New Yorkers can be a tough crowd. They demand victories and expect excellence.
Even Derek Jeter did not always escape the wrath of Yankees fans. Late in April 2004, in the midst of an 11-2 loss to the Red Sox, Jeter flailed weakly at a two-strike pitch from Derek Lowe to see his average drop to .197. The fans let him hear it with a chorus of boos.
Mike Piazza, now one of the most beloved Mets of all time, heard those boos as well. When the Mets acquired him from the Marlins in 1998, the initial relationship between Piazza and Mets fans was uneasy. Heading into free agency, many believed Piazza preferred to sign elsewhere. "I like it here," he said, but nobody believed him. A couple of months into his tenure with the Mets, a stable of fans was still letting him have it.
He kept hitting. The jeers turned to cheers. Piazza never reached free agency, signing a long-term contract before the end of October, a $91 million deal that was the biggest in baseball history at the time.
So, Francisco Lindor, you're in good company -- and you've already learned that you're a long way from Cleveland.
Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million extension with the Mets before playing his first regular-season game with the club. It took less than four weeks before the fans at Citi Field serenaded him with boos earlier last week. There were only 8,000 fans in attendance, but the message was loud and clear: It's time to start producing.
"It's interesting and it's funny, and it sucks," Lindor said the next day on a call with reporters. "It doesn't feel right, for sure. Interesting because it's the first time that it happened in my career. And funny because I'm getting booed and people think I'm going to go home and just think, oh, why am I getting booed? I get it. They're booing because there's no results. That's it."
When Yankees fans booed Jeter, he responded by saying, "I don't blame them. We would have booed ourselves tonight." That was always one of Jeter's strengths, which Piazza came to understand as well: This is part of the job when you play in New York, but if you perform, no city will cheer louder.
Lindor, too, will come to learn this as well.
"People expect results, and they're booing because there are no results," Lindor said. "I just hope they cheer and jump on the field when I start hitting home runs and start helping the team on a daily basis a lot more than I'm doing right now."
Lindor is hitting .182/.297/.234 with one home run, one double and three RBIs in 21 games entering the Mets' Sunday night game on ESPN against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He's not the only Mets hitter off to a slow start as the offense ranks next-to-last in the majors in runs per game ahead of Detroit, but given the big offseason trade, the big contract and the big expectations for the Mets in 2021, his start is the most visible.
So what's going on? There are three scenarios to consider behind his early struggles: