NEW YORK -- The Mets have a message to their fans: Please stop booing.
For five months, the Mets have scuffled and underachieved, most recently dropping 12 1/2 games in the standings during the first 27 days of August. Through it all, fans at Citi Field have increasingly expressed their displeasure, booing nearly every prominent player on the roster. Earlier this homestand, the home crowd showered manager Luis Rojas with “Fire Rojas” chants during a particularly rough loss.
So, when the Mets enjoyed a rare 9-4 victory over the Nationals on Sunday, winning consecutive games for the first time in more than two weeks, their players clapped back at those in the stands.
After giving the Mets the lead for good with a no-doubt, two-run homer in the fourth, second baseman Javier Báez flashed a thumbs-down sign as he crossed home plate. Francisco Lindor did the same after driving home a pair with an eighth-inning double, as did Kevin Pillar following his sixth-inning single.
Afterward, Báez explained that the thumbs-down signal was the Mets’ way of booing their own fans.
“When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed,” Báez said. “So they’re going to get booed when we get success.”
So continues the saga of the 2021 Mets, who have bemoaned their fan base’s booing habit for months -- typically with stray comments, often unprompted, during postgame media conferences. Sunday marked a change in that dynamic, when Báez announced that Mets players would be more prominently reacting.
“We’re not machines,” Báez said. “We’re going to struggle. We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. And, you know, 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 that when we have success, we’re going to do the same thing to let them know how it feels. If we win together, then we’ve got to lose together, and the fans are a big part of it. They’ve got to be better. I play for the fans. And I love the fans. If they’re going to do that, they’re just putting more pressure on the team, and that’s not what we want.”
Following the game, Mets president Sandy Alderson issued the following statement:
"In a post-game press conference today, Javy Báez stated that his 'thumbs down' gesture during the game was a message to fans who recently have booed him and other players for poor performance. These comments, and any gestures by him or other players with a similar intent, are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
"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. I will be meeting with our players and staff to convey this message directly.
"Mets fans are loyal, passionate, knowledgeable and more than willing to express themselves. We love them for every one of these qualities."
Not every Met shares the sentiments of Báez, who came to the team in a July 30 trade from the Cubs. Following one of Jonathan Villar’s three hits on Sunday, the infielder flashed a thumbs-up sign -- whether by mistake or on purpose is unclear. Rojas chalked Báez’s comments up to his unfamiliarity with the New York market, which has been home to some of the game’s most vocal fans for decades.
“Our fans are like that,” Rojas said. “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. They demand wins. And we’ve just got to keep working to deliver it to them and be our best.
“They have the right to react however they want," Rojas said. "Especially Mets fans, New York fans, this market, this city that knows baseball. … They have the right to react however they want. We’ve got to understand where they’re coming from.”
Until this weekend, the Mets had not given their fans much reason to cheer in the second half, losing 19 of their first 25 games in August to drift as close to last place as they were to first. That changed against Washington, which ceded 11 hits to New York in Sunday’s finale. Villar had three of them, and both he and Báez homered. Seven different Mets scored a run, while five contributed at least one RBI.
It was enough for the Mets to fire back against those who had previously disapproved of their play -- not that the clubhouse hadn’t already made its sentiments clear. In a running theme of this season, Mets players have frequently commented on the boos at Citi Field, with Lindor addressing them at length during his early-season slump and Aaron Loup recently describing the team as “booed off the field” following a recent loss. First baseman Pete Alonso has encouraged fans to “smile,” knowing better days are ahead. Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who frequently blocks Twitter users who post or send negative messages, responded to a tweet on Sunday evening asking for comment.
“I don’t have to address a thing with anyone honestly,” Stroman wrote. “Hope you enjoy your Sunday though!”
On the field, the Mets indeed enjoyed one of their most productive Sundays of the season. Off it, their message took on greater prominence than their win.
“I have nothing to say about it,” Rojas said. “The focus of this team should be on playing baseball and getting better every day. We’ve played two really good games the last two days. The offense has come around as we want it to. I think that’s something that we, at this point, should be proud of.”