Even the most patient person understands its time for Jason Bay to go
- Updated: August 8, 2012
I have among the most patience when it comes to my sports teams. Unlike a lot other NY sports fans, I root for the uniform and want the best for every player on my favorite teams. I look at all the players as human beings and know that nobody wants to lose their edge or struggle as bad as Jason Bay has. Factor in the amount of money Bay is owed through next season, and it is obvious why I did not consider it an option that he would be released at any point of this deal. It was one thing to let Luis Castillo after he was still under contract for one year and $6 million. The drastic and immediate decline caused Oliver Perez to be released despite leaving the Mets on the hook for $12 million on the last year of his contract. And I, for a large part of this season, have used excuses such as the injury problems and the fact that he has not had a lot of at bats just to buy more time for Bay to get something going.
Any of us who follow players contract situations know Bay is in the 3rd year of a 4 year, $66 million contract he signed with the Mets after the 2009 season. He made $8.625 million in 2010 and $18.125 million in 2011. He is currently making $16 million this season as is due to make the same next season. His contract contains a vesting option for 2014 that would become official if he had 500 plate appearances in 2012 and 2013 or 600 plate appearances in 2013. That option is worth $17 million.
The obvious problem with releasing Bay, as early as in this past spring training, is the fact that Bay would be paid all that money to not be part of the team. His first season was marred by that unfortunate collision with the wall in Los Angeles which resulted in a concussion that ended his season. He hit .259, 6, 47 in 97 games that season. Even though it was a down season, there were many reasons to believe he could bounce back. He played 123 games for the Mets last season and hit .245, 12, 57 battling through some injuries. In spite of both of those underwhelming seasons, I feel he deserved every right to have a fair chance this season. I had no issue with him being the opening day LF for the Mets on April 5th VS Atlanta. I even had a heated debate over why the Mets could not release him at that point.
Now the 2012 season is more than half way done. Bay injured a rib diving for a ball which put him on the disabled list. He later got concussed diving into a wall which put him on the DL again. His injuries have been a result of how hard he plays the game, a commendable quality in a game where players miss just as much time for much softer injuries. He has now been back long enough that he should be subjected to an evaluation of his performance.
Bay now has 128 ABs over 39 games. HE IS HITTING .156! He has 5 HR and 10 RBI. He has a .253 OBP and is slugging .289 for a .542 OPS. He has just 20 hits to this point. Though it would still not be worth the contract, fans would certainly settle for the numbers he had over the past two seasons. There is no explanation for this performance and no way to spin that it will ever get any better. So, while I was on board with giving Bay the benefit of doubt over the past two seasons, how can the New York Mets justify playing him every day past this weekend? And if he loses his starting job, he cannot be trusted to come off the bench as a pinch hitter, so he will have absolutely no use.
Ironically, Bay’s .159 average is equal to what Adam Dunn hit last season. After 5 straight 40 HR seasons followed by back to back 38 HR totals, he had one of the worst seasons a professional hitter could have in the first year of his 4 year, $56 million deal with the White Sox. He has bounced back, making the All Star team this season and is currently leading the AL in HR with 31, despite hitting .211. Dunn’s story is told once in a lifetime and is extremely uncommon. Also, his drop came out of nowhere, while Bay has been on a decline for the past three seasons.
I would assume that if he is released a chance exists that the option could still be exercised. At this point, it is highly unlikely though. The conclusion has been made that Jason Bay is done as a power hitter in this game. However it happened, he lost it. The Mets have no choice to pay Bay the money he is owed whether he is here or not. And the Mets cannot go into 2013 with Bay as their regular LF, especially if he hits in the neighborhood of .159 this season with a .542 OPS. The logical thing would be to release him in spring training next year, similar to Castillo and Perez. I think it has to happen this year, no later than the end of the season and the sooner the better for both sides. The Mets cannot go into their offseason with Bay as part of the plan. For Bay’s interest, maybe he could take advantage of a fresh start and take steps to becoming a major league ballplayer again. Good luck Jason, but its time for you to move on.