Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field, the New York Mets took the field for the first time since Javier Báez admitted the club used a "thumbs down" gesture to respond to fans who boo the team. "It feels bad when I strike out and I get booed ... I want to let them know that when we have success, we're going to do the same thing, to let [fans] know how it feels," he said Sunday.
The Mets have been in damage control mode since Báez's comments -- "[The gestures] are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated," team president Sandy Alderson said later Sunday -- and prior to Tuesday's game, manager Luis Rojas told reporters the club had a team meeting to discuss the situation.
"Guys were accountable today," Rojas told reporters, including Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News, referring to Báez and Francisco Lindor. Speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday's game, Báez and Lindor apologized to fans and said the Mets will no longer make the thumbs down gesture. The drama didn't end with the apologies, either.
"I didn't mean to offend anybody," Báez said (video). "This is something that I've done in the past against the other team. I did it [during the Dodgers series in L.A. last week] to the dugout. It's not -- I might have said something wrong about booing fans. I meant like, 'boo me now,' and not to the fans. To our dugout. I didn't say the fans are bad. I love the fans. I just felt like we were alone. ...I didn't mean to offend anybody. If I offended anybody, we apologize."
Glad to hear our players apologizing to the fans. Let’s get behind our players today and go out and win 2 today!— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) August 31, 2021
Mets fans who planned to voice their displeasure with (or approval of) Báez had to wait. Tuesday afternoon's game was the completion of a game that was suspended due to rain on April 11, when Báez was still with the Cubs. He was eligible to play in the game, though the Mets opted to replace the injured Luis Guillorme in the starting lineup with Jonathan Villar.
Báez entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and was booed by the sparse Citi Field crowd. He was booed and fans gave him a thumbs down. Here's the video:
Marlins lefty Steven Okert hit Báez in the leg with a pitch and fans cheered. Based on the crowd shots, some fans where happy Báez wore it following his comments, and others were happy the Mets had a baserunner in a game they were trailing.
In the ninth inning Báez batted with two outs and the tying run at second base, and drove in a run with an infield single. The crowd cheered his name prior to the at-bat. Báez then scored the game-winning run on Michael Conforto's single. Jorge Alfaro booted the ball in left field and Báez did not hesitate rounding third, and slid in safely to complete the five-run ninth (NY 6, MIA 5).
It should be noted that, because of the suspended game weirdness, Báez will go into the record books as having hit a home run for Cubs on April 11, and also with getting hit by a pitch and recording a single for the Mets on the same date.
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The Mets went 9-19 in August and have gone from four games up in the NL East to seven games out. Báez went into Tuesday's game .210/.258/.452 since the trade and has been among the least impactful trade deadline additions.