I don’t usually like to take part in schadenfreude, joy at the expense of others, but when Jason Bay was released from his Mets contract yesterday, I let out a little “hallelujah.” Then I thought back and tried to remember a time when it looked like that 4-year, $66 million deal, one of the last of the Omar Minaya era, may actually pay dividends. Well folks, after sifting through a lot of garbage, I did manage to find at least one gold nugget in Jason Bay’s New York career. It is the subject of today’s “Glory Days.”
Dateline: July 5, 2011. The Mets are coming off not only Jason’s heroics against the Yankees two days before, but a solid win to start out a four-game set in Los Angeles. Terry Collins, cautiously optimistic, has inserted Bay in the 5-hole against the Dodgers, in between Ronny Paulino and Daniel Murphy.
Nothing much happens for the first four innings, as Mike Pelfrey and Ted Lilly are trading shots in a pitchers’ duel. But Lilly is the first to blink in the fifth frame: Angel Pagan registers a one-out single, steals second, and goes to third on Justin Turner’s groundout. Up comes Carlos Beltran, who launches a two-run homer to left center. The Mets are now cooking with a 2-0 lead.
Bay leads off the sixth inning hoping Lilly is still serving up the good stuff, and he’s in luck, as Ted serves him up a fat one. Jason swings at the 1-1 and pounds it to the same spot as Beltran, giving his team another run to work with. Now, solo home runs were part of Bay’s limited repertoire in Flushing, so as we flash forward to the eighth inning, imagine our surprise when we see this: after singles by Beltran and Paulino, Bay takes a 1-1 from Blake Hawksworth and delivers another souvenir to a fan in right center. Not even the New York bullpen could blow that 6-0 cushion, as Mike Pelfrey’s six shutout innings were followed up with scoreless frames from Pedro Beato, Jason Isringhausen, and D.J. Carrasco to finish up the night. And the hero of the night? Jason Bay, who increased his home run total for the season by 50% after belting two home runs and driving in four runs.
At this point in his Mets tenure, I really thought Jason was back to his old self. That game was the culmination of an 18-game stretch in which he hit .347 with 4 HR, 17 RBI, .947 OPS, and only 13 strikeouts. I’m sure many other Mets fans felt like he had finally turned the corner and was to be the player we expected him to be. Unfortunately, the next night he began a 16-game stretch of hitting .107 with just one extra base hit. Such was the story in 2011, the “good old days” of the Bay era: that year he was incredibly streaky, but in 2012 he couldn’t put together even one good streak, culminating in his early dismissal from the team yesterday afternoon.
July 5. A good day for Larry Doby in 1947 (became first black player in the American League) and guys with ambitions like mine in 1929 (the New York Giants debuted baseball’s first public address system at the Polo Grounds). Also a good day for young voters in 1971 (26th Amendment is passed, lowering voting age from 21 to 18). A bad day for Oliver North in 1989 (sentenced for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair) and enemies of “indecency” in 1946 (bikini swimsuit is introduced at a popular Paris swimming pool). A great day for Jason Bay in 2011.