Bay Goes Bye-Bye

It is fitting though that Bay ends his Met career this way, literally getting a severance package, much in the same way Sandy Alderson ate the contracts of Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.  In a lot of way Bay’s two tenures as Met property represents all that has gone wrong with this franchise since Mike Piazza skied out to Bernie Williams to end the 2000 World Series.

As an Expo prospect he is gobbled up by one of Steve Phillips’ classic assembling spare parts deal for infielder Lou Collier in March of 2002.  In July, he is packaged in the Bobby Jones to San Diego trade in another classic “Steve Phillips love stockpiling relievers” transaction.  Which was probably for the best, would Bay have blossomed here a few years later with Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran around?  Possibly, but in 2002 the Mets, and Phillips, were clearly in the mindset of retooling on the fly and going after anyone that had a bit of value to them.  So clearly anyone with potential, save for the true gems of the organization (save for a certain highly touted pitcher in August of 2004), could be the object of a trade for someone of either major league talent, or AAAA talent to fill out the Met roster.

Interestingly enough, Jason Bay wound up being traded along with Oliver Perez over a year later as the Padres picked up Brian Giles from the Pirates.  With the Pirates of course Bay blossomed, winning the NL Rookie of The Year in 2004 and being selected to the NL All-Star Team in 2005.  In the meantime, the Mets weren’t making fans feeling like Bay was “the one that got away” as offensive production, specifically from the outfield, was pretty much set with Carlos Beltran.  While yes having Bay offsetting the decline of Cliff Floyd and having an ancient Moises Alou around, would have helped, not having his production was not the reason for the Mets to lose the 2006 NLCS or collapse in 2007 and 2008.

Moving on, Bay would be part of the three team trade that saw Manny Ramirez sent to LA, and Bay to Boston.  Perhaps it was the band box that is Fenway Park that further inflated Bay’s offensive production in the 2009 season, but the free agent to be was considered to be one of the big ticket items heading into the winter of 2009.  And so Jason Bay becomes a shining example of Omar Minaya’s flawed way of roster building.  A 5 year, back loaded deal that was sure to be a headache if things went south in a hurry.

This was a staple of Minaya’s big ticket moves and one that consistently proves how flawed Minaya was as a general manager.  While yes, the Mets needed a big bat, but the Mets were moving into a ballpark that was already being perceived as a hard place to play for a slugger.  Still, the deal would be made, and while injuries plagued Bay’s 2010 season, it was clear that Bay’s offensive numbers were inflated a bit by playing in more offensively friendly ballparks.

And so after three rather underwhelming seasons, and apparently not much of a trade market for his services; the Mets have decided to cut their ties with Jason Bay, making him an unconditional free agent.  Of course in an effort to provide the Mets with roster budget flexibility, the money owned for the remaining two years of Bay’s contract ($21 million) is being deferred over a short period of time.  While it would have been advantageous to see if Bay could have produced in Spring Training, and then early in 2013 and turn him around (even though it was that kind of thinking that both got Bay to and from the Met organization back in 2002), it is probably for the best, and just like the eating of the Castillo and Perez deals, a sign that the Met current regime doesn’t like mistakes to linger more than they have to.

Going forward, well there really isn’t much to discuss as the middle of the road, between 65-70 wins outlook for 2013 seems very much like the outlook for 2012.  While from all accounts Jason Bay is a good guy, but who knows if his lack of production was affecting the clubhouse, sometimes slumps can be contagious.  And it is better to have a middle of the road season with a group of youngsters vying for outfield spots (and hoping Lucas Duda learns to have someone else move furniture for him) rather than a veteran looking to rebound from disastrous seasons.

Posted under Bernie Williams, Brian Giles, Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd, Infielder, Jason Bay, Lou Collier, Luis Castillo, Mike Piazza, Moises Alou, New York Mets, Nl All Star Team, Nl Rookie Of The Year, Offensive Production, Sandy Alderson, Severance Package, Steve Phillips, Top Story, True Gems

Davis Finishes Mets-Astros NL Chapter with a Bang (… and with Another)

Given the state of this year’s major league baseball standings, Sunday’s late-August meeting between the then-fourth-place New York Mets and the MLB-worst-Houston Astros at Citi Field obviously lacked the drama produced by the same two franchises during their extremely memorable 1986 National League Championship Series, but it nonetheless provided an exciting finish as the NL chapter of the all-time Mets-Astros series came to a close.

In an otherwise uneventful game involving a pair of clubs simply playing out the string, a late Houston rally, a nice play by New York to nab a runner at the plate, and two blasts over the right field wall by first baseman Ike Davis provided recollections of some thrilling moments when a lot more was once at stake – for one last time – with the Mets and Astros as NL opponents, prior to Houston becoming a member of the American League’s western division next year.

Neither the of the largely punch-less offenses – the Astros, the statistically lightest-hitting team in the majors, nor the Mets, who had been mired in their worst offensive stretch in three decades – could hit their way out of a paper bag, making a pair of non-descript, young starters – Houston’s Lucas Harrell (in his fourth season, but basically a rookie in terms of big league experience) and New York’s rookie Jeremy Hefner – look like a classic re-match of former aces Mike Scott and Dwight Gooden (who opposed each other in a classic Game 1 pitching duel in the 1986 NLCS, with Scott and the Astros edging the Mets, 1-0).

