I can never again roll my eyes when Jason Bay walks into the batter’s box. I can never again get angry when he pops up or swings through a hittable fastball or chases a slider in the dirt. Because while I used to think Bay’s tenure with the Mets has been a nightmare for us fans, it finally hit me on Friday (when Bay hit the wall) that it’s probably more of a nightmare for Jason.
Signing somewhere as a Free Agent is a choice. It’s like having a steady job, then accepting another offer from another company. If things don’t go well at your new place, you start to feel regret. Jason Bay is too much of a professional, too much of a class individual and teammate (by all accounts) to show any regret. But deep down, is there a part of him that wishes he stayed in Boston, or signed somewhere else?
There’s no guarantee that he would have continued his 30 HR, 100 RBI ways in another city (From ’05 to ’09 he had at least those totals 3 times), but his drop off the statistical cliff was so dramatic when he came to Queens, at the age of 30, why not factor in his location?
And why not factor in bad luck? I’m not usually the superstitious type, but look at what has happened to Bay over the last 2+ years he’s spent with the Mets.
On Opening Day, 2010, he whistled a drive off the 415 sign of the cavernous right-center field wall. It went as a triple. It would have been a home run in any other ballpark. As the early season went on, long fly balls to left were gobbled up by Citi Field. The frustration was visible in Bay’s face. The dimensions clearly got in his head.
That year, he didn’t hit his first home run until April 27. He didn’t hit his next until a 2-homer game on May 23. He would hit only 3 more the rest of the year – a year that ended for him in July thanks to a concussion he suffered, slamming into the left field wall while attempting to make a catch.
Despite his relative health in 2011, it was more of the same. He finished with only 12 HRs and an OPS barely above .700. He showed signs of breaking out of his 2-year funk in September, but it was against September pitching – either guys not quite ready for the bigs, or guys who were just playing out the string.
This year, once again, we fans waited with bated breath to see Bay return to his pre-Flushing form. He had gotten hits in 9 of his last 10 games in April before he injured his ribs trying to make a diving catch in left field. He came back off the DL this month, going 2-25, with a home run against the Twins.
Then on Friday he suffered his second concussion in 3 years with the Mets when tried to make a lunging catch on a deep fly ball by the Reds’ Jay Bruce. The ball glanced off his glove, and Bay’s head slammed into the wall. He stumbled to his feet and managed to throw the ball to the cutoff man, but Bruce beat the relay throw, and slid safely into home with an inside-the-park home run. He walked off the field with minimal help from the trainers. His legs buckled under him like a fawn trying to walk for the first time. But he stayed on 2 feet.
He would exit the game to get tested for a concussion, but the few troglodytes in the Citi Field stands who booed him are the ones who really should have had their heads examined.
I know he makes more money than most of us can dream of, but I think that’s the furthest thing from his mind when he’s in the batting cage, in the batter’s box, or in the field. Jason Bay has done nothing but play full throttle every day, he’s been a great teammate, and he’s handled himself with class. He’s never complained, he’s just worked hard to try to get better. He’s stayed steady through the toughest period of his major league career – and it’s been harder on him than it has on us fans.