As Jason Bay sifted through the muck of last season and looked back on his lost months of tweaks and adjustments, he realized that all that tinkering had whisked him so far away from his old productive self. He was no longer Jason Bay, power hitter. In his mind, he was no longer even Jason Bay.
“I didn’t really know who I was there for a bit,” Bay said Thursday, appearing relaxed in a backwards cap and flip-flops after arriving two days early at Mets camp. “That is the tough part, is just trying not to be your own worst enemy.”
What Bay forced himself to do, in essence, was to recreate the swing that made him so successful with the Pirates and Red Sox from 2004-09. He began his ugly cycle of adjustments after a slow start to 2010, his first season after signing a four-year, $66 million deal with the Mets. Then, when his adjustments didn’t work, he tweaked again. And again. And still more and more, until Bay no longer recognized himself or his swing.
Rather than continue tweaking his swing throughout the offseason, Bay spent hours hitting at a Bellevue, Wash., complex near his home, attempting to force the repetition into his brain. He realizes now that there was never anything wrong with his swing while in Pittsburgh and Boston, and yet still he tried to alter it.
“There were way too many changes being made,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “We’ve got to use that video we had of him when he was swinging good and try to get him to stay on those tracks.”
These quotes are like music to my ears. We have suffered through Bay’s version of that Cannibal and the Headhunters / Wilson Pickett / Ted Nugent song “Man of A Thousand Stances,” cringing every time Bay adjusted his hands and re-placed his feet. We discussed the subject here on many occasions, including just a few weeks ago.
To be absolutely clear, I have no idea if going back to the old way is going to be the magic bullet Jason Bay needs to come close to fulfilling his contract. But I am positive that focusing on one stance and one approach, rather than constant tinkering, is his best chance of becoming a productive hitter again.
Hitting is incredibly difficult, and few — if any — can succeed when lacking confidence and thinking about mechanics while a 90+ MPH pitch is coming in. The mind needs to be clear and focused on pitch recognition — anything else in the head is a distraction. Once Bay gets back to trusting his hands and body to react, he can concentrate on deciding whether or not to swing as a pitch comes in. With that focused, singular mindset, he’ll give himself an opportunity to be the hitter that earned a 4-year, $66M contract.
What do you think? Is there any chance Jason Bay can be a legit middle-of-the-order hitter again? Do you see these latest quotes as encouraging, or the typical spring training hot air of false optimism? Answer in the comments.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.