Harrell (seven innings, two hits, one run, seven strikeouts, two walks) and Hefner (eight-plus innings, five hits, one run, seven strikeouts, two walks) kept their respective non-threatening opposing lineups in check throughout a rapidly-paced contest that – because of the deficiency of offensive production – through eight innings, was on pace to finish in an unheard of (by today’s standards) two hours or less, and which still completed in a very tidy 2 hours and 19 minutes, even with a 24-minute ninth inning.

Five innings after Davis’ first home run of the afternoon – a crushing drive in the bottom of the fourth inning, just below Citi Field’s Pepsi Porch, and well into the upper deck in right field – gave the Mets a 1-0 lead that stood up until the final inning, the Astros tied the game on a run-scoring double by second baseman Marwin Gonzalez, who smacked a liner toward the left field corner.

Gonzalez’s hit glanced off of the glove of left fielder Lucas Duda, who was returning to the majors from a short stint in the minor leagues, where he was converted from a right fielder. That play forced an exit – to a standing ovation from many of the 25,071 fans in attendance (myself included) – for Hefner, who was bidding for the first shutout and first complete game of his career.

It appeared that the Astros would instead take their first lead three batters later however, when right fielder Ben Francisco singled against closer Bobby Parnell to left field, in front of Duda, until the Mets’ third-year outfielder redeemed himself with a good throw that allowed newly acquired catcher Kelly Shoppach just enough time to make a nice play of his own.

Shoppach blocked home plate with his left leg and applied a game-saving tag on Gonzalez, who was trying to score from second base. Gonzalez argued the call (which was a correct one) and was promptly tossed from the game by home plate umpire David Rackley.

That set the stage for Davis, who got just enough of a pitch from reliever Wilton Lopez to send a fly ball barely over the right field fence and just past the glove of a leaping Francisco for Davis’ second home run of the game and a walk-off 2-1 win for New York – the same score the Mets beat the Astros by, in 12 innings, in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS at Shea Stadium, just steps from where Davis and New York beat Houston in an NL contest for the final time.

Just as in that Game 5 victory, the Mets won despite mustering a mere four hits and being outhit by the Astros, but none were bigger than the two home runs from Davis, who did a jumping spin before landing on home plate, where he was mobbed by his teammates.

The win meant little for the Mets in the big picture of the 2012 season, especially when contrasted against those exhilarating October victories against the Astros 26 years earlier.

Instead of paving a way toward their first World Series title since 1986, New York simply avoided suffering what would have been their worst embarrassment of this season – a possible second home loss in three games to MLB’s most futile team, on the heels of getting swept in a four-game series at home by Colorado, the NL’s third-worst team.

And that, during a disappointing second-half swoon which has already caused New York’s season to slip away after an overachieving first half that had the Mets surprisingly in postseason contention by the all-star break, after setting a MLB offseason record for shedding payroll.

Due to those circumstances, Davis’ heroics could hardly be compared to that of ex-Met Lenny Dykstra’s ninth-inning, two-run, homer off of the Astros’ Dave Smith, inside of what is now the Citi Field parking lot, to rally the Mets to a dramatic 6-5 win and a 2-1 series lead in the 1986 NLCS.

Nor was the importance of New York’s last NL win over Houston anything like one of the greatest games in the Mets’ 51-season history – their 1986 NLCS-clinching victory in Game 6 (which led to their remarkable rally to a World Series title against the Boston Red Sox), when New York erased a 3-0 ninth-inning deficit in Houston before hanging on for a rousing 7-6 victory in a then-postseason record 16 innings (ironically, Houston broke that mark with a 2005 divisional series win in 18 innings, over the Atlanta Braves, by the same score, in a win that helped the Astros reach the only World Series in their history).

Certainly, the Mets’ rivalries with teams like the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and others have also far outweighed the intensity of what they shared with the Astros in the 26 years since.

Still, it was an exciting conclusion to a Mets-Astros NL era that included more than 600 games since the teams each joined the majors (the Astros, initially as the Colt .45’s) in 1962.

While they will meet again in interleague play, the Astros took the all-time NL series, 308-258, with the Mets going 150-132 at home (including 8-4 at Citi Field) against Houston.

What is remembered most over that time though, is that lone playoff matchup between the teams in 1986, and in another lost season for both clubs, the way the final Mets-Astros meeting as NL foes was decided, rekindled thoughts of the historic playoff magic that occurred in a pair of well-remembered NL ballparks – Shea Stadium in Queens, and the famed Astrodome in Houston.

Yet, as with the Mets and Astros moving on to new home stadiums since then, their series with each other will now similarly forge ahead with the teams continuing play in opposite leagues. If they can each turn things around in the coming years and once again meet in the postseason, they would do something they couldn’t do even as long-time NL opponents in 1986 or in any other year thus far – meet in a World Series.

Posted under Baseball Standings, Blasts, Classic Game, Dwight Gooden, First Baseman, Game 1, Houston Astros, Late August, League Championship Series, Major League Baseball, National League Championship Series, New York Mets, Offensive Production, Three Decades, Top Story

This post was written by Jon Wagner on August 31, 2012

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