Former Mets outfielder Jason Bay was in New York on Thursday, as he represented the Pittsburgh Pirates at the MLB Draft.
Bay is most identified with the Pirates, as he played there from 2003 to 2008. He then joined the Boston Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2008, and stayed there for the 2009 season. The Mets signed him as a free agent before the 2010 season, and he played here until 2012.
Bay’s final season was with the Seattle Mariners in 2013, and he currently resides in that city.
Bay said of what he is doing at the moment, “Not a lot. I dabbled with a little broadcasting with the Mariners last year, did that, interesting to look at baseball from the other side. I really enjoyed it, it was eye-opening, I like to see how processes work. From the media side, it was cool.
“And then, my line is I’m a t-ball coach and a bad soccer coach. I got time. Most people don’t retire and have kids that are nine, seven, and five. I say I’m doing nothing, yet I’m always busy doing something. The kids are taking up most of my time right now.”
On being there for his kids during retirement compared to while still an active player, Bay said, “I mean, playing baseball all those years when they were young, I was gone half the time, and when I was around, I was gone half that time too, so I was around a quarter of the time, let’s say. It’s nice, I get to drive them to school, as monotonous as that sounds, I really enjoy it, kind of talk, I learn a lot. I really relish the fact that I get to be around, because I look around and that’s not the norm. Most parents aren’t around that much, and that’s something that I’ll look at back on fondly hopefully, but right now, it’s busy and it’s a great gig if you can get it. It’s been fun.”
On if he would consider doing more broadcasting, “I enjoyed it, the only downfall was it was right in the middle of my summer. If baseball was in December, January, February in Seattle and I could go inside, it would be easy. You know, I’m driving to the ballpark and it’s 85 degrees in Seattle and beautiful out and I’m thinking, ‘ah, eh, didn’t plan this right.’ So, that was really my only, was just the timing of it. Other than that, talking baseball was easy, it kept you engaged. It was fun to be back at the ballpark, all that stuff, but ultimately, family time in the middle of the summer kind of was the deterrent really.”
Mets fans were tough on Bay in his three years here, as he did not live up to his contract. He was never the same after he suffered a concussion running into the wall in Los Angeles in July 2010, and had another concussion two years later.
On how the fans treated him, Bay said, “I think I deserved it. I came here with a big contract and I didn’t perform. There isn’t really a different way to spin that. I did the best I could, just stand up every day, no excuses, play better. You get injuries, beat up here and there, but when I played, I was healthy. I just didn’t produce, unfortunately, it had to happen.”
Bay said of possibly not being given the benefit of the doubt after he suffered that concussion, “No, no, I don’t think so. Even before that, I wasn’t hitting with power, for whatever reason I couldn’t fix it. I think that everything was fair, especially the nature of playing in New York. You don’t play well, that’s what happens, understandable. Nice guy, bad guy, whatever it is, at the end of the day, that’s what it is. I look back on my time and I don’t regret anything. I wish that I played better, but proud of the person I am, stands up, owns it, and people will respect you for it.”
Bay said of Mets Manager Terry Collins, whom he played for in 2011 and 2012, “I like Terry. At first, I thought that he might be a little too high-strung for the job in New York, but he’s done a phenomenal job of kind of channeling that. He’s very energetic, he’s very emotional, you know, a couple of things that can work really well in New York or not. I think he’s figured out how to channel that to the players and, obviously, he’s doing a very good job. The guys I still talk to over there love him. He’s definitely done a really good job.”
On who he still keeps up with on the Mets, Bay said, “Mostly David Wright. I was talking to Murph (Daniel Murphy) there for a bit, he’s obviously not around anymore, but I was following him on the playoff run. Just because you stop playing doesn’t mean you stop being a fan. You play that long, you still enjoy watching the game.”
Bay said of the Mets’ rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz, and if he saw anything like that when he played, “I played with some good staffs, especially in Boston, but just it’s the velocity now, not just with the Mets, although they’re probably at the forefront of that with the guys they’ve got and the velocity that you’re throwing out there. There used to be a time you had one or two guys throwing over 95, and now you have everyone out there doing it, good Lord. It is impressive and every team goes through those periods where you’ve got windows. It’s very, very rare, impossible more or less, to just consistently be that good all the time. When a team hits that window, you need to capitalize on it. I think that they’ve got a big window right now, the age of those guys and where they’re at in their careers, you know, it starts on the mound. They’ve got the arms to do it.”
