With another 0-the series in Arizona, Jason Bay’s horrendous 2012 campaign descended into an all-time low. In just 126 plate appearances this season, Bay’s triple slash stands at a dismal .159/.238/.310 with just 7 extra base hits, 8 RBIs, 12 walks, and 35 strikeouts. In just over three seasons with the Mets, he’s hit a mere 23 home runs and driven in 112 runs, both totals less than the 36 and 119 he had during the 2009 season with Boston. Factor in the $42,750,000 he’s already made off Omar Minaya’s 2010 free agent deal and New York has paid $1,858,695.65 per home run Bay has hit.
I could go on, but if you’re on this site I’d just be beating a dead horse. You know it by now, I know it by now: Jason Bay has been a complete bust for the orange and blue. He hasn’t come close to resembling the player who commanded $66 million over four seasons. This season has been terrible even by diminished expectations: while in 2010 and 2011 he had promising streaks sprinkled in through long droughts, this season the crop has completely dried up to the point that anything other than a strikeout or weak groundball is seen as a pleasant surprise.
Just how bad has Jason Bay been since he arrived in Flushing Meadows? It’s come to the point that he can now be inducted into the Hall of Horrible. The Canyon of Can’t. The Pantheon of Putridity. This season SNY and MetsBlog.com honored the Mets’ All-Time Team for its 50th anniversary. On the flip side, it’s time to introduce a more dubious squad: the Mets’ Free Agent-Era Team of Imported Busts.
First Base: Mo Vaughn, 2002-03
The “Hit Dog” had missed the entire 2001 season before the Mets acquired him from Anaheim in late ’01. Vaughn’s first season in the Big Apple proved to be an underwhelming one: he hit just .259 with 26 HRs, 72 RBIs, and more strikeouts (145) than hits (126). After an even worse start to 2003, he ended up missing the rest of the season after playing just 27 games. He would never play baseball again, and the Mets were saddled with paying the rest of his 6-year, $80 million contract anyway. Mo took in more than $17 million in both his abbreviated final season and first year of retirement in 2004.
Pre-Mets season averages: .298 BA, 30 HR, 98 RBI, .920 OPS
Mets season averages: .249 BA, 14 HR, 44 RBI, .794 OPS
Percent changes: -16.4%, -53.3%, -55.1%, -13.7%
Second Base: Roberto Alomar, 2002-03
The future Hall-of-Famer was brought in around the same time as Vaughn and, along with him, was supposed to be the new face of a reinvigorated franchise. But 34-year-old Alomar’s age began to show the moment he arrived from Cleveland: his batting average dropped 70 points from .336 in ’01 to .266 in ’02. He also went from 20 to 11 home runs and 100 to 53 RBIs. After more of the same in 2003, the Mets shipped him off to the White Sox for next-to-nothing, ending the Alomar/Vaughn “Era” less than two years after it began. Alomar was inducted into Cooperstown in 2011 after 10 phenomenal seasons with the Blue Jays, Orioles, and Indians. His career in New York is remembered as nothing more than an unfortunate post-career stretch.
Pre-Mets season averages: .306 BA, 73 RBI, 32 SB, .833 OPS
Mets season averages: .265 BA, 38 RBI, 11 SB, .703 OPS
Percent changes: -13.4%, -47.9%, -65.6%, -15.6%
Shortstop: Kazuo Matsui, 2004-06
The Mets’ answer to Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, Kaz was brought in as the first Japanese-born infielder in MLB history. He led off his major league career with a home run, but that first game (3-3, 2 2Bs, HR, 3 RBIs) would turn out to be the high point in his New York career. Matsui hit just .272 in 114 games at shortstop 2004 and played just 87 games at second base while hitting .255 in 2005. He lost his starting job in 2006 and was traded to Colorado, who immediately sent him down to the minors, in the middle of the year. In addition to his underwhelming numbers and inflated 3-year, $20 million contract, Matsui also necessitated the ill-fated Jose Reyes at second base experiment.
