By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper
This is probably the umpteenth post you’ve read about Jason Bay today (eh?), mostly regarding his walk-off hit against the Yankees in the finale of the Subway Series. However, Bay had been on my mind as much as a few weeks ago when Friend Of Coop (“F-O-C”) Richie S from Random Mets Thoughts said that he seriously thought Jason Bay was one “breakout game away” from being his old self or at least close to his old self again. And I agreed with him.
Despite what others (even those who live with me) may suggest, I had a hard time disliking Jason Bay. I wasn’t his #1 fan, but I didn’t hate him. I reserve that vitriol for Luis Castillo or Oliver Perez, who are still usurping $18mm of salary that could be better put to use elsewhere.
But I felt like Bay got a bad rep here. For one, when he arrived in he was unprotected in the lineup, meaning it was very easy to pitch to him. Two, he had to adjust to CitiField’s dimensions which by the way, is more of an indictment on Omar Minaya wanting to make a splashy move rather than get someone of quality to play to CitiField’s quirks (that’s another story in and of itself). Back then his only protection was strike-out artist David Wright, and I also felt as though Carlos Beltran’s absence hurt Bay the most…And they hadn’t even played a game together at that point!
Then the concussion. Then he’s out for the season. Then his slow start this year, coupled with a stint on the DL for a strained rib cage muscle (thus allowing me to take the field with starting LF Scott Hairston on “Take the Field Night” for season ticket holders – bah). I wonder how much of his slow start had to do with repercussions FROM his concussion. Think about Ryan Church and how long it took him to recover from not one but TWO head injuries in 2008.
But as a person, you could see that this start was not making him happy. Even Terry Collins had given him some days off to “clear his head,” giving him June 9th and June 10th off, basically putting Bay in a “time out” zone. From June 11th, when he returned to the lineup, to when I saw my friend Richie at the game, he was still pretty abysmal, in 25 plate appearances in that time span, he boasted a BA of .304, OBP of .320 and a SLG of .304 (meaning all he hit were singles). Egads, Jason! You gotta come better than that!
But still Richie and I thought he was just one breakout game away, so I kept the faith that Bay would return our faith in him somehow. I mean, this was a guy I called the “X-Factor” for the 2011 season. Without a decent Jason Bay in the lineup, this team wasn’t going anywhere, regardless of injuries to our RBI machine 1B Ike Davis or a fractured back for our All-Star 3B, or even an MVP-type season for our favorite SS.
Since that game, he has rewarded us, and not just with a timely game-winning walk-off hit against the hated New York Yankees yesterday. Did you know that since June 18th against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Planet Earth, Bay has a line of .333/.414/.490, boasting a OPS of .904? What’s more? He has 11 rib-eye steaks as our buddy Keith Hernandez would say in 13 games, and only 10 Ks in that time period as well (hey, it’s Jason Bay – we gotta take it where we can). He’s had a grand slam in that period, in addition to the walk-off hit yesterday. Typically, a good BABip is .300, and his is .385 in that time span. This may suggest a bit of luck, or a bit of coming down to Earth eventually.
I wasn’t ready to give up on Jason Bay, and it seems like he wasn’t ready to give up on himself either. Whether this is luck, whether this is a product of Terry Collins benching him, whether this is a result of him finally adjusting to CitiField’s dimensions, time will tell. But his latest mini-burst should be doing wonders for his approach to the game now, and we’ll be rewarded soon enough for our belief in him.