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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Rieber: Javier Baez sends right message at just right time for Mets

New York Mets' Javier Baez hits a single

New York Mets' Javier Baez hits a single during the second inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

"We have to get our act together soon," rookie Mets owner Steve Cohen Tweeted during the fifth inning of the Mets’ game on Tuesday night.

The Mets went on to lose.

It wasn’t until the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s game in Miami that the Mets answered the owner’s call.

And it was the team’s prize deadline day acquisition, Javier Baez, who hit a home run that will be remember fondly for years should the Mets win the NL East this season.

 

(Or that will be mostly forgotten if they blow it, which they still might.)

The Mets were searching for a hero when Baez took a low and outside pitch and muscled it over the rightfield fence to snap a 3-3 tie in a game that appeared until that moment to be heading into a maddening place for the struggling visitors, who had taken a rare-for-them early 3-0 lead and then watched it go poof against the Triple-A quality Marlins.

But powered by Baez, the Mets went on to snap a three-game losing streak with an 5-3 victory. They maintained a 1½-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East knowing that they will face Joe Girardi’s squad this weekend in Philadelphia after Thursday afternoon’s series finale in Miami.

As of Thursday, the Mets have been in first place for 105 days total and 89 in a row. Baez has been here for five of those days.

Baez, who had been 3-for-17 as a Met when he went deep, showed off all of his wondrous skills on Wednesday night.

He scored the Mets’ second run in the second inning with a deft slide in which he pulled back his left hand and brushed the plate with his right hand to avoid a tag by Miami catcher Alex Jackson -- even though the throw had him beat.

"I just switched my hands," Baez said. "I don’t really know how to explain it."

There is no way what Baez did on that slide can be taught. It’s talent and instinct and genius and is the same reason some people can write sonnets and some people can sing beautifully and some people can paint like a master.

Baez’s talents just happen to be on the baseball field, which is why (prediction alert, clip and save) Cohen will probably fall all over himself to give the free-agent-to-be a $300-million plus contract after the season, just as he did with Francisco Lindor at a time when there were no other bidders.

Cohen inserted himself into Mets’ fans misery on Tuesday night when he issued a modern-day Steinbrenner-esque statement that included disapproval with the way his team was playing.

It was in the fifth inning of the Mets’ eventual 5-4 loss to the Marlins. The Mets were trailing 4-1 and Cohen fired off his Tweet that disclosed his dinner companion (his daughter Sophia) and the same worries about his beloved team as any other fan.

"Keep me up on the game," he posted. "I’m out at dinner with @sophiarosecohen. Game doesn’t look good from a distance. We have to get our act together soon."

The Mets players, not having access to Twitter during the game, didn’t see Cohen’s challenge and went on to their third straight defeat.

Manager Luis Rojas called a team meeting for Wednesday’s pregame.

Judging from Rojas’ retelling, it was more of a family meeting. In keeping with today’s times, there were no tables turned over, or threats of reduced playing time, or even particularly harsh words.

It was a hug-fest. Rojas, who believes he has the pulse of his clubhouse, must have felt that’s what the Mets needed most.

"We are aware of not winning a couple games in a row," Rojas said. "We met earlier and we talked a little bit as a family in there. . . . We talked a little bit about hitting before that and had a little talk with the (whole) team. I mean, nothing like a rah-rah meeting or anything. It's just getting connected as the family we are."

Rojas said his message was "let's keep trusting and let's have fun out there . . . It was a really good talk."

And it was probably more constructive than a rogue Tweet from the rookie owner during the pasta course.


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