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Pirates fans will get true test of nerves

| Thursday, June 3, 2004

Hell hath no fury like a sports fan scorned, which helps explain the anticipation of the return of Raul Mondesi.

Dire personal problems apparently resolved and his Pirates contract terminated, Mondesi has signed on with the Anaheim Angels, who by quirk of Interleague scheduling, visit PNC Park for three games beginning June 15.

Already there are grand plans being hatched to greet the ex-Pirate. A spectator at a weekend game overheard a few young men behind him discussing what would be easier to smuggle into the ballpark -- batteries were one option debated -- to hurl at Mondesi.

This is extreme sickness. We can only hope those fans, who claimed already to have purchased their tickets, were more talk than action.

If they exercise but a sliver of rational thought, those guys and all others feeling anger toward Mondesi, will settle for raining boos and cat calls on the former Pirate.

Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon, while professing no ill will toward Mondesi last week, had been understanding that the fans might feel miffed, and he encouraged them to express that vocally.

"They have every right to be (ticked) off," he'd said. "When he comes here, I hope they boo the (crap) out of him."

Note, please, that McClendon did not say to rain potentially dangerous objects on Mondesi.

A little booing won't hurt, although even on this front Pirates fans have not shown particularly good judgment.

Amidst jeering Chicago Cubs pitchers for plunking Pirates batters during four games last week, fans saved some vocal ammunition for one-time Pirate Aramis Ramirez. His perceived offense was to have been traded to the Cubs last season in a salary dump by the Pirates.

Allow me to re-iterate. Ramirez didn't bolt as a free agent. He didn't lobby publicly to be traded. He didn't quit the team. He was dealt away because the Pirates needed to prune salary, and he was a young talent most teams would want to have.

This Ramirez treatment could explain why Brian Giles, prior to playing at PNC Park with San Diego last month, wondered what sort of reception he'd receive. Ordinarily, such speculation would have been ridiculous. Giles had been productive and popular here. While he didn't dig in his heels and buck the trade, he was shipped out of town by the Pirates. The team had the final say. He didn't leave as a free agent. Still, Giles wasn't sure what to expect.

To their credit, Pirates fans treated Giles better than they have Ramirez. His reception was generally warm.

Barry Bonds is an example of the other extreme. Because he's a generally unlikable person, and because he left the Pirates for more green with San Francisco, Pirates fans feel jilted by Bonds. He will be booed every time he returns to play the Pirates.

The rough treatment of Bonds likely is accentuated by the fact the Pirates haven't fielded a winner since he departed. Jealousy and frustration are powerful motivators.

Pirates fans in general have become restive through this run of 11 consecutive losing seasons. They are quicker to boo the home team, too, or even to chide the likes of general manager Dave Littlefield, as one fan did from the stands Monday while Littlefield sat in the press box.

It is into this cauldron of emotion that Mondesi will be plunked, unless he's bailed out by another personal matter.

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