Welcome to The Opener, where every weekday morning you’ll get a fresh, topical column to start your day from one of SI.com’s MLB writers.
As is so often the case, there was booing at Citi Field this weekend. But finally it was directed at the people who deserve it: the fans.
Mets players have been celebrating big hits for the past week or so by flashing two thumbs down. On Sunday, new second baseman Javier Báez explained the reasoning: “When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed. So they’re going to get booed when we get success."
Which means the fans are in for an earful. New York has won two in a row, an especially impressive stretch for a team that had previously won two of their last 14. But the Mets are all about progress. They have won 63 games this year. Last year they won only 26! And they’re in third place. There are two worse places! Ballplayers like to talk about how this is a game of failure, how if you succeed one out of three times you’re a Hall of Famer. Well, the Mets succeed almost one out of two times! Prepare the bunting in Cooperstown!
Fans are being ungrateful. For years, they complained about the Wilpon family, who sometimes seemed more interested in strutting around the field during batting practice than in constructing a team that could win games. But in November, the Mets replaced an ownership group that had to cut payroll after learning it had been swindled by Bernie Madoff with an ownership group that once did its own swindling: Steve Cohen’s SAC Advisors agreed in 2014 to pay the largest insider-trading settlement ever: $1.8 billion. Now there’s a crooked number!
On Sunday night, Cohen weighed in with the kind of leadership you might hope for at a moment such as this, tweeting, “I miss the days when the biggest controversy was the black jerseys.”
Meanwhile, team president Sandy Alderson wrote on Medium that he would be convening a meeting to inform players and staff that they are not allowed to be mean to the fans. But what he doesn’t seem to understand is that the Mets already go out of their way to be nice to others. They treat opponents very kindly, grooving fastballs to hitters and laying off meatballs from pitchers. Aren’t they owed a little courtesy in return?
Báez, for example, clearly wanted to make a good impression on his new city. Until July 30, when New York gave up its 2020 first-round pick for him, he played for the Cubs, who have their own history of feuding with fans. So credit Báez for limiting himself to a thumbs-down when he could have echoed the comments of Lee Elia, who was managing the Cubs in 1983 when he spent some four minutes delivering a rant that included the lines, “What the f--- am I supposed to do, go out there and let my f------ players get destroyed every day and be quiet about it? For the f------ nickel-dime people who turn up? The mother------- don't even work. That's why they're out at the f------ game. They oughta go out and get a f------ job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a f------ living. Eighty-five percent of the f------ world is working. The other 15 percent come out here. A f------ playground for the c---suckers.”
But it’s good vibes only at Citi Field. Earlier this month, a few minutes after the Mets were shut out for their fourth straight loss, first baseman Pete Alonso, fresh off a 1-for-19 stretch, reminded the faithful: “Mets fans, believe in us. … And also smile. You get to watch baseball. … We’re all in this together. Just smile, and just know that we got this.”
The Mets do got this. Two days after Alonso spoke, GM Zack Scott addressed his team’s rash of injuries.
“These guys are professionals, and for the most part, they’re locked in on what they’re supposed to do, but sometimes it doesn’t take much to—maybe you’re not eating as well as you could, you’ve got to change some habits, or maybe you’re not hydrating enough, even though everyone’s on you to hydrate,” he said. “At some point, you’ve got to take responsibility.”
And they have. After reporters rudely transcribed what Báez had said, righty Marcus Stroman tweeted, “Media always searching for anything to cause controversy.” It marked his third Twitter tiff with writers in two weeks.
With any luck, this signals we are already on our way to the next phase of the Mets’ dream season. It’s time for players and fans to band together against the true villains: reporters.
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