So let’s just say this first: Jason Bay has been a bad baseball player with the New York Met. Very bad. He’s hit .246 and slugged .385 as a questionable-defending left fielder. He somehow has more steals (23) than home runs (22), which brings up the next and biggest point: He’s hit only 22 home runs in three seasons. Bay’s performance can be described accurately with a half-dozen words beginning with the letter “s.” And let’s throw in that Bay has been paid some unimaginably large sum of money so far, and he’ll be paid another unimaginably large sum of money for the next 15 months. The contract the Mets and Bay agreed on seemed like a bad idea at the time, and it’s worked out much worse than expected. I don’t imagine anyone arguing against any of the above, other than to suggest that the already mentioned “s” words be modified with English’s most versatile expletive. Let’s leave it as such: Bay has been bad.
On Friday, Bay ran into a wall, hit his head with potential-concussion-force as Jay Bruce circled the bases and scored. A particularly-woozy looking Bay was booed as he was walked off the field by the medical staff.
Now I support the U.S. American right to boo things, persons, events, whatever, though I’m unsure about booing itself. And I’ll add that watching Jason Bay play baseball for the past two-and-a-half seasons has been about as much fun as watching a dog get put to sleep.
But come on.
The excuse in these situations – and MetsBlog suggested as much this morning – is that fans are booing the contract and not the player. Which may be true, in the same way someone kicking his dog after work is kicking his frustrations and not the dog. Maybe that sentiment is true. Maybe those kicks are aimed at the abstract feeling and not the mutt. But that dog’s still getting beat.
I also realize New York is probably the most difficult place in the country to remember that the warm, smelly mass surrounding you on the subway and sucking the air is made up of other persons. That each of those cars spewing smoke and droning endlessly contain at least one person. That this perspiring thing sticking her oversized backpack in directly into your face as the subway shutters along or that unpleasant vehicle cutting you off or this one shining his brights directly into you rearview for mile after mile – that person is indeed another being with her own interior life, and not just one more obstacle. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. And it’s probably hardest in New York, because there are just so many breathing obstacles encountered day after day.
And it’s also hard to remember that baseball players, unlike most things on television, are also human beings. That Jason Bay is a human being with his own interior life, just as much alive as you or me. And he is a human being who, by all appearances, has tried very hard these past three seasons and failed very often. It is hard to remember those things. It does take effort.
But Bay did try, enough to give himself at least one concussion, perhaps two, partially for our entertainment. And yes he’s been paid millions of dollars to do so, but that doesn’t make him less deserving of sympathy or less of a human being. It only makes him a rich one.
The general point being: Friday was probably a perfect storm of a particular city, player and injury, leading to one ugly moment of a player leaving the game with an injury while being booed by his hometown fans. It was not the sort of moment that makes me proud to root for the Mets.
Bay has given everything he had. It turns out he didn’t have very much left. Just, you know, please don’t kick any dogs because of it.