Pre-Mets season averages: .309 BA, 30 2B, 68 RBI, 34 SB
Mets season averages: .256 BA, 16 2B, 25 RBI, 7 SB
Percent changes: -17.2%, -46.7%, -63.2%, -79.4%
Third Base: Bobby Bonilla, 1992-95, ’99
Okay, so he was only a third baseman part of the time. But the outfield’s crowed, so we’ll put him at the hot corner. Bonilla was imported from Pittsburgh after an MVP-caliber 1991 season with a 5-year, $29 million deal. While his power numbers were consistent and batting average not horrible, what makes Bobby-Bo a must for the Bust team is his terrible attitude. Bad work ethic, chronic complaining, and threats of violence marred his initial four seasons at Shea. An overachieving first half in 1995 allowed the Mets to ship him off to Baltimore at the trade deadline. That should’ve been the end of it, but New York brought back Bonilla for an “encore” in 1999. He hit .160 that year and missed all but 60 games. His complaining returned and he spat constantly with Bobby Valentine, but the enduring image is of him in the clubhouse playing cards with Rickey Henderson while his team lost Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS. But what makes this clown perhaps the most infamous on the All-Bust team is that the Mets will have to pay him a little over a million dollars a year for 25 years (which started last year) thanks to a buyout deal he signed in 2001. Only after the final check is sent in 2025 will the Mets finally be rid of Bobby Bonilla, and hopefully for good this time.
Pre-Mets season averages: .283 BA, 19 HR, 88 RBI, .829 OPS
Mets season averages: .270 BA, 19 HR, 49 RBI, .851 OPS
Percent changes: -4.6%, 0%, -44.3%, 2.6%
Actually, the Mets have done a pretty good job in this department. Their biggest two acquisitions were future Hall-of-Famers, one (Gary Carter) who was a team leader and wanted to go in as a Met, the other (Mike Piazza) who will go in as a Met when he becomes eligible in 2013. Of course, we’ll be taking future references.
Outfield: George Foster, 1982-86
The original high-priced bust, Foster came to the Mets via trade from Cincinnati in 1982. The former MVP and staple on the Big Red Machine was soon upped to, at the time, the second largest contract in baseball history: 5 years, $10 million. But GM Frank Cashen’s first step towards the 1986 World Champions would turn out to be a misstep. 33-year-old Foster tailed off immediately, couldn’t handle the pressure of being a big-money man in New York City, and, as is well documented in Jeff Perlman’s The Bad Guys Won, never seemed to gel with his new teammates. His final year with the team was the most eventful for all the wrong reasons. Foster was the man behind the, um, “legendary” rap song “Get Metsmerized,” recorded one game into the 1986 season. But as tone-deaf as that business venture was, his exit from New York sounded even worse: he was released in August after accusing Davey Johnson and the organization of racism. The White Sox picked him up soon after but Foster was out of baseball a month later. Perhaps Foster’s biggest positive contribution to that legendary team was warming a seat for Lee Mazzilli; the former fan favorite took his spot on the roster almost immediately after Foster was released.
Pre-Mets season averages, 1975-81: .297 BA, 32 HR, 107 RBI, .911 OPS
Mets season averages: .252 BA, 20 HR, 72 RBI, .729 OPS
Percent changes: -15.2%, -37.5%, -32.7%, -20%
Outfield: Vince Coleman, 1991-93
The 1985 Rookie of the Year and Cardinals’ speedster came to the Mets after the 1990 season for almost $12 million over 4 years. After finishing in 2nd in three of the four seasons following 1986, Coleman was supposed to be the sparkplug that finally got New York over the hump. How did that work out? After leading the league in stolen bases each of his first six seasons, Coleman suddenly stopped running when he got to Shea. He never played more than 100 games in any of his three seasons in Flushing, and the Mets finished 5th in 1991 and 1992 and dead last with 103 losses in 1993. In July of that season, Coleman gave that horrid season, and his horrid tenure in New York, one more unfortunate exclamation point as he tossed a firecracker into a crowd of fans waiting for autographs outside Dodger Stadium. Several were injured, including a 2-year-old girl, and Coleman was charged with felony explosives possession on August 3. He was placed on administrative leave that day and never played another game in a Mets uniform.
