The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Keeping the Wolves at Bay

Although I thought I was through blogging for 2009 with my last post, I felt compelled to slip one under the wire once I learned about the Mets signing of Jason Bay.

To begin with, the Mets, specifically GM Omar Minaya, live in the world’s largest glass-dome bubble, where he believes, accurately, everything he does, or more importantly, doesn’t do, is magnified by the press until it loses all real proportion, like a reflection in a fun-house mirror.

Although Minaya is correct in his assessment of the New York media, clamoring for the Mets to do something, anything, to match the Yankees aggressiveness in obtaining Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez, that is no excuse for throwing good money away on a bad contract.

And, make no mistake, the signing of free agent outfielder Jason Bay is a bad contract.

There are three basic reasons why this is a bad contract:

1.  It is a bad contract because the Mets did not have any apparent competitors bidding against them for Bay’s services.

2.  Given his age, body type, and career profile, it is extremely unlikely that Bay will perform at a highly productive level throughout the life of this contract.

3.  Signing Bay will not move the Mets closer to a championship in 2010, 2011, 2012, or 2013.

Lets take these three reasons why this was a bad signing one by one.

First, who came up with the contract offer the Mets made to Bay, and why did they think that level of commitment was necessary to secure his services?   Bay had previously rejected a contract offer from the Red Sox , so apparently, the Mets used that rejected offer as a starting point.

But suppose they hadn’t?  Suppose the Mets simply offered Bay three years at about 39 million dollars?  Would another team (other than the Red Sox, whose offer Bay had already rejected) have come along with a more significant offer?  If so, so what?

Couldn’t the Mets then have increased their commitment by a correspondingly modest amount?  In other words, what would have been the harm in driving a harder bargain?

Here’s where the intangible of the New York media comes into play.  If the Mets “lost” Bay, the criticism of Minaya come Spring Training would have been relentless (or more relentless.)

In effect, then, Minaya was playing poker against himself, scared that whatever kind of hand he was playing just wasn’t going to be big enough to win the pot, ergo, a huge contract accepted by a star player will provide Minaya cover, at least until the Mets fall six games under .500.

Second, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and some other research I did using various stat books, Jason Bay’s career profile matches a list of players that do not bode well for the Mets.   Here is the list of players, their age during their last reasonably productive season, and the age at which they retired.

A) Ryan Klesko – 32 – 36.

B) Geoff Jenkins – 30- 33.

C) Tim Salmon – 33 – 35.

D) George Foster – 34 – 37.

E) Paul Sorrento – 31 – 33.

F) Kevin McReynolds – 30 -34.

Do you see a pattern here?  Virtually all of these players enjoyed their final season of modest productivity while in their early 30’s.  Most of them were out of baseball by the time they reached their mid-30’s.

Bay is now 31 years old.  He has already had some physical concerns.  Should he require a less stressful workload, he will not have the luxury of DH’ing in the National League.  And left field in Citi Field is quite a lot of territory for him to cover.

There is every reason to believe, then, that Bay will enjoy a productive first season in New York, followed by a season of more modest productivity, then a steep drop-off in his final couple of seasons.

By the year 2012, at the latest, this contractual signing is not likely to be looked upon with pride by the baseball fans of Gotham.

Lastly, this signing will not significantly alter the balance of power in the N.L. East.  The Phillies are clearly a significantly better ball-club.  The Braves and the Marlins will be competitive.  And even if the Mets somehow make a run at the Wild Card, how does this signing represent a long-term plan to create a baseball team that can remain competitive for the next several seasons?

The Mets, as an entire franchise, need a complete overhaul.  This isn’t about one star player coming to town and carrying the team on his back to victory.  There is no apparent plan at work here.  If Minaya wants to borrow the owners charge card, and they are foolish enough to let him run up some big bills, then so be it.

But if they want to return to the days when they were a proud, competitive franchise, then they are going to need to do both a lot more than, and a lot less than, signing free agents like Jason Bay.

And if Jason Bay fails to perform like an All-Star for the next few seasons, the wolves in the New York media will be howling for his blood.

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2 thoughts on “Keeping the Wolves at Bay

  1. The Souc on said:

    Mr. Miller quintessentially encapsulated probably the opinions of millions of baseball fans regarding HOF voting in general. I would put Mr. Miller in the class of a Roger Angel and has a bright future in this industry. I might however question his opinions on a premiere 5 tool athlete such as Andre Dawson. I believe the HOF in this case is getting good value on the wall getting in on his 9th year of eligibility. I do detect a slight bit of animosity towards the once great Montreal Expo player. If I did not know better I might peg Mr. Miller as a disgruntled Mets fan from the early 1980’s during a period of Expo domination in the NL East. Maybe a HOF selection of a Kevin McReynolds would help his acceptance of the one time Montreal and Chicago great into Cooperstown. My differences with Mr. Miller on this subject are only in small part based on my lifelong dissatisfaction over the Red Sox / Mets trade of Bobby Ojeda. I digress however, the baseball writers seem to hold great stock in voting only the “great” players into the HOF on the first year of eligibility. Like that makes any difference as fans view the plaques in Cooperstown. To my knowledge, I don’t believe there is any reference at the HOF to which year a player was voted in. I think for “punishment” for the spitting incident the baseball writers kept Alomar out in his first year. I found Mr. Miller’s views to be educated and highly witty. Great job and I look forward to reading more dugout prose.

    • Mr. Souc, I am honored that you would take the time out of your busy day to visit my humble blog. Your reputations precedes you. Kevin McReynolds, of course, was no Andre Dawson, but he was a somewhat quicker version of Jason Bay, with slightly less power and a much more affordable contract.
      I couldn’t agree more that this whole idea of who is or isn’t a “First Ballot” HOF’er is a silly waste of time, and, since this designation is not listed on their HOF plaques, who cares?
      The writers themselves, of course. They seem to be evolving into an increasingly arrogant, self-righteous lot.
      It occurred to me while writing my last blog post, could the HOF simply refuse to accept a particular vote outcome if they so decided? Would they?
      The relationship between the BBWA, MLB and the HOF itself is a somewhat strange affair, generally beneficial to all parties, but an ill-defined relationship to say the least.
      Perhaps some future crisis regarding a particular player or players will reveal hidden fissures in this relationship. If so, how might this entire Byzantine process be affected?
      Guess we’ll find out if and when this situation arises.
      Meanwhile, my esteemed colleague, thank you for you kind comments. I am humbled by your presence.

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