The New York Mets topped the Washington Nationals at home on Sunday by a score of 9-4 (box score). Central to the triumph was Jonathan Villar, who wound up a double shy of the cycle. The most talked about hit, however, will no doubt be the home run by deadline acquisition Javier Báez.
It was an impressive blast at 444 feet, and that's his 26th of the season (and fourth since the trade from the Cubs to the Mets). It's a bit hard to make out from the video, but Baez as he touches the plate celebrates his blast with a double thumbs-down gesture, which seems an odd way to commemorate a homer.
Here's a closer look at the "celebration."
And here's how Baez explained the gesture afterward:
"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 have success, we're going to do the same thing, to let [fans] know how it feels," Baez told reporters. "...They got to be better. I play for the fans and love the fans. If they're going to do that, they're going to put more pressure on the team."
And to highlight one comment in particular:
Javier Baez on booing Mets fans back: "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."— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) August 29, 2021
So the thumbs down is a rebuke to Mets fans who have increasingly taken to booing the team in response to their declining fortunes, and let it be known that it's not just a Baez thing:
Francisco Lindor, Javier Báez and Kevin Pillar were among those Mets players to flash thumbs-down signs after their hits today.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) August 29, 2021
"When we don't get success, we're going to get booed," Báez explained afterward. "So they [the fans] are going to get booed when we get success." pic.twitter.com/TGX55fQM2O
In other words, the Mets and their fans are booing each other, at least in the partial-metaphorical sense, and that's the most quintessential Mets phenomenon imaginable.
A few hours following Sunday's postgame press conferences, Mets president Sandy Alderson released a statement calling Baez's comments and the team's gestures "totally unacceptable." Here is Alderson's statement:
In a post-game press conference today, Javy Baez 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.
Owner Steve Cohen chimed in on Twitter later Sunday night, saying "I miss the days when the biggest controversy was the black jerseys."
Former Marlins executive David Samson reacted to the Mets' thumb war on Monday's Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
Earlier this season, the Mets had first place in the NL East locked down for three straight months, but those past successes have completely vaporized. Thanks to an 8-19 mark in August and a 2-11 recent stretch against the Giants and Dodgers, the Mets have tumbled out of serious contention. Even after Sunday's win, the Mets are in third place and 7 1/2 games off the pace in the NL East. They're also seven games out of the second NL wild card and behind four other teams in that chase. All of that is why the SportsLine Projection System coming into Sunday's slate gave them just a 2.2 percent chance of making the postseason.
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In other words, Mets players will probably continue to hear occasional boos, and perhaps Baez's gesture and subsequent explanation will turn those boos into something more than occasional. As ever, the Mets continue to provide quality entertainment regardless of on-field results.