Pre-Mets season averages: 146 Games, .265 BA, 92 SB
Mets season averages: 78 Games, .270 BA, 33 SB
Percent changes: -46.6%, 1.9%, -64.1%
Outfield: Jason Bay, 2010-now
One of the biggest black marks on Omar Minaya’s tenure as GM, Bay’s struggles have been well-documented by just about every Mets-related source out there, including right here on Rising Apple. It appears this latest nightmare is about to end, though: the New York Post’s Mike Puma reports that Jason has about a week to do something before he loses the bulk of his playing time to Mike Baxter. If he does lose the job, it would all but guarantee he would fall short of the plate appearances needed to trigger his optional 5th year in 2014. But don’t be surprised if Bay gets the George Foster treatment and is out of here within a year.
Pre-Mets season averages, 2004-09: .280 BA, 30 HR, 99 RBI, .894 OPS
Mets season averages: .240 BA, 8 HR, 37 RBI, .701 OPS
Percent changes: -14.3%, -73.3%, -62.2%, -21.6%
Starting Pitcher: Oliver Perez, 2006-10
The Mets got Ollie at the trade deadline in 2006. His numbers weren’t particularly great in the regular season (6.38 ERA on 7 starts), but his solid start in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS earned him another shot in 2007. His next two seasons were decent (15 wins in ’07, 10 in ’08), but certainly not enough to merit the 3-year, $36 million deal Omar Minaya offered him before the start of 2009. We all know the story from there: the dreadful and injury-plagued ’09, the refusal to go to the minors in ’10, the fake injury Jerry Manuel had to make up to get him off the roster. Perez was released in 2011 with a trashed reputation…and $12 million more. Despite suggestions that he’s actually good now, Met fans will get a laugh as to how Ollie earned his first W since 2009: poaching it from Felix Hernandez with a blown save on Sunday afternoon.
Pre-Mets season averages: .467 WP, 4.26 ERA, 129 IP, 69 BB 143 K
Mets season averages: .500 WP, 4.71 ERA, 104 IP, 60 BB, 99 K
Percent changes: 6.6%, 9.6%, -19.4%, -13%, -30.8%
Relief Pitcher: Francisco Rodriguez, 2009-11
A year after setting a single-season saves record with the Angels, K-Rod signed with the Mets to the tune of $37 million over three years. His ERA ballooned his first season in New York and his attitude soon became a problem. In August 2010 Rodriguez was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend’s father near the Mets’ clubhouse; his suspension soon after became a moot point when it was revealed he tore his right thumb during the assault and required season-ending surgery. While definitely not the worst relief pitcher the Mets have ever brought in, his bloated contract, violent actions, and habit of giving fans cardiac arrest while he performed his tightrope routine in 9th innings are enough to land him on this list of losers.
Pre-Mets season averages, 2003-08: 74 IP, 2.38 ERA, 35 SV, 33 BB, 96 K
Mets season averages: 56 IP, 3.05 ERA, 28 SV, 25 BB, 62 K
Percent changes: -24.3%, 22%, -20%, -24.2%, -35.4%
What an expensive and terrible team. For anyone to make that roster, they would have to be Amazin’-ly bad while simultaneously becoming Amazin’-ly rich. Unfortunately for Jason Bay, he fits both criteria and will be forever immortalized as one of the worst-ever imports for a franchise known for bringing in the wrong players at the wrong time. That is, unless the Mets manage to bring in someone who turns out to be even worse. I wouldn’t put it past them.