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Unfair ball: Cheers for James Shields not equal to earlier boos

White Sox pitcher James Shields smiles as he walks off the field against the Angels on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif. He gave up two hits in a 1-0 loss. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

When James Shields struggled in his first start for the White Sox on June 8, fans treated him like the spawn of Satan, booing him as he walked off the mound. He was, those boos said, everything that was wrong with the Sox.

I wrote a column pointing out how harsh the reaction was to a veteran pitcher making his debut on the South Side. Yes, he was godawful in that game, giving up seven earned runs and three home runs in two-plus innings of work.

And he was godawful in several starts after that. But I had wondered out loud where fans could possibly go with Shields after that initial booing. Was there any room in their collective conscience for shame if he somehow, against all odds, he bounced back from one poor start?

If there are thought bubbles above Sox fans’ heads right now, they are reading: “Booing? I don’t remember any booing.’’

In his last five starts, Shields is 2-2 with a 2.43 earned-run average. In his last start, a 1-0 loss to the Angels, he gave up one run and two hits in eight innings.

Judging by the abuse I took for suggesting that Sox fans had treated Shields poorly and judging by their silence since Shields has turned things around, I would say that that the cheering has not come close to reaching the same decibel levels as the booing. And that’s not fair.

Many Sox fans didn’t like the June trade that brought Shields to Chicago from the Padres. A team that had started off so hot was struggling because of a decided lack of hitting and relief pitching. Fans didn’t seem to think another starter was what the Sox needed. Fair enough.

But the response to Shields’ successes doesn’t seem proportional to the ugly response to his failures. And that, baseball fans, is not fair at all.