There was an announced crowd of 23,721 at Citi Field on Monday night, but with the miserable weather, the more accurate count was probably half that. Still, the few hardy souls that did stick around generated plenty of volume on their boos for Jason Bay, who is quickly becoming Luis Castillo 2.0 for the Citi faithful.
It's getting ugly. Bay exhaled a sigh of relief after homering in his third game this season -- which wasn't until April 23 because of a strained rib-cage muscle -- but that was only a temporary reprieve. In the 18 games since then, Bay is .197/.312/.258 with one homer and three RBI. That's a small sample size. But perhaps a better indication of where he's at is what happened in the 10th inning Monday.
Bay, hitting fourth, actually laid down a sacrifice bunt to get Beltran to second base. It was his first sacrifice bunt since 2004 -- that's not something usually done by 38-homer guys -- and, truth be told, it was a good bunt. This is not to argue with the strategy. We just mentioned that he's hitting .197 (13-for-66) and I don't blame Terry Collins, who probably figured he couldn't get much more out of Bay in that at-bat.
Which is precisely the problem. With Ike Davis on the DL until May 26, and David Wright out indefinitely with a stress fracture of his lower back, the Mets need Bay now more than ever. And if he's batting fourth, behind Beltran (good luck getting a pitch), he can't be setting up Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner to be driving in the runs. Think about how crazy that sounds.
When Terry Collins was asked about giving Bay the bunt sign Monday, he explained his reasoning - and the puzzled look on Bay's face.
"Jason even looked over to me before he went up there and asked me if I really wanted him to bunt," Collins said. "He wants to get the guy in scoring position. He knows he’s not swinging like he can. He made a good bunt, too."
A minute later, I followed up by asking Collins if he was worried about Bay's mindset, based on the unusual request. And the fact that the middle of his order has now been stripped bare by injuries.
"Not really," Collins said. "I know in a lot of situations I'm comfortable to have them swing away. Just tonight, in that particular point of the game, I thought we could get somebody in scoring position, and those guys in that spot, at least try to scratch a single to get a run in, because it was tough hitting tonight. That first ball that Jason Bay hit, that ball was mashed and it didn’t get out of here. One thing we had to do was make sure we got someone in scoring positon."
Collins was talking Bay's first at-bat, in the first inning, when he pushed Logan Morrison's back to the leftfield wall with a long drive to leftfield. Morrison even had to reach up to grab the ball at the 384 mark, but the size of Citi Field is not a new development this season.
Near-misses are no consolation, and they won't keep fans off Bay's back in the days ahead if his power outage continues. It was only a matter of time before the frustrated fan base found its next target, and Bay is it.