Right back at you, boo birds.
The Mets’ disappointing season took a different kind of jaw-dropping turn Sunday, when Javier Baez said the new “thumbs down” sign players have been displaying on the bases is directed at the Citi Field fans.
Baez, Francisco Lindor and Kevin Pillar were among the players who turned thumbs down after delivering hits in the Mets’ 9-4 victory over the Nationals on Sunday.
Asked about the thumbs down, Baez said it was related to the boos Mets players have received. The Mets are 8-19 in August, a stretch in which they have fallen from first in the NL East to trailing the Braves by 7 ½ games.
“[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,” Baez said.
Baez blasted a two-run homer in the fourth inning and offered the thumbs-down salute. Throughout the homestand he has received smatterings of boos, following his return from the injured list. Baez, who arrived at the trade deadline from the Cubs, owns a .210/.258/.452 slash line in 17 games for the Mets.
“We are not machines, we are going to struggle,” Baez said. “We are going to struggle seven times out of 10. It just feels bad. When I strike out, I get booed, it really doesn’t get to me, but I want to let [the fans] know that when we have success we are going to do the same thing to let them know how it feels, because if we win together then we are going to lose together and the fans are really a big part of it.”
Baez was asked if he was the force behind the thumbs-down signal.
“It was my opinion — that is how I feel,” he said. “I love the fans and I like playing for the fans, but we can’t have our fans against us.”
Lindor on various occasions this season has said it “sucks” being booed. The shortstop, who received a 10-year contract extension before the season worth $341 million, has been among the team’s primary underachievers, with a .224/.317/.370 slash line in 92 games. Lindor returned on this homestand after missing more than a month with a strained right oblique. Lindor has turned thumbs down toward the crowd in recent days.
Manager Luis Rojas, who last week was serenaded to a “Fire Rojas” chant at Citi Field, indicated he was unaware of the meaning behind the thumbs-down signal.
“I didn’t know that’s what [Baez] meant,” Rojas said. “They have been doing all sorts of salutes from the dugout and … the bases. I didn’t know there was any intention of giving anything back to the fans.
“I think our job is to prepare and come out and play the best version of baseball that the fan base needs. We prepare every day as a team, as a family, we want to win for the organization, we want to win for ourselves, we want to win for our front office and owner and we want to win for our families.”
Rojas was asked if he planned to speak with Baez.
“I think it’s something we can definitely talk [about],” Rojas said. “It can be coached of course, because I want the guys focused on this and when they are focused on this they are going to give the fans what they want. This is a guy who has really good connection with fans because he’s such an exciting player.”
The Mets have a day off Monday, but play four games against the Marlins over three days to complete the homestand. Rojas defended the fans’ right to express themselves.
“Our fans are like that,” he said. “Our fans are very passionate and they are going to demand the best out of everyone here — players, manager and we understand where they are coming from. They demand the best, they demand wins and we have just got to keep working to deliver it to them and be our best. I think it’s something that [Baez] is probably getting used to and it’s his first time in another uniform.”