On “booing” the boo birds right back

Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez

A creative way to zap the boo birds the way maybe every other ballplayer has ever wanted to boo them right back?

Oh. The horror. You’d think they shot the Thunderbirds down during a pre-game flyover.

If the Citi Field boo birds were going to boo the Mets when they tried their best and came up short, a few Mets decided they were going to give the boo birds a thumbs-down of their own when they tried their best and came up big enough.

They didn’t hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban, blow up the number 7 el, stink bomb the New York Stock Exchange, incincerate the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or resurrect the Pontiac Aztek.

Javy Báez, Francisco Lindor, Kevin Pillar, and a few other of their Mets mates, have had it with the boo birds. After hits in Sunday’s 9-4 win against the likewise tumbling Nationals, they either stood on base or crossed the plate with thumbs-downs. Almost at once, social media and enough of the media media exploded like Little Boy at Hiroshima.

Báez seemed to be singled out especially for such use, misuse, and abuse. By God, we’ve had it with him. Never mind how slick he is playing second base, who needs this prima donna who can’t stop swinging at the unhittable? 

Note that Báez and Lindor were pretty much in the thick of the Mets’ win. Lindor scored the game’s first run on a balk, after reaching on a force out and taking third on a passed ball in the first. Báez took a Mets lead back with a two-run homer in the fourth. Lindor sent home the Mets’ final two runs with a double to left in the eighth.

When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed,” Báez told reporters after Sunday’s game. “So they are going to get booed when we get success.” Since the players aren’t likely to be heard if they actually boo vocally, it seems, Báez and his mates took up the playful thumbs-down as the next best thing.

Seemingly, it began early in August. Apparently, assorted Yankees once picked up the same idea from a visiting Met fan in 2017.

They’re only too well aware that the Mets entered August three and a half ahead in first place in the National League East and approach August’s end having gone 8-19 for the month thus far. They don’t have to flip on the next television newscast, hit Twitter running, or read the horror stories in the next newspaper editions to know it.

Owner Steve Cohen needled the Mets’ offensive woes in a tweet almost a fortnight ago. Even he didn’t quite go full George Steinbrenner about it. Lindor himself agreed with Cohen. Bank on every Met agreeing. Nobody else had to tell them.

If there’s one thing a professional baseball player knows, it’s when he’s not getting the maximum desired result out of his work. But he also knows how helpless he really is against fans who don’t really see or couldn’t care less about the grand paradox that playing a game professionally requires work. More work than people think.

He also knows there are times when he might have been booing himself right along with the boo-birds in the seats. But there’s an ocean-wide divide between booing an apparent lack of hustle and booing a lack of result despite the hardest hustle, the hardest-hit ball, the best-thrown pitch that disappeared over the fence.

It’s bad enough that Mets team president Sandy Alderson fired a shot back that looks only too well as though he or the entire team administration waited for just the right (wrong?) moment to ignite:

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.

“Upon further reflection,” tweeted Sports Illustrated writer Emma Baccellieri, “what’s really amazing to me is that the Mets *already had a statement* to use in the event of wanting to apologize for gestures made toward the crowd (Mr. Met flips off a fan, 2017), and they just made a new, worse, more dramatic statement.”

“Last thing and then I’m going to bed and trying to erase this stupid day from my memory,” tweeted Alison McCague, a Ph.D. geneticist and policy analyst by profession, who also writes for the online Mets journal Amazin’ Avenue. “It’s not just the booing. It’s the going after players’ wives and kids online and DMing slurs to them all the time. Large chunks of sports fans just don’t see players as human beings.”

I’ve been saying that for years.

It’s tempting to wonder whether Alderson would have threatened any Met players responding in kind to such death threats. It’s also to wonder why certain other teams weren’t tempted to do something similar to what Báez, Lindor, Pillar, and other participating Mets have been doing this month.

Teams such as practically every St. Louis Brown that ever showed up at the ballpark at all.

Teams such  as the ones that inspired the gag about the Philadelphia wedding in which the clergyman pronounced the happy couple husband and wife and then told the gathering, “You may now boo the bride.”

Teams such as the one caught red-handed in an illegal, off-field-based, extralegal-camera-aided, electronic sign-stealing scheme—but who now have only five players from that team left on this year’s roster.

I’ve also been saying something else for years, too. Let’s give Alderson one benefit of the doubt and agree that the right to boo comes with the price of a ticket. But let’s give Báez, Lindor, Pillar, and any other thumbs-downing Mets the benefits of certain doubts, too.

What would Joe and Jane Fan do if they had to go to their jobs every day—in the office, in the board room, on the dock, in the warehouse, behind the wheel of their truck or bus or cab, at the clinic, on the assembly line, at the drive-through, you name it—knowing 55,000 people would be right there on top of them and a few million more would be watching on television or the Internet or listening next to a radio?

What would Joe and Jane Fan do, if the merest missed or mistakenly sent memo, bad merger, slip on a puddle, dropped parts box, missing package, missed red light, hastily and imperfectly affixed component, or misinterpreted order, resulted in 55,000 people live and a few million more clinging to broadcasts booing their heads off, or even sending them death threats, for either simple human mistakes or despite-best-effort shortfalls?

How would Joe and Jane Fan like it when the media hammer them unto eternity for such mistakes and shortfalls, even if they proved the lone mistakes of otherwise respectable careers?

If Joe and Jane Fan think they could step in for the Báezes, Lindors, Pillars and company that effortlessly, ask them if they could take the demoralising grief heaped eternally upon baseball’s hapless designated goats.

Ask whether Bill Buckner, John McNamara, Fred Merkle, Freddie Lindstrom, Mickey Owen, Johnny Peskyheldtheball (so help me God, you’d have thought that’s the way Red Sox fans of yore pronounced his name between 1946 and 1967) Ralph Branca, Gene Mauch, Willie Davis, Tom Niedenfuer, Don Denkinger, Donnie Moore, Mitch Williams, and Grady Little weren’t tempted to boo right back when the opportunities arose.

Ask Joe and Jane Fan if they would have succeeded where the 1964 Phillies, the 1969 Cubs (and every Cub on the planet from 1909 through the end of 2015), the 1978 Red Sox, the 2006-07 Mets, the 2017 Nationals, this year’s Orioles, and maybe every last Washington Senator not of the 1924 model didn’t.

Joe and Jane will answer “yes” at the drop of a hat, a beer, or a ground ball. Ken Griffey, Jr. jumping fences to snatch home runs into long outs didn’t jump as big as the lie detector needles will at that answer.

All Báez, Lindor, Pillar, and maybe a couple of other Mets did was something close enough to something maybe every other man who’s ever worn a major league uniform has wanted to do, when they know good and bloody well that they’re doing the best they can with what they’ve got and they’re still being treated like criminals on the perp walk.

If you think otherwise, you’re missing a great deal on my Antarctican beach club.

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