Remember when the Boston Red Sox wanted Jason Bay back?
It happened twice. Bay's Beantown courtship almost concluded at the All-Star Break in 2009 with a four-year, $60 million offer that fell apart over a purported knee issue that still hasn't landed Bay on the disabled list. Then, Boston bid unsuccessfully in December 2009 with a more favorably structured four-year, $60 million offer and the goodwill Bay accumulated from Sox fans by successfully replacing Manny Ramirez in front of the Green Monster.
Then the Mets won out. Four years and $66 million. Signed, sealed, delivered.
It wasn't an egregious offer compared to what Boston waved at Bay, though one could conceivably argue whether the Mets acquiring Bay was a superfluous addition to an unstable core that still lacked a supportive infrastructure. Baseball historians might one day recall the Mets' acquisition of Bay as the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.
Bay looked like a pretty solid band-aid when the Mets swooped in to grab him from Boston's clutches, though. That's what makes his ongoing slump so frustrating.Heading into Wednesday's rain out, Bay presently sports a depressing .213/.294/.311 line with one home run he hit in late April and a paltry pace of two extra-base hits per month. Bay is not swinging at as many pitches so far this season and he's definitely not driving the ball with any kind of authority when he does make contact. Bay is also on the wrong side of 30, which should indicate some kind of known quantity about the left fielder by now.
Yet, Bay's disappearance from the Mets' offensive attack could just as easily be explained by his actual disappearance from the Mets' clubhouse. A preseason ribcage injury and recent paternity leave watered down Bay's playing time to the tune of 69 plate appearances over 16 games in 2011. That's a little more than half an April sample size for a regular player with a $16 million mandate to find his midseason form soon.
This early chapter in Bay's 2011 season is not solely an exercise in small sample size theater. He got hurt in spring training. He had a kid. That's just baseball. Que sera, sera.
Instead, this chapter leads up to a plea from Mets fans for Bay to start showing his true colors soon. He is presently hiding behind the torrent of trade rumors encircling the cockle-warming performances of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran in addition to Ike Davis's recent emergence. They're buying him time to get his head right at the plate, tinker with his swing and find some semblance of his power stroke going forward.
That hiding spot comes into plain sight if the rumors prove true and Sandy Alderson sends Beltran, Reyes, or both to Far, Far Away Land come this summer. With Beltran and Reyes out of the picture, the onus falls on Bay's shoulders to pick up where they leave off and finally show what the Red Sox recognized and what coerced the Mets to pay him a premium for his services.
Jason Bay has the unfortunate distinction of being brought to Flushing by Omar Minaya in order to appease the fans. He may never shake that designation, but he'll have ample opportunities to reward the faith place in him.
Just give us a sign.