On July 26 Javier Báez walked off Amir Garrett and the Reds at Wrigley Field. It as electric. It was edgy. It was in your face. It was everything Cubs fans have ever loved about El Mago.
It has been a month that felt like three years since then. Javy is now a Met and he finds himself in the middle of a quintessentially New York City nontroversy. You see, Javy had the audacity to not meekly accept the boos of Mets fans and the result is a news cycle that could kindly be compared to a dumpster fire. Interestingly, there is a non-zero chance this increases the odds Javy winds up back in Chicago, but before we get to that let’s take a minute to unpack how this all began.
The Mets have been in freefall since late July as you can see from their FanGraphs playoff odds here:
Their biggest move at the trade deadline was adding Javy Báez and Trevor Williams while sending 2020 first round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong back to the Cubs. While Javy has had his moments of stardom in Queens, he’s also been struggling. He’s slashed .210/.258/.452 with a wRC+ of 92 for his new team. He’s hit four home runs with his new team, and he’s also demonstrated his tendency to swing at absolutely everything, hence the boos:
Javier Báez swings and misses at a pitch pic.twitter.com/cAUgdBVyOW— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) August 25, 2021
But Javy is Javy, and he’s channeling a bit of Joe Maddon’s approach to baseball to deal with the boos. So, earlier this August the Mets started a new thumbs down celebration. Here’s Javy after hitting a double on August 22:
And here is the video of his home run yesterday that started the whole kerfuffle [VIDEO].
As he came home you can see the thumbs down celebration clearly in this picture:
He was asked to explain the new “celebration” after Sunday’s game where he hit a two-run homer. You can view Javy’s comments here:
Javier Báez says the thumbs down celebration is in response to the fans booing the team— SNY (@SNYtv) August 29, 2021
"I play for the fans and I love the fans but if they're gonna do that, they're putting more pressure on the team" pic.twitter.com/cjUER4M2Pt
First of all, precisely none of this is offensive. It’s a man sitting with his son calmly explaining that baseball players are people who don’t like being booed, so the players are turning that on its head and booing fans when they do something well. I personally find it funny and empowering.
The New York sports media did not take it as funny or empowering:
The Mets/fans saga ⚾️— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) August 30, 2021
“In my case, they [the fans] gotta be better. I play for the fans + I love the fans. But if they’re going to do that...”
Story + comments from Javy Báez and Luis Rojas: @DeeshaThosar @NYDNSports https://t.co/jUyH18EwrC pic.twitter.com/PB6L2faVEi
Let’s bracket the fact that the New York Daily News can’t be bothered to copy and paste the diacritical mark to spell Javy’s last name correctly, which is kind of wild for a major publication. But it is also telling that most of the media has turned their attention to Javy and Francisco Lindor, which ignores the fact that Kevin Pillar joined them in the new celebration. It’s yet another tiresome example of how these conversations always center on Black and Brown players.
Francisco Lindor and Kevin Pillar joined in the ... whereas Jonathan Villar went for the pic.twitter.com/NDN8zEyjjX— Deesha (@DeeshaThosar) August 29, 2021
The Mets decided to go as Metsy as possible with their reaction and thought all of this was so important that team President Sandy Alderson issued a special statement siding with fans:
Statement from Mets President Sandy Alderson.https://t.co/dqBf2Ig2TX— New York Mets (@Mets) August 30, 2021
From the Mets statement (you honestly could not make this stuff up):
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.
It seems pretty clear that Javy and the Mets have not exactly gotten off to the best start in their relationship. But just in case you thought it was merely the always over-reactive New York City media having a bit of a day, Buster Olney is here to nationalize the situation:
It’s impossible to think of another prospective free agent making a bigger public relations mistake then Javier Baez did today. Burned one bridge, and likely severely damaged his chances w other teams. Francisco Lindor needs to prepare an explanation for his participation, too.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 30, 2021
Olney doesn’t seem to want to bring Pillar into this or learn how to use diacritical marks either, but aside from that, I’ve rarely seen such an overreaction to a baseball player’s perfectly reasonable comments as a human being. The idea that no team will want Javy’s electric glove and bat on their team because he tried to turn the tables on Mets fans booing him is nonsensical in my opinion. His free agent value is much more likely to be impacted by his 35.8 percent K rate and his 4.2 percent walk rate.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say Olney is right and some combination of public relations wariness and a penchant for striking out tanks Javy’s free agent market. I can think of one team that probably isn’t going to spend a lot of money this offseason, needs a shortstop and could use the goodwill from bringing back a fan favorite on a one- or two-year deal as he works to reestablish his value to other teams: The Chicago Cubs.
Do you want Javier Báez back with the Chicago Cubs after he gave fans the thumbs down in New York?
This poll is closed
Yes, I like him even more now
Yes, but he probably shouldn’t have done that
No, but it has nothing to do with the thumbs down, just want a different SS
No, I think the thumbs down gesture is awful and don’t want Báez back now
Other reaction - put it in the comments