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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: September 18, 2021 12:14 pm PDT
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Keep booing, fans. Sometimes it’s all you can do to support your team.

Yes, I said “support your team.’’ If your team isn’t playing well, if the players are making dumb mistakes and not getting the job done, if the front office is a mess, you have the right to boo. You have the right to voice your displeasure. At least you are in the ballpark spending money on your team.

You actually have an obligation to boo.

The ultimate sign of displeasure is to NOT show up at the yard. Not to spend money. And some teams’ fan bases are already doing that if you look at the slew of empty ballparks around Major League Baseball.

The Diamondbacks, Orioles, Pirates and Rangers are on pace to lose 100 games. Four teams that pitiful speaks volumes about the way the game is being run today. Those fans have the right to boo if they bother to show up at those ballparks.

Booing took center stage this week with the Mets’ thumbs down controversy. Three players in particular: Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez and Kevin Pillar gave the thumbs down sign when they got hits and as Baez said it was their way of telling the booing fans to stuff it.

The most amazing thing about the gesture is that the players spent the time to dream this up. They actually came up with a plan to stick it to the fans while each of those players were struggling mightily at the plate.

“Actually, fan bases should be much more outraged than they have shown. The amount of bad baseball, poor coaching or no coaching, lack of true leadership is pretty much across the board in MLB.”

Look in the mirror, fellas. Lindor is batting .221 in his first season as a Met with a .366 slugging percentage, in the first year of a $341 million deal. Baez is hitting .227 as a Met with a .455 slug and had just come off a game where he foolishly was doubled off second base on a line drive to center field; where he never checked the position of the outfielders in a six-pitch at-bat in a one-run loss. Pillar, a reserve outfielder is hitting .212 for the season with a .338 slugging percentage and was incredibly cheered in his return from injury by the fans after being hit in the face with a baseball.

The players offered up “if I offended anyone’’ apologies after Sandy Alderson scolded them and then got the thumbs turned up, scoring five runs in the ninth inning Tuesday to beat the lowly Marlins with Baez scoring the winning run and losing a diamond earring in the process.

That’s MLB 2021 for sure.

Many former MLB players weighed in and essentially said “booing is part of the game, if you want to change the boos to cheers, play better.’’ That is the bottom line and I particularly like what former Met pitcher and current Mets broadcaster Ron Darling said about the situation while doing the game.

“If you play at a professional level, if you don’t figure out how to use boos as a lightning rod or something to produce a chip on your shoulder, that you say, ‘That’s not going to happen again’ or ‘I’m going to show them’, then you are in for a long or maybe a very short career because those things are going to happen today,’’ Darling said. “They are going to happen 100 years from now. You end up with the thumbs down. That doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That’s a confluence of a lot of things that have happened to this team this year that have gotten them to this point.’’

At the time, Darling said that the Mets were four games under .500. The Mets swept the two games against the Marlins and are two games under .500 in third place, 5 1/2 games behind the NL East leading Braves with one month to go in the regular season. If the Mets don’t make the postseason, the boos will come and will be well deserved.

In many ways, players have never had it easier. They are coddled by ownership and management. They are shielded from the prying eyes of the media because no media is allowed in the clubhouse.

They are quite simply in their little player bubble.

Coaches and managers no longer take players to task. And there is a new coaching bridge built for players with “performance coaches.’’ That goes along with the “mental skills coach’’ to make the players feel even better about themselves.

Hearing boos from your own fans is about the only criticism they hear these days in a face to face manner.

“The players have never been more entitled,’’ one longtime talent evaluator told Baseball or Bust.

He’s absolutely right.

In the Mets broadcast, former Met Keith Hernandez also made this strong point saying of the incredibly well paid players, “They talked about how they missed the fans, playing in the Covid season (of 2020) in empty stadiums. Well, you know, it’s a two-way street to perform. This club had expectations this year. They have not played up to expectations. A lot of players have not played up to expectations. These fans are going to let you know.’’

Bullseye again.

Of course, the day after the Mets swept the Marlins, they were in the news again when it was reported that interim GM Zack Scott was charged with driving while intoxicated after he was caught napping in his car at 4:17 Tuesday morning, evidently after attending a fundraising event at owner Steve Cohen’s estate.

You’ll remember that Scott got pushed up to interim GM because the Mets fired new GM Jared Porter after it was revealed he sent harassing, explicit texts and photos to a female reporter in 2016. Scott has already lost the Mets clubhouse with some silly comments about injuries and players taking ownership of their careers and their health; the teams hitting woes and the fact he flubbed at the trade deadline.

For decades I have used the phrase: “Only the Mets.’’ That is because the Mets always seem to have a dumpster fire of one kind or another going on.

Mets acting GM Zack Scott's DUI is the latest dumpster fire in Queens, and it's only Thursday. (Photo: Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Both Porter and Scott have a New England background, Porter went to Bowdoin College in Maine while Scott went to the University of Vermont and both come from the Theo Epstein tree of baseball executives. They both worked for Theo in Boston. Porter followed Epstein to Chicago with the Cubs.

And they both were hired by Alderson and Cohen.

Only the Mets. And you never know what next week might bring to the Mets.

“It’s embarrassing, it’s embarrassing to watch,’’ one long-time evaluator and a former pitcher told me of the four teams heading to 100 losses and so many teams struggling like the Mets

Yet players get upset because fans boo them at Citi Field for terrible performances. This is an organization that has a history of not being able to get out of its own way and here they are again making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Only the Mets.

When Scott was originally hired as assistant GM, Porter said at the time: “I’ve known Zack for over 15 years and worked with him daily for 10 of those years. He’s a strong leader who is a very creative and dynamic thinker. Zack is well rounded in all areas of baseball operations and will promote synergy and collaboration among all of our departments with an emphasis on research and development.’’

