Memo to Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and all other athletes playing for professional sports teams based in the New York area: picking a battle with your fanbase is a no-win proposition.
Mets second baseman Baez, who was acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs on July 30, and Lindor, a shortstop who came to the ballclub in January in a deal with the Cleveland Indians and was then signed to a 10-year, $341 million contract at the end of March, the highest in franchise history, grew exasperated with being jeered by the team’s faithful followers as they struggled at the plate and the team fell in the standings.
So the longtime friends concocted a thumbs down gesture as a counter, flashing it to the Citi Field crowd on the rare occasions they executed an impactful hit. Curiosity was heightened when Baez crushed a 444-foot homer in Sunday’s 9-4 win at home over the Washington Nationals then displayed the cryptic signal again. Those outside of the Mets’ inner-circle were unaware what their demonstration exemplified until Baez’s revelation after the game.
“[It’s] to let [fans] know when we don’t have success we are going to get booed, so they are going to get booed when we have success,” he shockingly said. The ill-conceived act of antagonizing loyal supporters who have endured another season of disappointment was met with rightful anger. On Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field where the Mets and Marlins continued a game delayed by rain on April 11, Baez entered as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning to loud catcalls and fans giving him his own thumbs down dis.
But emotions are fluid, and while all is not forgiven, winning changes hearts and minds. Baez was unsurprisingly cheered when he scored the game-ending run in the ninth inning to give the Mets a 6-5 comeback victory. “I didn’t say the fans are bad, I love the fans, but like, I just felt like we were alone,” he said before the Mets overcame a 5-1 deficit.
“The fans obviously want to win, and they pay our salary like everybody says, but like, we want to win, too, and the frustration got to us. And, you know, I didn’t mean to offend anybody, and if I offend anybody, we apologize.”
Lindor was also publicly contrite, well aware that Mets owner Steve Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson had categorically rejected the players’ rebuke of fans. “I have sucked at times, and I haven’t done my part when it comes to the offensive side,” said Lindor. “We’re playing the game. We’re trying to win. We’re trying to do whatever it takes to win and represent the organization the right way.”
Baez and Lindor will have to pick up their production if the Mets are going to threaten for the division title or a wild card spot and make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Baez was batting just .227 since coming over to his new team with four home runs and eight RBI. Lindor was at .221 in 339 at-bats with 11 homers and 38 RBI prior to last night’s game.
Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over the Marlins was the Mets’ third in a row. It was only their third three-game winning streak since mid-June. They were 65-67 heading into last night’s (Wednesday) game against the Marlins, trialing the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East by six and three games respectively. Following the conclusion of tonight’s series finale with Miami, the Mets will travel to Washington to meet the Nationals for five games tomorrow through Sunday.