Latest Kerfuffle with Javy Báez, Mets Illustrates How Intrinsic Mutual Value Isn’t Guaranteed

Also Illustrates How Messy Mets Really Are

Shortly after the series of trades that turned the Cubs from an aging luxury car into a hoopty with mismatched quarter panels and a bad engine, Kris Bryant praised Jed Hoyer for making mutually beneficial deals. Bryant has gone on to hit .268 with six homers and a 129 wRC+ while gushing about what a great fit the Giants are for him personally and professionally.

Anthony Rizzo hasn’t really performed well with the Yankees and missed nearly two weeks with COVID, but he did set an esoteric RBI record and he’s at least part of an historic franchise with championship aspirations. And even though Craig Kimbrel hasn’t exactly pitched well on the South Side, at least he’s in the hunt for a title while also getting to stay home with a daughter who has health issues.

Javier Báez, on the other hand, had been the subject of dueling narratives about his value as a player even before the latest kerfuffle that spread across Twitter like an argument over the color of a blue dress. The Mets have sucked out loud since the trade deadline, going 9-20 to fall four games under .500 and from first place to third in the N Least. They also trail Cincinnati by seven games for the second Wild Card spot.

Gee, it’s almost as though a team missing both Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor shouldn’t have been buying at the deadline. But buy they did, for a cost Mets players are now paying in the form of boos from their own fans. Báez has been a frequent target of those Bronx Queens cheers because he’s hitting just .210 with a .258 OBP and 92 wRC+ in 66 plate appearances since coming over from the Cubs.

So what happens when a player who’s comfortable showing emotion joins a team that likes to come up with celebratory hand gestures? Well, you get the thumbs-down display Javy flashed after a two-run homer in Sunday’s win.

“We’re not machines,” Báez said. “We’re going to struggle seven times out of 10. It just feels bad when…I strike out and get booed. It doesn’t really get to me but I want to let them know that when we’re successful, we’re going to do the same thing to let them know how it feels.”

“If we win together, then we got to lose together, and the fans are a really big part of it,” Baez said. “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.”

While it’s hard to imagine Bryant being in the center of a similar controversy, you have to believe he’s out there on the opposite coast thanking his lucky stars he didn’t end up with the Mets. That organization has got its collective head so far up its ass that Steve Cohen is going to have a glass stomach installed just so the front office can see where it’s going.

Of course, the media has played a big role in turning this into a much bigger deal than it really is while vilifying Báez in the process. Not that it’s surprising to see some folks cape for teams, and not that players are above reproach, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask that those players’ names at least be expressed correctly. Yet very few members of either the New York or the national media seems willing to bother with the diacritical mark in Javy’s last name.

That’s just something that irks me because it’s so simple to do and so disrespectful to overlook. Proper spelling aside, Javy wasn’t out there doing this on his own. Despite being part of a chronically inept organization, Mets players are doing what they can to have a little fun and reduce the pressure they’re feeling. Seems like a good thing, but I’m just some dumb blogger.

There’s perhaps no better sign of the Mets’ dysfunction than team leadership feeling the need to placate fans with a public tsk-tsk for those ungrateful players who dared bite the hands that flip them off. Rather than handling this all internally with a quick chat in the clubhouse, team president Sandy Alderson had to get all performative.

“Mets fans are understandably frustrated over the team’s recent performance,” Alderson said in the statement. “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.”

This is all just so dumb and I’m only writing about it because the Cubs certainly aren’t providing much basis for content these days. I’m sure a lot of folks will side with Mets fans on the matter, just like a lot of Cubs fans have taken their Queens counterparts to task over it. Not that a fanbase responsible for the “Horry Kow” Kosuke Fukudome bandanas can really claim the moral high ground when it comes to how players are treated.

What it all comes down to is that the Mets are crumbling and Báez is playing poorly in front of a notoriously ruthless crowd that has had nothing but bad luck for the last several years. This all probably could’ve been saved if the Mets had just had their medical staff address the issue first, since that would have meant finding nothing wrong and just letting everything proceed like normal.

Instead, we’ve got Olney and others carrying water to put out a fire they helped to ignite in the first place. Not that it’ll be possible to erase the narrative that’s already been set in motion to hamper Javy’s value in a free-agent market already fraught with peril as a result of the collective bargaining agreement. There’s a reason he’s at the center of this rather than Lindor, who already has a massive extension in place.

To bring it back to the Cubs before closing it out, this seems like a situation in which both the Cubs and Báez might be seeing how much better they were together than they are apart. Some corporate trainer is out there nodding knowingly and saying, “Synergy, bro.” But that’s exactly what was going on El Mago, perhaps more so than any other players who were moved.

Some people showed up at the ballpark just because they knew they’d have a chance to see him do something spectacular. He’d built a legacy as a stud prospect who became an MVP candidate, World Series champ, and Gold Glove shortstop. Those things only carry so much weight with a new team, particularly one that looks to a new player as the last piece in a puzzle or, worse still, a savior.

The Cubs, meanwhile, are seeing attendance drop off while they attempt to navigate a rebuild with precious few building blocks. While Javy might not be the ideal cornerstone for that, he’s certainly the kind of player who creates value for a team that relies as heavily on gameday revenue as the Cubs claim to. I guess what I’m saying is the ivy isn’t necessarily greener on the other fence.

Also, the Mets deserve to have nothing go well for them ever again.

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