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The fans, mostly, have seemed to buy in to what Luis Rojas has said time after time after time this year about most of his struggling hitters.
“One at-bat away,” the Mets manager has said repeatedly about Michael Conforto/Jeff McNeil/Francisco Lindor/Dom Smith/Pete Alonso. “One swing away.”
Fans don’t want to boo. That’s both true and obvious. Fans prefer to cheer. Fans prefer to stand on their feet and holler and exchange high fives (within their pod pockets for now, anyway) and fill the night sky with joy. Boos are the opposite of joy. Boos are soul-sucking. Boos mean something has gone terribly wrong.
Boos filled the Flushing sky around 9:15 Tuesday night.
Francisco Lindor had worked the count full. The Mets had gotten one big swing from Jeff McNeil and a bunch of empty ones in scoring position and so they found themselves in an annoyingly familiar place: down 2-1, one out in the eighth, scuffling at the plate. There were 7,917 people inside Citi Field. They’d seen the Mets make Boston journeyman Garrett Richards look like 1979 J.R. Richard most of the night. They’d had enough.
Lindor took a weak swing at Matt Andriese’s 3-and-2 change.
The ball rolled feebly back to Andriese. He flipped it to Bobby Dalbec at first.
And here they came. Lightly at first. Then louder. It wasn’t the same as 40,000 people raining down their venom. It wasn’t even as loud as 7,917 can be when they really want to clear their throats. But you could hear it at Citi Field. You could hear it on television. Boos for Lindor. Boos for the $341 million man.
“Our fan base is very passionate,” Rojas would say later, with as much diplomacy as Henry Kissinger ever mustered. “They support our team. They want everyone to perform consistently. We feel that.”
On the one hand, being booed in baseball New York is a time-honored tradition. Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle were all booed. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were booed. Roger Maris was booed on a year when he hit 61 home runs.
There was a night in August 1998 when Mike Piazza — still in his probationary period as a Met — had gone 1-for-8 in a doubleheader against the Cardinals and after each at-bat he was serenaded by a growing hailstorm of Shea Stadium boos, and there were 52,320 folks in the house that night. Afterward, as he rushed out of the clubhouse, Piazza stopped, shook his head, offered up a sour smile.
“Do those SOBs think I’m trying to strike out?” he asked.
At the time he was hitting .321 as a Met, slugging .532.
Lindor is now hitting .212 as a Met. He has two extra-base hits in 18 games. The Mets are 9-9. Maybe if the Mets were 12-6 it would be different. The Mets were 12-6 after 18 games in 1985 and so nobody much noticed that Gary Carter was only hitting .231. He’d hit that famous home run on Opening Day and not much after that. Didn’t matter. Winning is a wonderful deodorant, always has been.
The Mets aren’t winning. The Mets are .500. They can’t seem to string anything together, same as last year when they couldn’t put together a four-game winning streak. Nobody is hitting much. Alonso took a golden sombrero Tuesday. McNeil, a hitter’s hitter, is at .196. Smith is at .217. But Lindor is the one with the fat contract.
So it was Lindor’s turn to hear it Tuesday night.
“It’s so early in the season,” Rojas said. “The good thing is the guys show up every day. They want to give the fans what they want. This is something we’ve seen in the past here over the years when guys are going through a little bit of a struggle.”
To Lindor’s credit, he is still a wonder to behold in the field. He had an unassisted double play to end the seventh when he snared Marwin Gonzalez’s line drive and beat Hunter Renfroe back to second with a dive, and when he hopped up he was laughing like a kid who’d found all the Easter eggs. The smile and the glove are as advertised.
But the Mets aren’t paying him $341 million to be a 2.0 version of Rey Ordonez. At some point the other side has to come around. It should. It will. But until it does …
Well, put it this way. Once the booing seal is broken, it doesn’t usually just go away. It needs to be buried beneath a bevy of line drives. That part is up to the player.
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Mike Vaccaro