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Opinion: Only way out of latest Mets mess is clean house and hire this former executive

·6 min read
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As bad as it is in Queens these days, it isn’t the summer of 1993.

No New York Mets player has tossed a firecracker into a parking lot filled with fans like Vince Coleman on that July evening at Dodger Stadium, injuring three people.

No one has sprayed bleach on three reporters as Bret Saberhagen did a couple of days later in another practical joke that went bad.

And no one has challenged a reporter to a fight like Bobby Bonilla.

But this season has had its share of embarrassment and missteps, even by Mets standards.

The year that started with the Mets firing general manager Jared Porter for sending unsolicited and explicit text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016, and has spring-boarded into a lost and intolerable season.

Can you imagine if free agent Trevor Bauer had decided to take the Mets’ offer of $105 million? Bauer, who has been on administrative leave since July 2 while being investigated for sexual assault, instead is the Dodgers’ nightmare.

The latest Mets mess involves the players' thumbs down gesture to fans, which began Aug. 6, but only came to light over the weekend when new infielder Javy Baez spilled the beans.

“To let them know when we don’t get success we’re going to get booed," Baez said. "So, they’re going to get booed when we have success."

Javier Baez gestures with his thumbs down at home plate after his two-run home run on Sunday.
Javier Baez gestures with his thumbs down at home plate after his two-run home run on Sunday.

It prompted Mets president Sandy Alderson to lash out at his players Sunday evening, saying it would no longer be tolerated, and the message was reinforced in a team meeting Tuesday morning in which the players vowed they would cease and desist.

Baez apologized to his teammates and the fans, saying that he sent a mixed message, and didn’t really mean that he and his teammates hate the fans for booing.

“I didn’t mean to offend anybody,’’ Baez told reporters at Citi Field. “This is something I’ve done in the past, against the other team."

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Francisco Lindor, their second-highest-paid player who also gave the thumbs-down gesture, told reporters at Citi Field that it was never meant to disrespect the fans.

“I apologize,’’ he told reporters. “It was wrong. It was a mistake by putting my thumbs down at a time when it didn’t need to be. My thumb didn’t need to be down. …

“I apologize whoever I offended. It was not my intent to offend people. I’ve never done it in my career."

And that was just the drama before the first game of the Mets’ two games against the Miami Marlins, with everyone wondering who would be booed during the game, and just how loudly.

Only the Mets would miss the days of 2020, when no fans were permitted into the ballpark during the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing anyone from booing them.

Lindor was met with a mixture of boos and cheers in his first at-bat in front of a small smattering of fans who arrived for the suspended game, with some fans giving the thumbs-down gesture. Baez, who has an ugly .210/.258/.452 slash line since joining the Mets, was heavily booed when he came to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of the first game.

And then celebrated by the same fans him when he got a hit and scored the winning run on a wild scamper from first base in the Mets’ 6-5 ninth-inning comeback inning, losing a diamond earring on his head-first slide. While the Mets were celebrating in the clubhouse, with Alderson was actually on the field with the grounds crew combing the area by home plate, desperately searching for the earring.

Really, we’re not making this up.

No wonder Cohen couldn’t help but send out a tweet on Sunday saying: “I miss the days when the biggest controversy was the black jerseys.’’

Cohen, who dropped $2.475 billion to purchase the Mets 10 months ago, enjoying his team sitting in first place for 90 days, only to watch them go 8-19 in August before Tuesday’s victory, is left with no choice.

It’s time to clean house this offseason.

And it starts with a telephone call to Theo Epstein.

Epstein, who ended World Series droughts with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, is exactly who the Mets need now.

He is currently a consultant for Major League Baseball and has ties to the area, including his wife being from New Jersey.

Give Epstein authority to run the entire operation, let him hire and fire who he chooses and simply sit back and watch the Mets morph into one of the game’s elite franchises.

It doesn’t mean Alderson, 73, a loyal soldier, has to be dismissed, but he could remain as a special assistant for as long as he desires.

Let Epstein decide whether Zack Scott, the Mets’ interim GM, stays in the organization or is shown the door - a decision that perhaps became easier after the GM's arrest early Tuesday morning in White Plains on suspicion of drunk driving.

Luis Rojas could also hang around, but not as the Mets manager. His team is not only underperforming on the field, but he somehow had no idea what his players’ gestures even meant.

Certainly, something dramatic must happen.

You know how thoroughly disgusted Cohen is with his own team when he tweets out the night of Aug. 18: “It’s hard to understand how professional hitters can be this unproductive. The best teams have a more disciplined approach. The slugging and OPS numbers don’t lie."

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Well, no one forced the Mets to acquire Baez, and his 36% strikeout rate, at the trade deadline. That decision lies with the front office.

Cohen can blame himself for signing off on Lindor’s 10-year, $341 million contract extension, which was immediately mocked by baseball executives.

Why, even when the Mets acquired Lindor from Cleveland in January, several scouts and talent evaluators insisted he would struggle, citing his offensive woes in a division filled with elite fastball pitchers.

Lo and behold, Lindor is hitting .224 with 11 homers and 38 RBI, including a .316 on-base percentage and .370 slugging percentage. It’s the worst season of his career, and his new contract doesn’t kick in until next season.

The Mets have the next decade to figure out Lindor’s woes, and a month to see if they can find a way to salvage this season, and at least have meaningful games in September.

But when the season ends Oct. 3, Cohen knows what he must do.

The embarrassing memories of the summer of 2021 must be washed away with the powerful spray of bleach, the deafening noise of a firecracker and the fight of a champion.

It starts with a call to Epstein.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Latest Mets mess will only improve when Steve Cohen makes changes