Javier Baez says Mets’ thumbs-down celebration is response to fans booing team

Javier Baez and other Mets players are tired of hearing boos from New York fans.

So they’ve decided to send a message right back. In the fifth inning of the team’s 9-4 win over the Nationals on Sunday, Baez hit a two-run home run and, upon crossing home plate, gave a thumbs-down gesture. Other Mets, including Francisco Lindor and Kevin Pillar, flashed the sign during the game as well. Baez said after the game that it was a response to the booing.

“We’re not machines; we’re going to struggle,” Baez said.

“It just feels bad. When I strike out and I get booed, it really doesn’t 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,” Baez added. “Because if we win together, we’ve got to lose together. The fans are a really big part of it. In my case, they’ve got to be better. I play for the fans, I love the fans, but if they’re going to do that, they’re just putting more pressure on the team and that’s not what we want.”

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The Mets came into the season with lofty expectations after adding Lindor, Carlos Carrasco and James McCann in the offseason to a core that included two-time National League Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom and 2019 NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso. DeGrom has been injured for much of the season after a historic start and the offense has struggled to a 93 wRC+, the 20th-best in the majors. The team’s $198 million payroll trails only the Dodgers and Yankees, teams that appear to be surging toward locking up playoff spots.

Mets fans — including the team’s owner — certainly have reasons to feel disappointed by the team’s recent performance. On July 25, the Mets were 51-44, leading the NL East by four games and given a 62 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. August has been disastrous, however; New York has gone 8-19 in the month and now sits third in the division at 63-67. It now has just a 2 percent chance of reaching the postseason, per FiveThirtyEight.

Baez, who was acquired by the Mets at the trade deadline from the Cubs, has posted a meager .710 OPS with a 33.3 percent strikeout rate with New York and recently went viral with a particularly bad swinging strike.

When asked by reporters about the gesture and Baez’s comments, Mets manager Luis Rojas said he did not know during the game what the intention was, but he also said it is the team’s job to be “prepared to come out and play and give the very best version of baseball that the fan base needs.”

“We want to win for the organization, we want to win for ourselves, we want to win for the front office, our owner, and we want to win for the fan base. That’s where our focus should be,” Rojas said. “Javy is probably learning from this experience because this is new for him; that’s where he’s coming from with this. This is something that maybe other players go through when they come and play here. It’s something, knowing Javy, he’s a really good player, a really good kid. It’s something that will be part of his learning experience here.”

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