What players, media are saying about Mets' 'thumbs down' celebration

ESPN's Joon Lee joins Faizal Khamisa on Sportsnet Central to discuss the New York Mets players using a thumbs down gesture in response to the fans booing them and who is at fault in this situation.

The Bronx cheer means something completely different over in Queens.

New York Mets players Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and Kevin Pillar flashed their thumbs down to their fans at Citi Field during Sunday's 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals.

In case you're out of the loop, the Mets have turned from contenders into pretenders over the past month including a 2-11 slide against the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers and MLB-leading San Francisco Giants.

The Mets now sport a 63-67 (.485) record, 7.5 games back of the NL East division-leading Atlanta Braves and 7.0 games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second wild-card spot. They're pretty likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season with only a 2.5 per cent chance to make the post-season according to Fangraphs. Only Jim Carrey would say they have a chance.

Sure, frustration is mounting both on and off the field, but the Toronto Maple Leafs' "salute-gate" is a good reminder of how these kinds of gestures can go wrong.

Here's a look at how Mets players, management and the media are reacting to the controversial celebration.

What the players are saying

Baez initiated the "thumbs down" controversy after hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning that put the Mets up 3-2 and in the lead for good. The two-time all-star, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs prior to last month's trade deadline, explained the gesture to reporters after the game:

“We’re not machines, we’re going to struggle. We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. It just 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 a success, we’re going to do the same thing, to let them know how it feels.

“Because if we win together, then we’ve got to lose together and the fans are a really big part of it. In my case, they got to be better. I play for the fans and 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.”

Lindor and Pillar were also seen pointing their thumbs down during the game and happen to be in their first seasons with the club, too. The four-time all-star Lindor was acquired in a trade with Cleveland at the start of 2021 and signed a whopping 10-year, $341-million contract extension prior to opening day, while Pillar inked a one-year deal in free agency.

Pillar also responded to one fan saying they "don't know (expletive) about me" followed by the hashtag #poopootake, a favourite saying of Mets pitcher and former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman.

Speaking of Stroman, the 30-year-old righty said the debate over the celebration was stirred up by the media.

"FACT! Media always searching for anything to cause controversy. Stop playing into these narratives. It’s all fake (expletive). We won today. That’s all that matters. On to the next not dwelling in the past ... same mindset we’ve had all year! Thankful for this squad!"

What Mets management is saying

Luis Rojas was in damage-control mode after the game. The Mets manager, no stranger "Fire Rojas" chants, told reporters:

“Mets fans, New York fans, this market, this city knows baseball probably more than any other city. They have the right to react however they want. And we’ve got to understand where they’re coming from. ... Especially Mets fans, New York fans, this market, this city knows baseball probably more than any other city. They have the right to react however they want, and we got to understand where they're coming from. Our job is to be ready every day to give them the best baseball."

Mets president Sandy Alderson wrote a post on Medium to issue a statement calling Baez's actions "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 took to Twitter referencing last month's return of the team's alternate black jerseys from 1998-2012:

What the media is saying

New York Times: In Queens, the Mets Give Their Fans a Bronx Cheer

Tyler Kepner provided a quick reminder to the Mets of who actually pay for their salaries.

Major league tickets are expensive, and major league salaries are generous. When a team holds first place for almost three months and suddenly finds itself 63-67, as the Mets are, it should expect occasional boos.

New York Post: Mets, Javier Baez making colossal mistake waging war with fans

Ian O'Connor didn't mince words, as you'd expect from the New York Post, saying Baez was "effectively spiking the ball in the fans’ faces" by laying the blame with them.

What a way to celebrate a two-game winning streak — by having the home-run hero attack the fans and write his own dream tabloid headline: BAEZ TO CITY — DROP DEAD.

Booing comes with the territory as O'Connor adds no one is immune, not even beloved superstars like Derek Jeter.

In New York, you either perform or you get ripped, and the true survivors here accept that as part of the deal. At some point all the great ones have been booed in New York, even Derek Jeter, who heard it from the Yankee Stadium crowd during a brutal hitless streak in 2004. This is what he said in response: “I would boo myself, too.”

Northjersey.com: Thumbs down? Javier Báez and NY Mets should worry about winning, not their fans booing

Justin Toscano reminds the Mets that "the customer is always right" and fans are disappointed after a strong start to the season. Toscano believes the issue could blow over as the fans "should not be occupying enough of the players' headspace for the players to even make this an issue." Perhaps the Mets should let their play do all the talking?

But the Mets are already struggling on the field and trying to find a way to escape their funk. They have enough to worry about regarding the teams on their schedule. They didn't need another distraction.

And then there's the New York Daily News:

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