Mariners’ Jason Bay just wants fresh start

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comDecember 11, 2012 

Jason Bay understands there are doubters. And he knows they have legitimate reasons to be skeptical. But all he wants is a fresh start; a new opportunity and a chance to find some joy and success in baseball again.

On Monday, two days after signing a 1-year, $1 million contract with the Mariners, Bay made the drive from his home in Kirkland to Safeco Field to meet with local media for the first time.

“There’s a whole smattering of reasons why it makes sense,” Bay said. “You can’t force a fit, and Seattle was on of those places where we identified there was a good fit. Wherever I ended up was going to be a fresh start, the chance to do it in my backyard, so to speak, was nice. That’s all I was looking for.”

There might not be another veteran in baseball in more need of a change of scenery and a new start.

Bay is coming off of three frustrating seasons with the New York Mets that featured unmet expectations, a myriad of injuries, a lack of production on the field and fan disappointment.

In three seasons, he played 288 games for the Mets over the past three seasons. He had 1,125 plate appearances, and hit .234 with a .318 on-base percentage and a .369 slugging percentage. He also struck out 285 times and made four trips to the disabled list.

“It didn’t work out for whatever reasons,” Bay said.

And it’s not like Bay hasn’t asked himself — or been asked by others — why it went so wrong.

“I’ve answered that question a bazillion times,” he said. “Everybody else has an opinion on it. I don’t, per se. It wasn’t for lack of trying. You get off to a slow start and it feels like you are swimming upstream the whole time. I could never get going.”

One of the reasons was injuries. Bay was hampered by a variety of injuries, including an oblique strain and a broken rib. But the most troubling were a pair of concussions.

In 2010, he missed two months of the season after crashing into the wall at Dodger Stadium. Last season on June 15, he hit the wall at Citi Field and suffered another concussion.

Bay was placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list and missed the next 25 games. What Bay learned was that the concussion wasn’t so much from the impact of his head hitting the wall, but the whiplash from it.

“For the first time, I missed quite a bit of time because it was really new and we didn’t know what we were doing and we weren’t really proactive about it,” he said. “We were just kind of waiting and waiting and waiting. When we kind of figured out how to attack it and look after the neck and stuff, I felt great instantly. And the second time, that’s what we did.”

Bay met with a neurosurgeon along with the Mariners team physicians – Dr. Edward Khalfayan and Dr. Mitch Storey – as part of his physical.

Bay would not pin his struggles on the effects of the concussions.

“I’ve had a lot of people, coaches, try to convince me that it has,” Bay said. “Maybe 15 or 20 years from now, they’ll come out with a study that says it does A, B, or C. I don’t feel like it did. All it really did, I felt, is that I lost more time.”

Once Bay was activated from the disabled list last season, he was used sparingly, starting 33 games the remainder of the year. He didn’t complain about not playing. He’s not that type of player.

“It’s part of the job,” Bay said. “I owned it. I didn’t point fingers. I put my head down and kept going.”

There were moments where he looked like an All-Star hitter and not an all-time failure with the Mets, but they were fleeting and fewer over the seasons.

But those moments were why he’s still trying to play. It’s certainly not about money — the Mets are paying him close to $21 million this season to buy out the rest of the 4-year, $66 million contract he signed after the 2009 season.

“If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here trying to hold on for one last year. I feel like I can still do it. And I did do it in New York every now and then, there was just no consistency.”

The Mariners really have no expectations for Bay. It’s a one-year deal with the hope that he can find some of his past production. 253-597-8483 @RyanDivish

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