Actually, fan bases should be much more outraged than they have shown. The amount of bad baseball, poor coaching or no coaching, lack of true leadership is pretty much across the board in MLB.

When fans boo, they show they care. The fans pay the players’ salaries by going to games, buying concessions, parking, and through streaming services. The last thing the fans have left to show their displeasure is by booing.

“And if it continues to get worse,’’ the evaluator said of the poor clubs, “stop spending money on those teams. That’s the only way ownership is going to fix what they’ve broken. Until you get into their wallet.’’

Mets fans, you have every right in the world to boo. (Photo via YouTube/MLB)

Suddenly, these terrible teams think they are going to be good overnight with draft rebuilds but it is not the same as it once was rebuilding through the draft. It’s a much more difficult process and while the Astros and Jeff Luhnow are often held up as a beacon it was the previous GM Ed Wade that acquired talents like George Springer in the 2011 draft with Bobby Heck as his scouting director. Wade also made key trades. Luhnow came in the next year, Heck was still the scouting director and selected Carlos Correa. The next year in 2013 the Astros lost 111 games and Luhnow had replaced Heck with Mike Elias. Elias selected Mark Appel with the No. 1 pick.

Manager A.J. Hinch was the one who pushed for Justin Verlander with the owner, not Luhnow.

Elias is the Orioles boss now. Where’s Heck? He’s been helping the Rays become a juggernaut. Funny how that works out. People always ask me how the Rays do it? How are they so successful? The answer is simple, they have excellent scouting and development and they hold onto their essential scouting and development people.

Elias was the scouting director of the Astros in 2015 when Alex Bregman fell to them at No. 2 in the draft after the Diamondbacks selected Dansby Swanson No. 1 overall. Elias has been Orioles GM since 2019. That year they lost 108 games.

The new kick among MLB teams now is “performance coaches.’’

Regular coaches used to be performance coaches but they have had their duties cut by analytics departments. “When you have coaches who know what they are doing, who have been there, done that, lived that, and have an ounce of genuine care about their players, then you get the most out of those players,’’ a scout, a former pitcher, said. “Most of these fly by night coaches who have never played professional baseball and just because they are “certified’’ they are working with guys you give millions and millions of dollars to.’’

Perhaps that is why you see such weird things in baseball these days. On Tuesday the Yankees Jameson Tailon struck out Jared Walsh in the second inning on a high 1-2 fastball. Later in the game with two on Tailon had Walsh 0-2 and tried a breaking ball that was hit out of the ballpark for a three-run home run, the key hit against the Yankees in their fourth straight loss, a 6-4 defeat to the Angels.

Why not go back to the high fastball? Sequencing is the goal with these certified coaches instead of getting the out with something the batter already showed he could not handle.

“I’m going to attack there with the fastball and if he pulls it foul, I know he is on it,’’ the former pitcher told me of the way to attack in that situation.

“Then I’ll throw a changeup or something else.’’

Try what worked earlier. It’s amazing to see how many pitchers have good fastballs, but are always trying to fool the hitter. Young Edward Cabrera of the Marlins did just that in the 3-1 loss to the Mets on Tuesday night, a seven-inning game. Michael Conforto unloaded a two-run home run in the fourth inning on a change-up that stayed up. Cabrera threw only 38 percent fastballs that night so you can be sure that Conforto was sitting on the changeup.

That’s real baseball knowledge. That’s not sequencing. Fastball-slider is fine for Cabrera right now. Establish the fastball.

Marlins fans are struggling with another team that can’t win. The Marlins are 55-78. They are in many of the games but make critical mistakes. The Marlins are 27th in runs scored with 525 and 23rd with a .237 average.

The Astros lead baseball with a .267 average.

Only the Astros, Blue Jays and Red Sox have more hits than strikeouts. As for pitching, 16 teams have an ERA over 4.00. Three teams, the Pirates, Diamondbacks and Orioles all have team ERAs over 5.00 and the Orioles are trying to get to 6.00 with a 5.84 mark.

Boo!

“The product is not $100 million payroll good right now,’’ the evaluator said. “These are supposedly the best players in the world and night in and night out we watch 3 1/2 to 4-hour games where pitchers don’t throw strikes, Guys aren’t competent fielders, guys don’t run the bases competently. They can’t execute cutoffs and relays, they can’t get a bunt down if somebody actually asks them to get a bunt down in an extra inning game. Those all need to be booed. When you are paying people what you are paying them and the world we live in today, c’mon.’’

Who's happier than Jerry Dipoto? The Mariners GM just landed himself another multi-year extension. (Photo: Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports)

The Padres fired veteran pitching coach Larry Rothschild the other day, using him as a scapegoat for A.J. Preller and the manager Jayce Tingler’s shortcomings. Yu Darvish in his first outing without Rothschild could not make it through three innings on Wednesday, surrendering six runs to the Diamondbacks, of all teams. The D-Backs are 26th in OPS with a .692 mark and are hitting .237.

The Mariners are dead last in batting average at .222 and dead last in on base percentage at .294, but their GM Jerry Dipoto just got an extension and a promotion Wednesday with Dipoto, who has been around six years in Seattle, being promoted to president of baseball operations and given a multi-year extension. Dipoto, they say, has improved the farm system, how could you not?

Over the last six seasons under Dipoto the Mariners have never made the postseason and have finished nine games out his first year, 23 the second year, 14 the third year, 39 the fourth year, nine the fifth year and 7 1/2 this year in the AL West.

Perhaps the Mariners are on the cusp of greatness. Perhaps they will make up ground the last month of the season and make the postseason for the first time in 20 years and be a force to reckon with in the AL West for years to come.

Let’s get that team batting average over .230 first and the team on-base percentage to .300. If not, boos will be coming your way.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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