In the first few weeks of this off-season, while other teams scooped up free agents and the Mets did next to nothing, some fans grumbled about the team's inactivity. Now that they've signed Jason Bay, other fans are grumbling that he's not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That "reverse sour grapes" attitude is puzzling to this Mets fan.
The true measure of this deal won't be known for years. But no one can deny that a Mets roster with Bay on it is a marked improvement from a roster without him. So he's not a Gold Glove outfielder. With the exception of Carlos Beltran, the Mets haven't had one of those in thirty years, and they've had a few pretty good teams despite that glaring deficiency.
Did the Mets overpay for Bay? Quite likely. So what? Every player in baseball is paid more than he's worth. Some are just more overpaid than others. Is Bay on the other side of 30, and getting older every year? Sure is. And every other player gets exactly one year older every year, too. Will Bay put the Mets over the top in 2010? Probably not, but he fills one of the two biggest needs they had going into the winter.
The other need, for a mid-line starting pitcher, remains unmet so far, but signing Bay without losing any prospects gives them far more flexibility to make a trade for one between now and March. Problem is, every team in baseball could use another decent starter, and the fear is that Omar Minaya will overpay in minor league bodies to deal for one.
Can Bay play in New York? That's a question none of us can accurately predict. We've seen a lot of talented players come to Flushing from other cities where they excelled, only to grow feet of clay inside Shea. Pittsburgh ain't New York. But let's give the man a chance to prove himself. Going into the 2009 season, the Mets roster looked to be one of the most talented in their history. One year and several hundred days on the disabled list later, the pieces are there again, and Bay is one big added piece. If they can stay healthy, and Bay can adjust to a New York lifestyle without too much culture shock, the Mets can give the Phillies a run for their money. Any fan willing to dismiss the value of a player with 514 RBI's in the last five years isn't much of a fan.