After the Mets beat the Nationals, 9-4, on Sunday, nabbing consecutive wins for the first time in more than two weeks, Javier Baez had a message for fans: If you boo the Mets, they will boo you back.
That, according to Baez, is the sentiment behind the players’ double-thumbs-down gesture at their own dugout, a go-to celebration after big hits during the past week-plus — actions and words that drew strong condemnation from team president Sandy Alderson, who said in a statement later Sunday that he will meet with players and staff "to convey this message directly."
"These comments, and any gestures by [Baez] or other players with a similar intent, are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated," Alderson’s statement read in part. "Mets fans are understandably frustrated over the team’s recent performance. The players and the organization are equally frustrated, but fans at Citi Field have every right to express their own disappointment. Booing is every fan’s right.
"The Mets will not tolerate any player gesture that is unprofessional in its meaning or is directed in a negative way toward our fans."
Baez did the thumbs-down upon crossing the plate after his two-run home run in the fourth inning, a 444-foot blast into the second deck in left-centerfield. Francisco Lindor did it from second base after his two-run double in the eighth. And Kevin Pillar offered a meeker version after his bloop single in the sixth.
Amid the Mets’ underwhelming season, which includes an 8-19 record in August and an NL East deficit that has swelled to 7 1⁄3 games, some players have been the targets of periodic jeers from the Citi Field crowds. That includes Baez after a strikeout Saturday and Lindor, most recently, after a strikeout Sunday.
Such attention seems to have left an impression.
"We’re not machines. We’re going to struggle," said Baez, a close friend of Lindor’s who joined the Mets via trade from the Cubs on July 30. "We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. 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’re successful, we’re going to do the same thing to let them know how it feels. Because if we win together, we’re going to lose together, and the fans are a really big part of it.
"In my case, they gotta be better. I play for the fans and I love the fans, but if they’re going to do that, they’re just putting more pressures on the team. And that’s not what we want."
Wait, so the thumbs-downs are directed at the fans? "Yeah," Baez said. "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 success."
Baez was among the first to do it — perhaps the originator — with his display on Aug. 22 in Los Angeles. After collecting an RBI double in his first at-bat back from the injured list, he offered the salute toward the Mets’ dugout. "It’s just 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."
Manager Luis Rojas, the subject of chants calling for his job on Wednesday, said he did not realize that his players were booing the fans back but understood why the fans would boo.
"Javy being a new guy here, getting to know our fan base and some of the reactions that our fan base has — I see it as something that he’s learning," Rojas said. "Our fans are like that. Our fans are very passionate. And they’re going to demand the best out of everyone here — players, manager. We understand where it’s coming from. It’s always been like that. They demand the best."
All that came after a well-rounded win for the Mets (63-67), who had rallies in five separate innings with five run-scoring hits from five different players. Tylor Megill lasted five innings and held the Nationals (55-74) to two runs and one hit, the first of Josh Bell’s two homers.
Baez is among those who are scheduled to reach free agency after this season. He was noncommittal regarding his desire for a long-term deal with the team.
"The boos doesn’t bother me. It kind of makes me compete more," he said in response to a question about how he has enjoyed or not enjoyed his time in New York. "We’ll see. I would love to play with Francisco. But we’ll see what happens in the offseason when that gets there. Right now, I’m trying to focus on having a good end of the year and staying healthy."
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