The Sunday Brief: Top Storylines to Follow This Week

All the stories you need to follow this week in the MLB.

It’s been a minute since we had a good ol’ Mets highlight, and wouldn’t you know, this past week was filled with Mets ridiculousness!

The one-time frontrunners in the NL East are now falling down the standings while their top players remain injured (or consistently re-injure themselves). The Mets management is angry. The Mets players are angry. The fans? Oh, you better bet they’re angry. What other team could cause this level of drama year after year? Let’s be fair — the Mets have their own LOLMets catchphrase. What other team has that?

So, let’s dig into the Mets and see what this week’s drama was all about.

LOL Mets

A thumbs down can have a lot of cultural significance. Lore has it that Roman gladiators sought a downward pointed thumb as permission to slay their fallen enemy. Maybe that was true, maybe not; records about 2,000-year-old hand gestures are awfully sketchy.

But we can all agree that a solid thumbs-down delivered at the right moment can shake your confidence to the foundations right?

The thumbs-down gesture was back in the news this week when Mets players showed them to the home crowd at Citi Field. Noted Mets players Francisco Lindor, Javy Báez, and Kevin Pillar (OK, only two noted Mets players, and Javy Báez) started the downtrend towards the fans after the players got hits. When asked about their actions, Báez replied, “When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed. So [the fans] are going to get booed when we get success.” I mean, I may be only an amateur dog trainer, but lesson one is that when something goes right, you praise instead of using negative reinforcement.

Before I continue this article, I should point out that Javy Báez did this last week; he also has a 32% K rate since joining the Mets and a 22% swinging strike.

OK, I suppose management had something to say about the thumbs-down incident, right? Indeed. Mets’ president Sandy Alderson put out a statement shortly after Báez explained his dissatisfaction with the New York crowd, where Alderson gave permission for New Yorkers to boo his team as much as they like.

Of course, there are no actual rules saying that the players can’t express their dissatisfaction with fans. Demonstrations of dissatisfaction would fall under the category of “unwritten rules,” which of course have been a big topic this year in MLB.

From Yermin Mercedes hitting a homer off of a position player to Javy Báez giving fans a thumbs down, these are not rules or bylaws or laws or even really expectations. Lance Lynn gets tons of attention when he shows displeasure towards fans and storms off the field swearing and grabbing his crotch. People say that he’s “fired up.”

But this isn’t the end of the Mets story. It couldn’t be. Because LOL Mets.

Early this week, New York Mets general manager Zack Scott was arrested for drunk driving. What’s more is that Scott was driving after attending a fundraiser at the home of the Mets’ owner, Steve Cohen. Also — wait for it, there’s more — Scott was only general manager of the Mets because his predecessor Jared Porter had sent unsolicited sexually explicit photos to a reporter in 2016.

With Scott arrested — an actual breaking of the rules of society — reporters quickly noticed the uneven treatment between Báez and Scott. Whereas Sandy Alderson noted by the end of the game night that he would reprimand his players for giving a thumbs down (an act which does not break any rules), it took a business day for the Mets to say something about their GM being in jail.

Also, let’s not lose sight of the fact the delta variant of the coronavirus is absolutely shredding our country’s healthcare system right now and MLB players are constantly under scrutiny for health and safety protocols while front office members are jumping into house parties.

Of course, the Mets’ front office demonstrated their lack of interest in “control” when they decided to micro-manage the behavior of their players while letting their employees over-indulge and then take the wheel in violation of state laws.

On top of all of this, the Mets have been on top of a season-long debacle regarding injuries. Ace starting pitcher Jacob deGrom has basically been shut down, and former ace Noah Syndergaard — who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery — has been asked to throw no sliders for the remainder of the year. Syndergaard missed his most recent rehabilitation start with yet another setback injury.

Despite this mess, the Mets remain a mere five games back in the NL Wild Card race, and they have an opportunity to finish the season in the playoffs. LOL, Mets, LOL.

Bryan Ruby

“If that white line ever gets lonely, if the nights get a little too cold, if it don’t work out, if you have your doubts, you’ve got a place to go.”

Those are lyrics from songwriter and professional baseball player Bryan Ruby, who came out as gay this week. Ruby — a journeyman of multiple independent leagues and international baseball leagues — became the first openly gay professional baseball player this week. Ruby’s personal page lists his accomplishments in Vassar College, German and Guatemalan leagues, and now the Oregon-based Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. An infielder, Ruby also has closing experience and has coached youth baseball all the way to collegiate baseball.

It’s best to let Ruby’s words finish out this article:

“Each time somebody comes out in industries where queer people have not been historically represented in the mainstream,” Ruby said, “it helps to crumble the myth that you can’t be yourself. But we’re in the 2020s. It’s about damn time for this.

“If I can help just one person from this, then that’s greater than any single hit or home run or win that I ever get on the field.”

All right, friends! Let me know what you’re reading down in the comments. Be a beacon of loving-kindness for yourself and the world right now, and we’ll check in next week. Enjoy the playoff race!


Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Blair Williams

Blair holds a PhD in Japanese history and is the author of "Making Japan's National Game: A Cultural History of Baseball." He's a fan of sci-fi, prog metal, and sipping rums.

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