You don’t see many Jason Bay jerseys at the ballpark these days. In fact, I bet you could count on two hands the number of Met fans who consider Bay their favorite player. And who could blame us? Fans like guys who perform up to expectations, not 66 million-dollar disappointments (make it $80 million for Bay if a fifth-year option vests). Heck, if Jason could hear me through the TV every night, he’d hate me.
But the 32-year-old Bay, who’s mired in a season-and-a-half-long slump and hardly even resembles the perennial 30/100 hitter he once was with the Pirates and Red Sox, is a damn good role model. In the midst of an awful situation, the likes of which I’ve never seen before in baseball, Jason has handled himself with the utmost class, selflessness, and self-control.
There have been no water coolers attacked or walls punched; no bleeped-out interviews; no mental mistakes; no half-assed running to first; and no lollygagging in left field (where he’s done an excellent job). Not many ballplayers today fit that description, even when they are playing well.
Day after day, Bay has patiently fielded questions about his hitting woes — what’s wrong, how he’s trying to fix it, and how he feels about it all. His frustration and disappointment are palpable, but not once have they spilled over into the dugout or onto the field.
Last week, Terry Collins opted to sit Bay for two straight games. Bay made no complaints, even though the second game was in Pittsburgh, where he won N.L. Rookie of the Year in 2004, where the fans voted him to two All-Star Games, and where he is remembered as a superstar.
Bay, who has lately been on the receiving end of much advice, has even been able to step away from his own problems and act as a mentor for younger players, namely 27-year-old outfielder Jason Pridie.
“Honestly, since coming up, he’s been the guy that I’ve turned to to ask questions,” Pridie told Steve Popper of the Bergen Record. “He’s always right there, saying, ‘Good job’ or ‘Try this.’ He’s been more than I could have imagined from a guy like that.”
Amazingly, Pridie has been the better baseball player of the two this year, and he recently started several games in left field with the elder Jason watching from the bench. And yet, even as Bay fights to reclaim his career, Pridie has the right idea: We can all learn something from Jason Bay.
Yesterday, Bay had a sacrifice fly to score the Mets’ first run in a 7-0 win over the Pirates. It was a baby step on his comeback road as a hitter, and maybe, someday, as a fan favorite. If there is such a thing as karma, it’s certainly on his side.