Nieuwenhuis’s Mets sample size — which is also his MLB sample size — is small. He has had 144 plate appearances in 37 games and is hitting .291 with two homers, 12 RBIs, a .364 OBP and .402 slugging. Nothing spectacular, but his approach at the plate has been
impressive, and his transition to the big leagues has been smooth.
Bay’s Mets sample size, in comparison, is large. In 967 plate appearances, he’s hit .251/.335/.391. He has 21 home runs and 109 RBIs in 233 games; in 151 games with the Red Sox in 2009, he had 36 homers and 119 RBIs.
Through all of Bay’s awfulness, I have been one of his biggest supporters. Last season, I wrote that Bay was a good role model, remaining a positive force in the clubhouse and never taking his hitting woes with him to left field. And yet, while I still feel that way, I want the Mets to win. Jason Bay and winning don’t go hand and hand — at least not anymore.
Bay deserves one more shot, and according to Terry Collins, he will be the Mets’ starting left fielder when he eventually returns from a rib injury. But one thing should be made clear: The only reason Bay deserves another shot is that he’s been swinging the bat decently since the end of last season.
In the final 20 games of 2011, Bay hit .313/.392/.563 with three home runs and seven doubles. In 15 games this year before getting hurt, he had three home runs and kind of, sort of, maybe looked like he was starting to find his swing.
However, Jason Bay does not deserve to play every day for the reason Collins provided a few days ago: “He didn’t come here to be an extra player.”
Look, I know how it works: If you’re getting paid a lot, you’re supposed to play. By now, I realize that baseball’s a business, and that sometimes as a fan you just have to deal with it.
But that same backward logic is what the Mets used to justify keeping Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo for as long as they did, and it’s the logic they’re using with Bay now. Sandy Alderson is better than that.
I’m no economist, but in the one class I’ve taken, one of the concepts I actually understood was that of “sunk cost.” Jason Bay fits the definition. Unless some team is crazy enough to take him off the Mets’ hands, he is going to get his big, stupid contract. Putting him in the lineup every day won’t pay off that $66 million, and if he continues to falter, it won’t boost his value on the market, either. As long as Bay’s not hitting, letting him play won’t pay off at all.
Baseball is a business, sure, but in the end it’s about winning. That, above all else, is why the Mets have been a failed business in recent years.
So give Bay one more shot. If he stinks after 10 games, platoon him with Nieuwenhuis. If he still stinks a few weeks later, sit him down for good. He’s had his chances to prove he deserves his contract, and he’s failed.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis gives the Mets a better chance to win baseball games than Jason Bay does, both now and in the future. It’s time for the Mets to put winning first.