The president of the New York Mets said Sunday that it was “unacceptable” for his players to give home fans a thumbs-down gesture, as some of them did during a win over the Washington Nationals.
Báez, who came over from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline July 30 — when the Mets were held a 3.5-game lead in the National League East — shared his remarks with reporters after making the gesture following a fourth-inning home run Sunday. That helped New York to just its ninth victory since he arrived, against 19 losses.
In that disastrous span, the Mets have fallen to 7.5 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves, and the fans at Citi Field have not been shy about expressing their displeasure. Báez wasn’t the only one in his dugout Sunday to attempt some retribution.
The Mets’ Francisco Lindor, reportedly a close friend of Báez, and Kevin Pillar also gave fans a thumbs-down after getting key hits in the game.
“We’re not machines,” said Báez, who entered Sunday batting .207 as a Met, with three home runs, five RBI and 20 strikeouts. “We’re going to struggle. We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. And, you know, it just feels bad.
“When I strike out and I get booed,” the 28-year-old continued, “it doesn’t really get to me. But I want to let them know that when we have success, we’re going to do the same thing to let them know how it feels. If we win together, then we’ve got to lose together, and the fans are a big part of it. They’ve got to be better. I play for the fans, and I love the fans. If they’re going to do that, they’re just putting more pressure on the team, and that’s not what we want.”
Later on Sunday evening, the Mets shared a statement from Alderson in which he said, “These comments [by Báez], and any gestures by him or other players with a similar intent, are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
“Mets fans are understandably frustrated over the team’s recent performance,” the 73-year-old Alderson wrote. “The players and the organization are equally frustrated, but fans at Citi Field have every right to express their own disappointment. Booing is every fan’s right.
“The Mets will not tolerate any player gesture that is unprofessional in its meaning or is directed in a negative way toward our fans.”
Alderson added that he planned to “convey this message directly” in meetings with players and staff.
“Our fans are like that,” Mets Manager Luis Rojas said. “Our fans are very passionate, and they’re going to demand the best out of everyone here — players, manager. We understand where it’s coming from. It’s always been like that. …
“They have the right to react however they want. Especially Mets fans, New York fans, this market, this city that knows baseball,” Rojas continued. “ … We’ve got to understand where they’re coming from.”
"They've got to be better," Javier Báez said of the Mets' fan base.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) August 29, 2021
His full comments on the team deciding to "boo" back at fans: pic.twitter.com/EgoMXhzZcD
Lindor and Pillar are also in their first seasons with the Mets. Pillar, 32, was signed as a free agent in the offseason to a two-year, $6.5 million contract, while the 27-year-old Lindor was acquired in a blockbuster January trade with the Cleveland Indians.
Shortly before the season began, Lindor agreed to a 10-year, $341 million contract extension with the Mets. A four-time all-star in Cleveland, he has gotten off to a rough start in New York. Lindor entered Sunday’s game batting .224, with 36 RBI, 64 strikeouts and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .687.
When the team traded for Báez, in a package that sent 2020 first-round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong to the Cubs, the Mets were expected to try to re-sign the veteran infielder, whose contract ends after the season. Now it appears unlikely that both sides will want a second year, although there is still time for the team to turn things around as dramatically as they went south.
If Báez and the Mets can somehow stage a late run to the postseason — a scenario to which FanGraphs gives just 2.5 percent odds of coming to pass — then they will have crowds at Citi Field cheering wildly. More of the same, though, and it’s not out of the question that the scene in Queens could turn even uglier.
“I love the fans and I like playing for the fans,” Báez said. “But we can’t have our fans against us.”
“Mets fans are loyal, passionate, knowledgeable and more than willing to express themselves,” Alderson subsequently wrote. “We love them for every one of these qualities.”
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