The funniest thing about the Mets is the godly self-image of the players. Time and time again, they point out that they’re all about positivity – and if you doubt it or point out a flaw, you’re an enemy. They seem to believe that they have a right to be praised, regardless of their performance.
“Mets fans: believe in us, and don’t just believe, know,” said Pete Alonso after the Mets lost first place three weeks ago. “Just smile and know we have this. “
Most of the time, the fans play along; they want to believe in Alonso and his talented teammates. But now it has become personal, and with a wronged attitude infecting this Mets list, it was almost inevitable.
Sunday, the Mets scored a 9-4 victory over a sickly Washington Nationals team emptied by the trade. This gave them a series victory after a 2-11 streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants who exposed them as contenders. They are set to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.
But beating the Nationals made the Mets proud of themselves. They got so arrogant, in fact, that some of the players, including Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, and Kevin Pillar, decided to teach those mean fans a lesson by thumbing down customers at Citi Field.
What did this mean? Here’s how Baez explained it in his post-game virtual press conference:
“Just the boos that we get,” said Baez, who scored on Sunday and is now 0.210 as a Met. “We are not machines, we will fight. We’re going to fight seven times out of 10. It hurts when I hit and get booed – it doesn’t really hit me, but I want to let them know that when we get it right, we’ll do the same, to let them know what it feels like.
“Because if we win together we have to lose together and the fans are a huge part of that. In my case, they must be better. I play for the fans and I love the fans, but if they want to do that, they just put more pressure on the team and that’s not what we want.
Was that a boost to the fans, then?
“Yeah, I mean, to let them know that when we don’t get success we’re going to get booed, so they’re going to get booed when we get it right.” “
Baez then reiterated that he loved the fans, but added, “We can’t have our fans against us.”
On a few points, Baez was right: it’s very difficult to hit, as he knows. Of the 110 major leagues with at least 600 home plate appearances in the past two seasons, as of Saturday, he’s ranked 109th in percentage on base, at 0.269. And players are not, in fact, machines.
But neither do the fans. They boo because they want to encourage and because they expect better. Is it counterproductive, as Baez suggested? Sure. Do fans (or the media, for that matter) really understand how hard it is to be successful in the majors? Surely not.
But the big leagues, especially in demanding markets like New York, must see it as an implicit part of the deal. Major league tickets are expensive and major league salaries are generous. When a team holds the top spot for nearly three months and suddenly finds itself 63-67, like the Mets are, they should expect occasional boos.
“Mets fans, New York fans, this market, this city probably knows baseball more than any other city,” said manager Luis Rojas. “They have the right to react as they wish. And we have to understand where they come from.
Lindor, in particular, doesn’t seem to get it. He was worshiped in Cleveland, where he was a four-time All-Star known as “Mr. Smile ”and led his team to the World Series. Staying in Cleveland would have required a contract extension below market value. That wasn’t happening, so Lindor was traded to New York in January for four players, including shortstop Amed Rosario.
New Mets owner Steven Cohen soon gave Lindor a 10-year, $ 341 million contract, who responded with his worst season – an average of .224 and a .686 based plus a hitting percentage. . Rosario, meanwhile, reached .283 with a .733 OPS
Fans booed Lindor even before the end of April, and although he said he understood, he also called it “interesting” and noted that he had never been booed in Cleveland. . About a week later, after an argument with teammate Jeff McNeil in a dugout tunnel, Lindor devised a bizarre story about a rat, or maybe a raccoon, that had caught their attention.
He could have easily – and understandably – dismissed the question; Derek Jeter made it an art form to politely deflect questions he didn’t want to answer, as if he was fouling off the field to get one he could handle. But when Lindor chose a piece of obvious wrong direction, even as an attempt at humor, it was an early sign that he might be misreading his new surroundings.
Indeed booing the fans on Sunday, as articulated by his friend Baez, only confirms it.
Sandy Alderson, the president of the Mets, scrambled to control the damage on Sunday night, issuing a statement referring to Baez and stating that “any gesture by him or other players with similar intent is completely unacceptable and will not be not tolerated “.
Alderson added, “Mets fans are understandably frustrated with the team’s recent performances. The players and the organization are also frustrated, but Citi Field fans have every right to express their own disappointment. Boos are the right of all fans. The Mets will not tolerate any action by a player that is unprofessional in meaning or that is directed in a negative way towards our fans. I will meet with our players and staff to convey this message directly. “
Lindor has a full decade to assimilate this message and apply the other lessons he is learning. Baez – a poorly designed Chicago Cubs hire in a trade for top prospect, outfielder Pete Crow-Armstrong – will be a free agent this fall, as will Pillar.
Pillar (which hits .212) downplayed the affair on Twitter, claiming the team weren’t booing fans and just having fun. He also responded rudely to a user who berated him for disrespecting fans, adding the hashtag #poopootake – a favorite line from pitcher Marcus Stroman, who sells caps with the tagline for $ 35 on the website. of his clothing company.
Stroman retweeted Pillar. Then pitcher Taijuan Walker retweeted Stroman’s response to Pillar, in which Stroman – wait for it – blamed it all on the media. No one used the forum to apologize, even for a misunderstanding.
It must be exhausting to be as sensitive as the Mets players seem to be. Cohen, for one, anything but sighing on his diet. He found that spending nearly $ 200 million on a baseball roster doesn’t guarantee a title, a winning record, or even a relaxing Sunday night after a win.
“I miss the days when the biggest controversy was black jerseys,” he wrote.