Jul. 27, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New York Mets left fielder Jason Bay (44) against Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

The Unfortunate Case of Jason Bay

By now, the unmitigated disaster that is Jason Bay has been written about and discussed ad nauseum.   He has gone from heralded (if not the most exciting) free agent acquisition, to an extreme disappointment, to the point of simply not being an MLB caliber player.  It’s been a steep drop that none could have seen coming.  A modest decline should have been expected as Bay exited his prime, but nothing like this.  After the 2009 season, Bay was coming off five very productive seasons, in four of which he produced over 100 RBI’s.  During those five seasons, he averaged 31 home runs.  There was some concern about his knees, but that seemed to be a case of Boston attempting to bring his price down.  Almost universally, Bay was seen as a free agent prize.  Then he signed with the Mets.

Since the beginning of 2010, Bay has been almost impossibly bad, culminating with the 2012 incarnation of Bay who is hitting .152 with a .242 OBP.  Some may want to blame his complete ineffectiveness on the concussion he suffered in Los Angeles late in the 2010 campaign, and the second concussion he suffered earlier this season.  But it’s clear to everyone who has been watching him since the beginning of 2010 that he simply isn’t the same player who was a force in Pittsburgh and Boston.  Now that it’s reached the point where Jason Bay is no longer a viable Major League player, let alone a regular, what can be done?  It’s gotten to the point where he’s become a “three true outcomes” player, but not the way Adam Dunnis.  No, for Bay, his three true outcomes seem to be strikeout, pop out, or weak grounder.  Forget about homers and doubles.  Jason Bay is having trouble making any solid contact at all.

What makes this harder to take, is that Bay isn’t Bobby Bonilla, picking fights with reporters and wearing earplugs to drown out the fans.  He’s not Vince Coleman, who turned into a borderline criminal when he relocated to Shea.  He’s not Luis Castillo, who seemed to be going through the motions without a care in the World while he was here.  Jason Bay is like none of those men, and it’s excruciating to watch a man who is clearly doing the best he can continue to sink into a bottomless pit.  Bay’s struggles haven’t stemmed from a lack of effort during games, or a lack of preparation before them.  He hasn’t insulted or injured any fans, and he hasn’t been indifferent and aloof amidst his decline.  He has been there to answer all the questions, and he hasn’t made excuses.   I feel bad for Jason Bay, but he’s a millionaire who’s getting paid regardless of his failure.  I feel worse for the fans that are being forced to watch him – and even worse for his teammates, whose chance to win drops when he’s in the lineup.

Jason Bay has become unwatchable.  So, what can be done?  What should be done?  I don’t think anyone expects him to pull a Gil Meche and walk away from the last year of his contract.  Prior to the Mets’ recent west coast swing, Terry Collins backed up Bay, citing his lack of at bats as a reason for his struggles.  Collins knows better, and I’m almost certain he was simply trying to give his player some confidence.  After Bay had a dismal road trip, Collins officially relegated him to platoon status.  Sandy Alderson has come out to say that the Mets won’t eat the remainder of his contract, though he did give himself an out by at the same time noting that “things can change.”

I was at Citi Field last Tuesday night, when the Mets lost to the Marlins.  Bay popped out to right field during his first at bat, and received a smattering of boos as he headed back to the dugout.  He lined out softly in his second at bat, which was met with mostly silence by the fans.  He delivered a clean single in his third at bat (a rarity), but popped out again in his last at bat, leading to a more full throated chorus of boos.  I won’t scold the fans who boo, since it’s up to them to do as they please once they enter the ballpark.  I will, however, note that I would never boo any Met player for anything except lack of effort.  Bay’s problem isn’t lack of effort; it’s lack of ability.  If Bay’s name is in the lineup card, he plays.  It’s Sandy Alderson and Co. who have refused to cut bait, and Terry Collins who has refused to bench him entirely.   A season that was full of promise with the Mets 46-40 at the All-Star Break has deteriorated rapidly.  That deterioration was due mostly to the loss of Dillon Gee, which coincided with Johan Santana pitching hurt, and R.A. Dickey’s only slump of the year.  Still, Bay’s presence in the lineup and in left field has been a detriment.

Before the 2012 season, most claimed the Mets would likely finish last in the National League East.  Well, they’re on pace to win around 79 or 80 games and finish in 3rd place.  And if they finish the season on a high note, they will have met or exceeded most outside expectations.  Still, something has to give with Jason Bay.

No one expects the Mets to cut Bay right now, and there’s really no reason to.  If they want to keep up the charade for the remainder of 2012 and send Bay out there against lefties even though he’s overmatched by them just as he is against righties, that’s their prerogative (although the outcome of his plate appearances seem pre-determined at this point).  If they want to give Bay a shot going into Spring Training of 2013, so be it.   However, barring some type of unforeseen re-birth, the Mets have to cut ties with Jason Bay before Opening Day next season.  The Mets have needs at Catcher and at all three outfield spots that need to be addressed.  Keeping Bay on the team beyond Spring Training and citing the fact that he’s deserving of a roster spot would simply insult the intelligence of all Mets fans.  Regardless of how the Mets finish 2012, and regardless of how soon you believe they can contend, having Bay on the team next year would be a message to the fans that ownership and/or the front office simply isn’t serious about winning.  It would be an indication that they don’t care about the outcome of the games, or the season.  And that would be simply unacceptable.

 

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