Sports

Mets, Javier Baez making colossal mistake waging war with fans

Javier Baez had his young son Adrian on his lap, and the kid was wearing a Mets cap, a Mets jersey, and some eye black, just like his dad. If this had all the makings of a Zoom-room charm offensive, well, it turned out to be anything but.

After crushing a 444-foot home run Sunday in his team’s 9-4 victory over the Nationals, Baez swung his heavy lumber on a most improbable target — the people in the Citi Field stands who had the audacity this month to boo the Mets while they were falling apart. Baez has been in New York for fifteen minutes, half of that time spent on the injured list, and already he has identified the real problem with this team: You.

Yeah, you, Mr. and Mrs. Met fan.

Baez explained that the players’ thumbs-down gesture following their rare big hits was actually an inside joke, meant as a clear-cut smackdown of the paying customers.

“To let them know when we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed. So they’re going to get booed when we have success,” Baez said.

What a way to celebrate a two-game winning streak — by having the home-run hero attack the fans and write his own dream tabloid headline: BAEZ TO CITY: DROP DEAD

“In my case,” the second baseman said of the fans, “they got to be better.”

Look who’s talking.

Francisco Lindor gives the thumbs-down sign.
AP

In the same inning, Baez can make a fan shout in anger and jump for joy. He can be a maddening ballplayer and a magical one at the same time, and identifying his true value between those extremes can be as hard as explaining why the Mets are where they are today, 7 ¹/₂ games behind the Braves.

But for all of his recent unforced errors — getting doubled off second by a mile, swinging at a changeup while it’s 20 feet from the plate — this one is the least forgivable. The Mets haven’t won a championship in 35 years, and they have put their fan base through one horror film after another, season after season. Things were supposed to change when Steve Cohen bought the team from Fred and Jeff Wilpon, and for three months Cohen’s club was riding high in first place.

That sudden surge of prosperity was a cruel practical joke for the fans who watched the Mets lose 19 of their first 25 August games. Those fans had every right to let Luis Rojas and the players know how they felt about that, and Rojas took the chants for his firing the way a professional should.

His players should have followed his lead. Instead Baez, Francisco Lindor, and Kevin Pillar were among the Mets who mocked the crowd with their thumbs-down foolishness. Baez made the gesture after he crossed the plate, effectively spiking the ball in the fans’ faces.

Rojas said he had no idea about any of this until a reporter informed him of Baez’s comments. The manager quickly pivoted to his only available defense — the former Cubs star is new to New York, and learning on the fly how things work in the big city.

But how can Baez not know better? He spent his entire career in Chicago, a pretty tough town, and ended more than a century of sheer misery by helping the Cubs take the 2016 World Series.

More than most, he should understand the pain of a beleaguered fan base, and what it requires to make that pain go away. Winning — nothing more or less.

In New York, you either perform or you get ripped, and the true survivors here accept that as part of the deal. All the great ones have been booed in New York, even Derek Jeter, who heard it from the Yankee Stadium crowd during a brutal hitless streak in 2004. This is what he said in response: “I would boo myself too.”

Mets
Javier Baez gives Mets fans the thumbs down.
Robert Sabo

Jeter explained that he would change nothing about the fans’ passion, and that he wanted to be held to their highest standards. He said this after he had won four of his five World Series titles.

Baez hasn’t won or done a damn thing in New York, and he already feels free to pull this low-rent stunt with his teammates, the kind that Yankees pitcher Jack McDowell pulled when he flipped the crowd the middle finger in 1995? Baez said with a straight face that he loves the fans, and likes playing for them.

Man, he’s got the funniest way of showing it.

“There’s no fighting back,” Rojas correctly said. “What you’ve got to do, especially in this business, is just work hard and give back to the fan base what they want.”

Mets fans only want a team they can be proud of. If Javier Baez can’t figure that out between now and free agency this fall, hey, don’t let the Citi Field door hit you on the way out.

nypost.com

New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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