It may seem strange to use fishing analogies in the cold Northeast this time of year, but they seem to fit the 2009 offseason for the New York Mets, especially since it’s no secret that New York has been a Yankee town during the majority of the Mets’ existence.
Or, in fishing terms, the Mets, in a city like New York, have long been the small fish in a big pond when compared to their cross-town Bronx rivals.
That’s particularly true this offseason, with the Yankees coming off a whale of season, after winning their 27th world championship as the Mets struggled through some rough waters on the way to an awful 70-win, fourth place finish in the National League East.
Since then, the Yankees haven’t rested on their laurels. Instead, they’ve continued fishing for more help to improve the direction of where they want their ship to head next year. Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, and Javier Vazquez have all come aboard the good ship Yankee 2010.
And, the Mets’ biggest division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies, upgraded from Cliff Lee to Roy Halladay.
Meanwhile, the Mets were reeling in guppies and veering further off course. Netting backup catchers and pitchers R.A Dickey and Kelvim Escobar weren’t exactly the types of moves that were going to prevent a mutiny among Met fans after last season.
And, other big names were being snatched up elsewhere while the Mets kept missing the boat on each one.
Finally, on Tuesday however, the Mets landed their own big fish, by grabbing “Flushing Bay” –- as in Jason Bay, to play in Flushing — where the leftfielder will patrol the part of Citi Field which overlooks the real Flushing Bay.
Unfortunately for the Mets, Bay can’t pitch, and starting pitching among other areas remain part of the considerable work still left to do for Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya.
But, given both of last year’s World Series participants, with New York’s other team taking home another title while the Mets crumbled under the weight of a rash of injuries and underachieving players, the Mets had to show something of significance to their fan base this offseason.
Until Tuesday, Minaya’s empty promises of improving the Mets roster since the end of last season seemed like nothing more than proverbial exaggerated fish tales to anxious Met fans.
That’s why the Mets simply couldn’t let yet another big fish get away, even if $66 million for four years, with a vesting option worth an additional $14 million in a possible fifth year might be somewhat overpaying for a slugger with very good home run potential tempered by a high strikeout propensity.
For the Mets, it’s a potentially high risk, high reward move, looking at what the free agent Bay did last year with Boston. He had a career-high 162 strikeouts last season, but he also had career highs of 36 home runs and 119 runs batted in.
Those last two numbers are sorely needed in a Mets lineup that was severely offensively challenged last year, due in large part to injuries to key players who should return with good bills of health next season. If players such as Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes stay healthy and return to previous form, Bay should only help that much more.
Landing Bay alone won’t lead to a sudden tidal wave of success for the Mets. And, this by far, can’t be the last of Minaya’s big upgrades before the start of next season. But, after what had been a very uneventful and disappointing offseason for the Mets, the signing of “Flushing Bay” is a big catch that should at least keep disgruntled Met fans “at bay” for now.