Javier Baez #23 of the Mets reacts after hitting a...

Javier Baez #23 of the Mets reacts after hitting a two run home run during the bottom of the fourth inning of a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on August 29, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Dustin Satloff

The Mets are into Francisco Lindor for $341 million, and it might take that much to re-sign Javier Baez in the offseason.

Is it too much to ask that those two don’t rip Mets fans, especially after hitting big home runs in rare Mets victories?

Baez, in the moments after contributing a two-run home run in a 9-4 win over the Nationals on Sunday at Citi Field, was explaining a "thumbs-down" signal he and other players have been giving after getting hits.

It may go down as one of the most exceptional explanations in Mets history. It should go down as one of the reasons Steve Cohen — who wears his Mets fandom on his expensive sleeves — should let Baez get his money elsewhere in the offseason.

"The boos that we get — we’re not machines," Baez said. "We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. It just feels bad when I strike out and I get booed. It doesn’t really get to me, but I want to let them know . . . how it feels."

More Baez: "If we win together, then we’ve got to lose together. The fans are a really big part of it. In my case, they’ve got to do better . . . If they’re going to do that, they’re just putting more pressure on the team. That’s not what we want."

Still more Baez: "[The thumbs-down signal is] 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."

 

Mets president Sandy Alderson made it clear in a statement later Sunday night that such gestures directed toward the fans "will not be tolerated." Alderson reaffirmed that fans have "every right to express their own disappointment. Booing is every fan’s right."

Baez has been a Met since July 31. He is batting .210 with four home runs and 22 strikeouts in 17 games and missed time with an injury.

It’s not entirely Baez’s fault, of course, but the Mets were six games over .500 and had a 3½-game lead in the NL East when they picked up Baez from the Cubs. After Sunday, they are five games under .500 and are in third place, 7½ games behind Atlanta. They have dropped like a stone in the standings. Forgive Mets fans if they are a little cranky.

Baez, who admitted he came up with the thumbs-down thing, has played below his considerable talent on a team that suffered an epic collapse.

And Mets fans are not allowed to boo?

Baez’s comments were reminiscent of his buddy Lindor, who after hitting a grand slam on July 9 was asked what he was thinking as he rounded the bases.

"I was just listening to see if I was going to get booed," he said.

Wait, what? You’re a very well-compensated 27-year-old who has spent most of the season batting around .220 — and when you hit a grand slam for a team that at the time was in first place, you’re thinking about past boos from the fans, not about the joy of that moment?

And Baez, who is 28 and making $11.6 million this season, decides to take a shot at the paying customers after hitting a 444-foot home run in one of the team’s biggest offensive explosions in weeks?

That’s what they are thinking about? That’s where their focus is?

Amazin’. And not in a good way.

Are Mets fans tough? Yes. Lindor was booed on Sunday after striking out in the sixth inning. The Mets were winning 7-3 at the time. It’s surprising there weren’t more happy thoughts floating around the ballpark.

But Lindor and Baez are not the first players to come to New York and not initially catch on with fans.

Mike Piazza was booed when he struggled in his first weeks with the Mets. Tino Martinez was booed when he tried to replace Don Mattingly on the Yankees. But they soon produced and turned it around. Now try to get a fan of either team to not completely swoon over the mere mention of both iconic players.

You know why? Because they were great. Because they won.

And because they did not rip the fans. That’s a fight Baez and Lindor should never have taken on, and one they can’t — and shouldn’t — win.

You pay your money, you can boo or cheer as you see fit. It’s that simple.

"I love the fans and I like playing for the fans," Baez said. "But we can’t have our fans against us."

Yeah. Good luck with that now.