly is the misuse of the “Free [Player's Name]” idea. It shouldn’t be used for the 4th overall pick who logged nearly 13,000 minutes of craptitude before deciding to toss his career into the garbage bin behind Dunkin Donuts. It should be used for the 30th pick stuck on the bench behind said craptitude. It’s for the overlooked underdog who never got the opportunity, not the entitled and pampered that wasted multiple chances.