Playing for the New York Mets is not a job for the faint of heart. As well as the cruel losses, inexplicable collapses and long history of mismanagement there’s the fact that Mets fans have been known to boo their own players with the season barely a few weeks old.
Antipathy from fans has been particularly strong in the last few weeks, when the Mets went from leading the NL East to seeing their playoff chances all but end after losing 12 of 14 games. They have corrected matters slightly with two victories in a row over the severely depleted Washington Nationals, but during Sunday’s game three of their players adopted a, shall we say, debatable approach to winning the crowd over: they flashed the thumbs down gesture at fans.
Javier Báez, who belted a home run during the Mets’ win, was one of the players to make the sign, and explained the reasoning to reporters after the game.
“It feels bad when I strike out and I get booed. 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 [fans] know how it feels,” Baez told reporters. “They got to be better. I play for the fans and love the fans. If they’re going to do that, they’re going to put more pressure on the team.”
Báez joined the Mets earlier this summer and, after Sunday’s comments, may be leaving in the near future. His close friend and teammate Francisco Lindor also gave fans the thumbs down, although he appears to be in a long-term toxic relationship: he signed a 10-year, $341m contract with the Mets in April. Part of Lindor’s appeal to the team was his positive attitude and ability to deal with the pressure that comes with playing in one of the world’s largest sports markets.
“When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed,” Báez added. “So [the fans] are going to get booed when we get success.”
Báez had previously played his entire career among the more supportive fanbase of the Chicago Cubs. Mets manager Luis Rojas said the 28-year-old would have to deal with the atmosphere in New York.
“I think it’s something he’s probably getting used to, it’s the first time he’s had another uniform,” said Rojas. “He’s seen some of these things in his time here, probably that’s why he’s sharing, he’s venting. It’s a learning experience. There’s different guys that have probably felt that way coming into here and not performing immediately. They learn how to deal with it and they know where the fanbase is coming from.
“[Fans] have the right to react however they want. Especially Mets fans, New York fans, this market, this city knows baseball probably more than any other city. They have the right to react however they want, and we got to understand where they’re coming from. Our job is to be ready everyday to give them the best baseball.”
Báez and Lindor are not the first Mets to flash digits at their own fans. In 2017, the team’s own mascot turned on the crowd after someone insulted his (presumably fictional) mother.
The only other player Met to join in with the gesture on Sunday was Kevin Pillar, who was hit in the face by a pitch earlier this season and upon his return had become something of a cult hero among Mets fans. Until Sunday at least.