On Baseball

Expectations weren’t met

Bay hoping 2011 is better than ’10

The Mets’ Jason Bay is glad to be able to concentrate on baseball this spring, after sustaining a concussion in 2010. The Mets’ Jason Bay is glad to be able to concentrate on baseball this spring, after sustaining a concussion in 2010. (Jeff Roberson/Associated Press)
By Nick Cafardo
March 7, 2011

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jason Bay, like Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre, and Nick Esasky, was an impactful Boston temp who vanished as quickly as he appeared.

Bay’s presence in Boston was especially meaningful because he replaced Manny Ramirez in that shocking July 31, 2008, three-team trade-deadline deal that sent Ramirez to the Dodgers and Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston.

The deal brought sanity to an otherwise dicey situation, as Bay was a calming influence and added a touch of class to the Red Sox on and off the field.

“Perfect guy at the right time,’’ Sox manager Terry Francona recalled before the Mets beat the Sox, 6-5, in an exhibition game yesterday. “And at the time we were spinning our wheels. At the trading deadline things were terrible, dealing with off-the-field stuff [with Ramirez]. He replaced Manny and became an instant clubhouse hit and productive on field. He looked like a guy who had been there for 10 years after 10 days. That’s all on him. He did a good job. Guys leave for various reasons and I understand. You have that right, but it wasn’t because we didn’t like him.’’

Bay never will admit the decision to then leave the Sox after the 2009 season was wrong. His first season with the Mets was a professional and personal disaster. And now Bay, one of the more consistent and productive players in baseball, is attempting a return to normalcy after being limited to 95 games last season after sustaining a concussion while crashing into the fence at Citi Field last July.

“I’ve turned the corner 100 percent,’’ Bay said. “Last year was disappointing on a lot of fronts, now I have a chance to go do it again. I’m not the first person it’s happened to and I’m not the last. I just have to go out there and do it all over.’’

The Red Sox surely could utter, “We told you so,’’ regarding Bay fleeing to the Mets, a team that has a ballpark that is completely not suited to his talents and an organization that is having financial difficulties.

The important thing for Bay is that he believes the two months or so of hell he went through with concussion symptoms is finally over. He’s cleared all the medical hurdles, including his first few at-bats in spring training. He’s 6 for 13 in five games.

It’s back to thinking about baseball things — how to adjust his swing, how he can regain the consistency he once enjoyed.

“It’s a big unknown,’’ Bay said about having had the concussion. “You talk to 10 different doctors and you get 10 different diagnoses or remedies. That’s the frustrating part having gone through it. The doctor might say it’s two days or two weeks, nobody really knows.

“It’s a lot easier if you can get an MRI for something and you can say, ‘OK, the injury is 50 percent better, or whatever.’ It’s a frustrating feeling. If anything good comes out of it, it’s that you know how to deal with it if it happens again — not that you want it to.’’

The Canadian-born Bay, who now lives in the Seattle area, said he’s talked a lot to fellow Canadian and former American League Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau about his bad experience with a concussion last season, and he hopes to be able to offer support to other players who go through it.

Bay said he experienced an achy feeling in his shoulders and neck, with “occasional dizziness,’’ even though his injury was more whiplash than a direct blow to the head. “There are some issues there that were different than what other people had experienced,’’ he said. “Morneau got hit on the helmet, which is a little different than the way I got hurt, crashing against a fence. So it wasn’t the same.

“You sit there and you wait and wait and nothing gets better. You wake up and you feel the same and you’re wondering, ‘When is this going to clear up, when am I going to feel better?’ And then you realize that everyone pretty much tells you the same thing — that you have to wait. There’s nothing you can do to help.

“The toughest part was missing baseball. I set goals every year and I try to get out there every year and play all the time, and that’s the toughest part. Granted, I wasn’t having a great year before that, but the frustrating part was not being able to go out there and play day in and day out.’’

Bay hit .259 with six homers and 47 RBIs in those 95 games. It was an ordeal to hit one out of Citi Field. Everybody told him how tough the ballpark played for a righthanded hitter, but Bay took the leap anyway, rather than sign a contract clause the Sox wanted regarding knees that he felt were fine.

He’s not entirely sure why he struggled so badly before the concussion.

“I don’t know,’’ he said. “That’s my answer. Call it an aberration. I don’t know. Try to do better. It could be a thousand things, but you’re the umpteenth person to ask me and you’re the umpteenth person to get the same answer. I feel better at the plate. I’m working on a couple of things with my stance, nothing drastic. Nothing you’d ever notice.

“I’m working on timing. The game is still speeding up a little bit, so for me it’s about trying to get in there and see the ball and get reps. It’s spring training, and I’ve had different types of spring trainings in the past where sometimes I do great and sometimes I do terrible. Just chalk it up to things that happen.’’

Bay said he misses parts of being on the Red Sox, “and I miss Pittsburgh, too. There are always some things that you miss that you liked. There are things here that I like.’’

Bay loved playing left field, and hitting, at Fenway Park.

Now he’s with a team that is trying to stay solvent in the wake of its owners’ getting caught up in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

“In a sick kind of way it’s easier for us,’’ Bay said. “It takes a lot of the focus out of here. Lots of things we have no control over. A lot of things we don’t know about, and certainly we have no control over any of it.

“I think some guys follow it, some guys don’t. I think some guys are aware of what’s going on from what they read about or watch on TV. I think until it makes its way into the clubhouse — and it really hasn’t yet — it hasn’t been an issue for us.’’

Bay said he paid attention to Josh Beckett’s mild concussion after staff assistant Ino Guerrero accidentally plunked him off the left temple with a stray fungo.

“Of all the people,’’ Bay said with a smile. “I’m sure Josh was really thrilled by that. But you don’t take that lightly. I’ve learned that it’s pretty serious stuff.’’

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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