The New York Mets released slugger Jason Bay in November, a full season before his $66 million contract was up. So obviously unhappy with his performance were the Mets, and so apparently certain he didn't have enough left at age 34 because of injuries and who knows what else, they preferred to cut Bay and pay him $21 million just to be rid of him. This is the same Mets team that's been teetering on insolvency in recent history because of the Bernie Madoff scandal.
Four months later, the Seattle Mariners say they're considering using Bay as their leadoff hitter. The same Bay who never has hit leadoff before (he's only hit second 14 times). The same Bay who batted .165/.237/.299 in 215 plate appearances for the Mets in 2012. The same Bay who finished with a .687 OPS over three injury riddled seasons playing for New York.
Hey, if you're going to bring in a former star trying to salvage his career — and you're the Mariners, who have finished last in four of the past five seasons — you might as well start him at the top. Bay, a funny and self-effacing sort, doesn't see what the big deal is. From the Seattle Times:
“It’s going to be the same as if I’m hitting fourth, fifth, or eighth,” he said. “I’m just going to be doing the same thing.”
He means, presumably, like when Bay hit .280/.375/.519 from 2004-2009. More from the Times:
As to what the Mariners see in him as having leadoff potential, Bay is pretty much on the same page with manager Eric Wedge, who yesterday mentioned the quality of his at-bats. Bay is pretty pleased with how his spring has gone so far, largely because he’s attained some early results at the plate to reinforce the work he’s done behind the scenes.
Bay has a good eye at the plate, and he claims he still has some speed — talents that benefit a leadoff hitter. The "idea" of Jason Bay actually would make a very good leadoff man, provided he can re-start his career after suffering through recurring concussion symptoms, a strained oblique and a cracked rib. (He also had the flu in 2011, the New York media points out.) This is just a guess, but there's probably been a crisis of confidence from time to time, too.
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Bay's spring results — he came into Wednesday batting .333 with a home run and a triple in 25 plate appearances — are encouraging, even if their meaning isn't certain.
The other apparent option for leadoff, Geoff Baker of the Times writes, is Dustin Ackley, a former No. 2 overall draft pick who is still trying to establish himself in the major leagues. So it's not like Vintage Ichiro is waiting for the Mariners to get bored experimenting.
It's an interesting tactic the M's take here. Not only are they showing confidence in Bay just by having him around, they're kind of assuming he has "made it back" already, simply by considering him for leadoff. It might not be a perfect fit (heck, couldn't the M's use someone like Bay to hit third or fourth or fifth, too?) but it doesn't have to be perfect.
Any kind of comeback would be gratifying. And Jason Bay just might be starting a roaring one.
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