Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez apologized on Tuesday for their thumbs-down celebrations, attempting to reframe the gesture — previously identified by Baez as a way to boo Mets fans — as something other than a diss of the home crowd.
"I didn’t mean to offend anybody," Baez said. "If I offended anybody, we apologize."
Lindor said: "I'm a man. I'm accountable for my mistake, and it was a mistake by putting the thumbs down at a time when it didn't need to be. My thumb didn't need to be down. I'm sorry to everybody I offended. And the ones I didn't offend, thank you for understanding me, thank you for staying."
Lindor received a mix of boos and cheers as he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat at Citi Field on Tuesday. Baez inspired a louder, more thorough round of jeers when he pinch hit (and mild cheers when he was hit by a pitch) in the eighth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against the Marlins.
But during the Mets’ five-run ninth inning — enough to eke out a 6-5 win — Baez received some of the biggest cheers of the day. His infield single made it a one-run game with two outs. Then he scored from first on Michael Conforto’s RBI single to left, misplayed by Jorge Alfaro, a catcher Miami recently has stuck in the outfield, for the walk-off win.
"Nobody was stopping him," manager Luis Rojas said.
Conforto added: "He’s here to win. He’s here to be a big part of this team."
Baez and especially Lindor, among other Mets, have been booed at Citi Field this year amid their underperformance, as individuals and as a team. On Sunday, Baez said: "When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed. So they’re going to get booed when we get success."
He misspoke, he said.
"This is something that I’ve done in the past against other teams," Baez said. "I did it to the dugout. I might say something wrong about I was booing the fans. I really meant, ‘Boo me now.’ And not to the fans, to the dugout . . . I didn’t say the fans are bad. I love the fans. I just felt like we were alone. The fans obviously want to win and they pay our salary, like everybody says, but we want to win, too. The frustration got to us."
Added Lindor: "Thumbs-down for me means adversity we have gone through in this whole time, the negative things, we overcome it. We did it. We went over it. However, it was wrong."
Those comments from the childhood friends and recent Mets teammates came during on-field media scrums shortly before game time. Baez spoke for four minutes before getting hurried off by a Mets spokesman, Lindor for almost nine minutes before doing the same.
That happened after the Mets held a team meeting to address the issue. Rojas declined to divulge who spoke and what was said during the meeting.
"They told us to be ourselves," Baez said. "Obviously, we are going to be professional and we’re going to stop it for the love of the fans."
Owner Steve Cohen chimed in via Twitter.
"Glad to hear our players apologizing to the fans," he wrote. "Let’s get behind our players today and go out and win 2 today!"
Rojas chalked it up to a learning experience for Lindor, who previously played in Cleveland, and Baez, who until July 31 was with the Cubs, for whom he was a popular member of the 2016 World Series-winning team.
"The fans here are honest. In other places, they're very honest but they keep to themselves a little bit more, kind of like me," Lindor said. "Here, I have a lot of respect for people. They're very honest and they let you know right away. As soon as I come down [to the dugout], I sucked, I made an error, they'll let me know. 'You sucked!' What can I say? What am I, getting into an argument? No, that's not right."
Baez said: "The fans are gonna be the fans. That’s something we can’t control. If they boo the team or they boo me, I can accept it."
For Baez, a relationship with the Mets’ fan base might not be important. He is a free agent after this season.
For Lindor, it is a little more complicated. His 10-year, $341 million contract — signed on the eve of Opening Day — doesn’t begin until 2022. He and the Mets are married to each other.
"I made a commitment for 10 years, and that’s what I want to do," he said. "Win. Win. I want to focus on winning. I want to focus on embracing the fans and making this organization the greatest organization. At the end of the day, I truly believe that’s the case. It has great potential to become a great organization."
Lindor said he doesn’t know how this will impact the rest of his career.
"I hope this don’t stick around," he said. "because it wasn’t meant to offend anybody, to disrespect nobody."
He added later: "I don't want to be on the wrong side of the fans. That’s not good for anybody."
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