Rays Fan: J.C. Romero Grabbed Me By The Neck

Rays fans didn’t exactly go crazy for the World Series rematch with the Phillies at the Trop this week — they didn’t get a crowd that topped 21,000. But one Rays fan got his money’s worth down by the Phils’ bullpen, and ended up getting allegedly smacked around by J.C. Romero.

J.C. Romero

Romero, if you didn’t know, was the winning pitcher in the deciding game of the Series last year, then was suspended for 50 games this year for testing positive for androstenedione during the 2008 season. He and some other Phillies were approached by 25-year-old Robert Eaton for autographs, but after brushing him off Eaton yelled out to Romero something about him “getting some juice” instead. J.C. didn’t take too kindly to that, but after reading the whole story I’m not so sure that Eaton doesn’t come off looking like the bigger idiot.

The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES explains what happened after Eaton’s clever retort:

Romero snapped, Eaton said, telling him to “shut the f—- up” and that he didn’t know what he was talking about.

Eaton said he replied that Romero was the one who’d been suspended recently.

“He reared back and kinda grazed my chin and grabbed me by the neck and threw me back,” Eaton said. “I was in shock.”

Eaton’s lawyer, James Magazine, said he was retained late Friday afternoon and hasn’t had time to investigate the case.

“I don’t feel what I said was wrong,” Eaton said. “I feel if you cheat the game you’re going to hear it from people. He brought that on himself. I just can’t believe that a professional athlete would cross the line.”

OK, I understand that Romero should expect to get some crap now and then about this, but I love how the fan thinks that he can just yell whatever he wants at another human being from a few feet away and expect the guy not to react in some way. Eaton of course has tons of courage to say something like that when he assumes he’s protected by the imaginary line between fan and athlete, but I wonder if he’d say the same thing to him in the parking lot after the game.

It also looks like Eaton was the one who alerted police to the matter. Again, I understand that Romero should have kept right on walking, but if Eaton can’t handle a “shut the f— up” and a shove, maybe he shouldn’t provoke people.

Besides, Romero’s reaction is somewhat consistent with his assertion that his positive test was from ingesting an over-the-counter supplement he got at GNC and that he’s sick of being equated with those who used steroids. In fact, Romero is suing the maker of the supplement and GNC for his lost wages. He might not win that case (he apparently didn’t call MLB’s hotline to see if the supplement was OK to take), but it seems as if he’s pretty serious about not being seen as a cheater.

Again, this isn’t meant to excuse Romero’s behavior, as athletes are held to a higher standard than fans in exchanges like this, but it certainly seems understandable to me that he might react this way, and it’s pretty weak stuff from Eaton to try and turn this into some international incident. I feel worse for that kid who got run over by Big Baby Davis.