Javy Baez Has Blunt Message for Tigers Fans Who Keep Booing Him

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
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Detroit Tigers fans have not been particularly enjoying the Javy Baez experience as it embarks on its third season in the Motor City. The sure-handed shortstop still dazzles defensively with regularity and has remained clutch in high-leverage situations but overall the offensive numbers are pretty bleak. After posting underwhelming OPS marks of .671 and .593 the past campaigns, Baez is off to an even rougher start in 2024 — slashing .140/.152/.209 through 13 games and receiving more than a smattering of boos when he strikes out at home.

On Sunday, however, he sparked a four-run eighth-inning rally with a solo home run — his first of the year — as the Tigers moved to 9-6 with a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. As he rounded the bases he cupped his hand to his ear as a message to the Comerica Park crowd.

After the game he was asked about the friendly fire that keeps coming from the boo birds.

“I know it’s frustrating for the fans," Baez said. "But that doesn’t really help the team or the organization. If we are grinding together, we should stand up together. We should stay together when we’re down. It doesn’t affect me, to be honest. I don’t think it’s really respectful when people talk trash and disrespect you behind a net, you know, they can say anything. Doesn’t affect me, to be honest, and I’m just worried about playing good and doing good for my team and for my organization. So, um, they can do whatever."

And he's absolutely correct on the last part. Tigers fans can do whatever they want. They're paying their hard-earned money and are well within their rights to expect a modicum of production from someone playing on a six-year, $140 million contract. What they should do is a different question.

Last year another shortstop struggling with the bat enjoyed a remarkable turnaround when Philadelphia Philles fans gave Trea Turner a standing ovation in early August amid a lingering slump. he started hitting and the fans were rewarded with ride to the National League Championship Series. Baez, who many times feeds off the hate while on the road, may have a different makeup and one could make the case the negativity could actually help.

That case falls apart, though, when you hear that he thinks it's disrespectful and doesn't do any good for him or the organization.

Better minds than my own have failed to bridge the disconnect between working stiff in the stands and star athletes earning nine figures so it's not even worth trying to convince them about the powers of positive thinking. But another disconnect exists. Because any Tigers fan who thinks anyone other than Baez is going to be the starting shortstop this year is delusion. There are no ready-made solutions within the organization and Baez's trade value has, well, let's just say it's taken quite a nosedive.

It's an imperfect reality yet the sooner the boo birds accept it and move, the sooner everyone gets to enjoy some better mental health. Giving Baez the ol' Bronx cheer after he manages to foul off one of the many sliders he chases in the other batters' box may be cathartic but I'd suggest it has diminshing returns. And we're only a few weeks into the season so everyone booing had better stay rested and hydrate if they intend to keep it up all summer — and maybe into the fall if the team keeps playing .600 baseball.

Perhaps they think they're being helpful. Perhaps they are and can take a victory lap if Baez starts hitting. Or they can belatedly lower their expectations and take the occasional success as an added bonus.

Kyle K