Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Jason Bay signing – Opinion 2

Posted by Bill Koch on December 30, 2009

Can anyone really blame Jason Bay for taking all that cash from the New York Mets?

I certainly can’t be too salty at the now former Boston Red Sox left fielder after he agreed in principle to a four-year, $66-million deal with the not-so-Amazins on Tuesday. The contract includes a vesting option for a fifth year, a general sticking point between Bay and the Red Sox throughout negotiations that started early in the 2009 season. Boston only wanted to go four years maximum with Bay, perhaps even three years with an option for a fourth.

For my money, Bay is a solid guy who got lucky to hit free agency at the right time. I’ll probably never have a bad word to say about him, because he came into a very difficult situation when he was traded to Boston in 2008 and did an admirable job. He strikes out a ton and occasionally goes ice cold for weeks at a time, but his career numbers are still pretty consistent. His OPS has hovered at or above .900 in five of his six full seasons in the big leagues, he’s hit 29 or more doubles four times, hit 31 or more homers four times and driven in 94 or more runs three times. His choice to go to the Mets is a dubious one if he wants to equal those numbers, because now he’ll have the pleasure of playing half his games in cavernous Citi Field. Those fly balls that scraped The Wall in Boston barely make it out of the infield in Queens.

If you’re a Bay fan and you wanted to see him back in Boston, you can direct your scorn at a three-headed monster consisting of Theo Epstein, Matt Holiday and J.D. Drew. This isn’t the first time these three guys have been on a list together – Epstein hearts both of them 4-eva, and their names have come up associated with moves to the Red Sox for most of the second half of the decade. Let’s break down how each of those three men played a part in Bay leaving Boston behind.

Epstein got one of the guys on his personal list (others include but are not limited to Julio Lugo, Byung-Hyun Kim, Wily Mo Pena and Casey Kotchman) when he convinced Drew to leave $33 million on the table in Los Angeles and sign a five-year, $70-million deal with Boston in 2007. Only true devotees to some of baseball’s evolving statistics like OPS+ and VORP can appreciate Drew – the average fan sees him as a lazy dog who refuses to play hurt, a guy who makes way too much money to hit sixth in the batting order and someone who has been sheltered by This Manager against dominant left-handed pitching over the past two seasons. Those people can’t see how Drew could hold a candle to Bay, no doubt a sour patch in the negotiations when Bay proved to be more valuable to the Red Sox last season that Drew ever has been in his three years in Boston. There’s no way that Bay could have come back for less cash and less years on his deal than Drew, and no cries of poverty by the Red Sox were being entertained after they lavished $85 million on a No. 3 starter (John Lackey) and $15.5 million on an aging center fielder (37-year-old Mike Cameron).

That brings us to Holliday, who is currently considering an eight-year, $128-million offer to resign with St. Louis. Holliday has previously been linked with Boston as a potential replacement for The Lazy, Overpaid Scumbag Who Used To Wear No. 24 and Bay himself, a product of Epstein’s love affair with the former Rockies and A’s left fielder. The fact that Holliday’s OPS was a fairly pedestrian .831 during his brief cameo in the American League with Oakland and that he hit a home run every 30-or-so plate appearances with the A’s didn’t seem to bother Epstein all that much. Maybe it should – Mark Bellhorn’s OPS with the Red Sox in 2004 was .817. You all remember Bellhorn, right? Yes, that Mark Bellhorn, he of the league-leading 177 strikeouts in that magical ’04 season. I know, I know – that’s manipulating the numbers in my favor. So, to be fair, let’s try this. According to the Similarity Scores at http://www.baseball-reference.com, Holliday’s career numbers compare best to those of David Wright and – wait for it – Jason Bay. Is Holliday really worth three more years and double that cash that Bay is guaranteed in New York?

Which brings us back to Epstein. It’s been a curious offseason for Brookline’s Boy Wonder. He appears to have reached a bit (I’m trying to be nice) to get Lackey, failed in bids to acquire Felix Hernandez from Seattle and Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego, signed Cameron to conceivably set up a trade involving one of his best young players (Jacoby Ellsbury), still hasn’t said a word about trying to extend Victor Martinez and might end up being fitted for another gorilla suit after 2010 when Josh Beckett becomes a free agent. The Red Sox lineup was at least one bat short in each of the past two postseasons with Bay in the lineup, and now it appears to be two bats short with no plans to add any impact hitters to pair with Martinez in the middle of the order. Epstein’s insistence upon building a team with good pitching and solid defense is the right philosophy, but that doesn’t mean that Boston has to be allergic to the batter’s box along the way. The bottom line is that today, with Bay gone, the Red Sox are a worse team than they were yesterday. Epstein’s job is to improve that situation. I’m almost afraid of what he might try next.

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One Response to “Jason Bay signing – Opinion 2”

  1. matt said

    If only the MLB season was played on that crazy deep baseball simulator bill james uses to put together the Sox teams, then the Drew deal wouldn’t be killing the team and depriving them of Bay, Holliday, DMurph and potentially Ellsbury.

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