Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It's a Shame the Eck Gets So Much Heck

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

It's a Shame the Eck Gets So Much Heck

Article excerpt

Dennis Eckersley has won 192 games and saved 342 in a Hall of Fame career. With those kind of numbers, he's used to hearing applause from the home crowd. Even last year in Oakland, when Eckersley began hanging sliders, the fans hung with him. No malice, just polite silence.

Boo Eckersley in Oakland?

That's like hissing at Ozzie Smith in St. Louis.

The Eck doesn't have a history here. He's some other city's antique. He's 41, near the end of his journey, not as sharp. He's viewed as an alien from the inferior planet, the American League.

He's being treated like an old pet that manager Tony La Russa dragged in from Oaktown. That's a shame.

Suddenly, Eckersley is the Bruce Springsteen song, "Glory Days."

Eck . . . or Yeck? Serenaded with jeers as he got yanked from the July 28 home game against Montreal, Eck made matters worse by aiming a choice bleep word or two at dissatisfied customers near the Cardinals dugout. Wrong move.

Thursday night, Eckersley got smacked for San Francisco's winning homer in extra innings. Sunday, when Eck made the long walk from the bullpen to weave his 19th save - closing the deal for starter Donovan Osborne in a 5-3 victory over the Giants - the boos thundered down on him again.

"That's life," he said. "Nobody likes to hear that. But I can't take it personally. This is more of a thing like `you're killing us.' It's a part of the business that you don't like. But it's a game of results. That's life."

Still: can we all just get along?

"Maybe I need to get a haircut," Eckersley said.

Like him or not, Eckersley will be the closer. The booing may drain some confidence, but hostility won't drive him away, or force La Russa's hand. At this stage, the Cardinals don't have realistic options. It's Eck or bust. And it's probably a good idea for all parties to settle down.

"I'm feeling a helluva lot more pressure these days," Eckersley said. "I don't feel real comfortable pitching right now. I'm just being honest."

This is not healthy. "There will be a lot more pressure in September. Crunch time," Eckersley said. "And if I don't do the job, I'm going to feel worse than anybody."

Bulletin: Eckersley has saved 19 games in 22 opportunities, the third-best percentage (86) in the NL. He's blown only one save chance since April 8. This is better than, say, Mike Perez or Rene Arocha.

The Cardinals have established a tradition of excellence with their closers. …

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