Through play on Friday June 18th, Mets leftfielder Jason Bay is on a paltry pace in the power department. On this date last year with Boston, Bay had slugged 17 homeruns and already had 63 RBIs. By comparison, Bay has 4 homers and a mere 27 RBIs this year in a Met uniform, 3 more than Jose Reyes. At his current rate, Bay will finish the season with 10 homeruns and 66 RBI. A far cry from what the Mets thought they were getting when Omar Minaya gave Bay a four-year deal worth $66 million with a $17 million vesting option for 2014 (The option for 2014 would become guaranteed if Bay makes 600 plate appearances in 2013 or 500 in both 2012 and 2013). And yet, this signing isn’t considered a bust, as of yet.
This is partially due to the precedent that Met fans have become used to. This is not the first time that the Mets have brought in a big name position player that’s struggled his first year in the orange and blue. Here are just a few examples.
2004 with Kansas City & Houston
159 games- .267 38 HR 104 RBI 42 SB
2005 with New York
151 games- .266 16 HR 78 RBI 17 SB
2001 with Cleveland
157 games- .336 20 HR 100 RBI 30 SB
2002 with New York
140 games- .266 11 HR 53 RBI 16 SB
1991 with Pittsburgh
157 games- .302 18 HR 100 RBI 102 Runs
1992 with New York
128 games- .249 18 HR 70 RBI 62 Runs
Met fans have taken a wait and see approach with Bay, much as they’ve taken with the team as a whole. To the Met fans’ credit, they’ve shown awareness that the major league baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint, and have recently embraced the best home team in baseball. However, the fact remains that these educated fans all but boycotted Citi Field in the early part of the season in order to send a message to ownership. This isn’t simply a sign that baseball is becoming more of a made-for-tv sport or another soliloquy on the economy. It’s proof that Met fans had become disenchanted by an abysmal 2009 and were bored by what seemed like an uneventful offseason. And bringing in the streaky Bay certainly has to be considered a part of that.
Mets Average Attendance 2009: 38,941
Mets Average Attendance 2010: 33,041
However, in the second part of the season, as the weather gets better here in New York, I look forward to Jason Bay’s whirlwind of hustle and grit to continue to find its way into the television sets of Met fans, and through the magic of television lift them up out of their living rooms and return them to their rightful places at Citi Field. (Hopefully this week against long-time rivals Detroit and Minnesota!) After all, Jason Bay has a .311 average at Citi Field this year!
When I asked Baseball Digest online editor and fellow Met fan Mark Healey his take on the matter he said, “His hustle and obvious love for baseball has made a normally vicious fanbase (which abhors big-contract players that fail to live up to expectations) sympathetic to his plight. I think with Beltran back in the lineup (when he’s back to full strength) and hitting third, you’ll see his power numbers creep up.”
Maybe the power numbers creep up when if Beltran returns. Maybe they don’t. The fact remains. Bay hustles. And Met fans and players alike unite around that. The trickle down to his teammates has affected this team and organization as a whole in a positive way.
But wait a minute….
Is it okay that a $16 million dollar-a-year player is no longer required to produce in order to live up to his contract in New York? The answer is yes….. For now…