We have a new entry in the pantheon of "Only the New York Mets" stories.
For the last month or so, the Mets have been in what could be politely referred to as a free fall. After entering the All-Star break in first place in the NL East, the team has lost 21 of its last 30 games and fallen to third place and 7.5 games back in the standings.
As you can imagine, Mets fans made their displeasure known during this stretch, frequently and vocally. Which the players apparently did not appreciate.
The players waited until a now-rare win to make their real feelings known. During a 9-4 dispatching of the Washington Nationals, multiple players could be seen celebrating big hits by throwing a thumbs down sign, something they have apparently been doing for at least a week.
Among the players to do it was shortstop Javier Baez after a home run:
Baez was asked about the celebration after the game, and his explanation was spectacularly petty:
Javier Baez on the thumbs down sign Mets players have been flashing to the crowd after big hits: "To let [the fans] know when we don't get success we're going to get booed, so they are going to get booed when we have success."
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) August 29, 2021
Once again, we must say "Only the Mets."
There have been teams who got booed during losing streaks before, but it really feels like only the Mets could turn against the fans in such a unified way. Baez, who has played in all of 17 games for the Mets, really did make it sound like the team is legitimately bothered by the fans booing them:
More Javier Baez: "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’re successful, we’re going to do the same thing, to let them know how it feels ... They’re going to put more pressure on the team."
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) August 29, 2021
So basically, the Mets, their fans and the concept of winning are in some kind of triangle of loathing right now. And the team waited until its highest-scoring win since July 9 to confirm this.
The punchline to all this is that the Mets' win on Sunday was against the Nationals, a team that traded away nearly half its roster at the trade deadline and is now in a situation where it is incentivized to lose. Here are the earned run averages of the four pitchers Washington trotted out against New York: 5.08, 4.30, 4.50 and 5.82.
Mets president blasts players giving fans thumbs down
The Mets' players apparently didn't run their new celebration past Mets management, as manager Luis Rojas told reporters that he was unaware of why his team had been doing the thumbs down for a week.
Luis Rojas said he didn't realize Mets players were booing fans back with their thumbs-down celebration, which they have been doing for at least a week.
"This is the first of heard of the meaning of this," he said.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) August 29, 2021
Mets president Sandy Alderson strongly repudiated the players' gesture and said he would be meeting with them directly in a 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.
Mets owner Steve Cohen was a little more terse, lamenting the team's unique penchant for controversy.
I miss the days when the biggest controversy was the black jerseys
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) August 30, 2021
Meanwhile, Mets pitcher Taijuan Walker summed up the situation in his own way:
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) August 30, 2021
For his part, Pillar tweeted that the gestures were just the team "having fun" and insisted people don't read too much into it, to which teammate Marcus Stroman responded by calling the whole situation a media-generated controversy.