Alec Bohm had a rough start to his night at third base for the Phillies on Monday. In the game’s first three innings, as the Mets jumped out to an early lead in Philadelphia, Bohm made a trio of errors with his right arm. The first was forgivable, coming as it did after he charged a ball that had deflected off pitcher Ranger Suarez and landed near the mound. The second should have been much more routine, as his throw on a standard grounder to his left landed far behind first base after arriving via air mail. Then the third one, which was almost saved by Rhys Hoskins, furthered the descent into a fielder’s nightmare.
It was the moment between the second and third errors that got the most play, as Bohm got caught on camera reacting negatively to a sarcastic cheer from Phillies fans following a successful execution of a 5-3 groundout with the Mets leading by three.
“I fucking hate this place,” Bohm was filmed saying to his fellow infielder Didi Gregorious.
But baseball games are nine innings long, and as it turned out Bohm’s errors did not prevent the Phillies from winning their third of four games to open 2022. Bohm had a very nice evening for himself at the plate, getting on base in all three plate appearances on two walks and a double. After working the second of those free passes, he eventually came around to score the first in the five-run comeback eighth inning that ultimately gave the Phillies the 5-4 victory.
The win was still at least partially overshadowed, however, by Bohm’s struggles and visible frustration in the first third, which echoed the defensive issues that played a role in his getting sent down to the minors last year. To his immense credit, the 25-year-old had a mature response in the postgame, where he said “emotions got the best of me” before apologizing to the people in the crowd.
“I said it. Do I mean it? No,” Bohm said. “It’s a frustrating night for me, obviously. Made a few mistakes in the field. Look, these people, these fans, they just want to win. You heard it, we come back, they’re great. I’m just sorry to them. I don’t mean that.”
A lot of pressure is riding on Bohm at the beginning of this season. After he finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in that shortened 2020, the former third-overall pick failed to deliver on heightened expectations in 2021, slashing a paltry .247/.305/.342 without making up any of those lost offensive runs with his glove. With a younger first-rounder in Bryson Stott getting a start at the hot corner already in his rookie year, plus the possibility that new signing Nick Castellanos could move back to his old position if needed, this is a stressful and quite possibly make-or-break time in Bohm’s career.
Bohm’s manager hinted at the larger factors at play in his own postgame chat:
“I think it’s a kid that was frustrated,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “I don’t think that kid was referring to, you know, the city of Philadelphia, the fans. I think he was referring to the situation he was in. Put yourself in his shoes.”
Having reached based safely in six of six plate appearances through his first two games, Bohm is at least in some ways enjoying a great beginning to the new year. But those first three innings on Monday night are a chilling reminder of how close to the edge not just Bohm but most baseball players really are. Bohm’s lack of job security on a team hoping to slide into the playoffs and the tenuousness of the bond that ties the home fans with their team’s players only multiply the tension. Bohm’s errors, and the crowd’s response to them, and his response to their response, all threatened to snowball into something ugly. But the surprising comeback, the cheers that followed it, and Bohm’s decision to shoulder the responsibility in the locker room turned his misfortune into something happier, at least for the moment. I’ll bet that in the end, he won over a lot more fans than he would have with an anonymous night.