On if he thinks the Mets and Pirates could end up meeting in the NLCS, Bay said, “I think so. The way the Pirates are going, they’re getting it done. It seems to me that the system, it doesn’t matter who they got, guys goes down, their lineup doesn’t have a lot of household names in it, their pitching staff is not full of All-Stars and guys that throw 99, they just keep getting it done. I think it’s a testament to the staff that they got there. And I think that they’ve been so close, getting to the Wild Card game, they’ve got to get over that hump that it’s got to happen one of these years.”
Bay said of the Pirates becoming a consistent contender in the last few years, “Impressive. Overall, from when Freddy (Sanches, who also was representing the Pirates at the MLB Draft) were there, it’s been a big 180. They did it the right way, kind of started from the ground up. People said, ‘hey, you got to wait, take some time to plan,’ and people don’t want to hear that at the time, but you look back and it’s the right way to do it, start from the ground up. really impressive what they’ve been able to do, and I guess it’s a testament, we’re not announced until the 22nd pick, so we must be doing something right.”
On what the Pirates’ ballpark and if it’s the best in baseball, “I do believe that. I think that the city was starved for so long to have something to get excited about in the summer. I mean, the Penguins were doing well, the Steelers are doing well, it was just a great blue-collar sports town. I’m really happy I have a soft spot in my heart for them, I really honestly hope that they do well because the city loves it, the ballpark, and they got a good formula there right now.”
Bay said of what it was like when he was drafted, “I probably do a different draft story than a lot of people. I wasn’t drafted until the twenty-second round, so I had to wait until the second day to get a phone call. That’s all I was looking for, I was just looking for a shot. I knew I wasn’t going in the first five rounds, you know, so it was kind of like, it didn’t matter where or who, I just want a shot. I was chosen in the twenty-second round by the Expos, which was kind of neat, you know, being Canadian and having the Expos take you. At that point, you just wanted a shot. It’s a little different story, it doesn’t matter how you got there, eventually we all come from somewhere.
“I went to Gonzaga, so I came out of college as a senior there. I was waiting for a phone call or I was getting a real job, one of the two.”
On if he could see a team going back to Montreal, Bay said, “I definitely think they could. The problem is, and I think with a lot of places is people will be very excited initially, but then you wonder if the reason they had to leave initially, you know the lack of interest, gonna need a new ballpark.
“We talk about this hockey in Seattle, they’re trying to get a hockey team, and it’s sport crazy right now and everyone’s into it, yeah, yeah, yeah, but is it sustainable past year two, three, four, and five if the team’s mediocre or not doing very well?
“And I think that’s the question with Montreal is, it’ll be very popular at first like everywhere, and then what? Is it sustainable? If you look around, I definitely think Canada needs another team, for sure, and Montreal would be logistically the right place to do it, especially looking at some of the other cities I could possibly throw out there. I think they need to explore it.
“Vancouver would be another one. I just think that it’s so close to Seattle that I don’t know about territories and all that kind of stuff, if it would be feasible.”
Bay said of playing for the Red Sox, “It was great. I’d been in Pittsburgh for six years and we weren’t very good, for lack of a stronger phrase, and I got traded to Boston, and overnight, it was the middle of a playoff race and it was like an instant cup of coffee to a playing career. That was kind of eye-opening because all I knew was Pittsburgh at that point. To see that, basically, what Pittsburgh’s going through now, that energy every night at the ballpark, that every game mattered is something I hadn’t experienced, it was pretty neat.”
On how tough it was to replace Manny Ramirez in left field for the Red Sox, “I didn’t think of it that way, I mean, ultimately, I knew that’s what was happening. I was so concerned about myself just playing left field, it was a lot of questions, but I ultimately knew that didn’t make that decision. I did not make the decision to say ‘hey, I’m going to play instead of you and I’m going to be better than you, that’s my plan.’ Actually, I kind of looked at it, it was really a win-win for me because I wasn’t going to replace him, there really was no point in trying to, and I think that it was kind of a fresh start. Had I chosen to be there, it would have been different, but I got placed there, and the fans embraced me from day one.”
Bay said of playing the Green Monster, “It was actually surprisingly fun and easy. You don’t have to run much there. Once you learn where to turn, where that ball’s going to bounce, you’re throwing to second base. If it doesn’t hit that ladder that’s hanging there, it’s pretty self-explanatory. It was easy and it made it a little more difficult going on the road because you’re so used to covering such a small patch of grass. You go to a regular-sized ballpark like Kansas City, and you look around and it’s like, ‘Jesus, this is huge!’ Your perspective gets thrown off after a ten-day homestand, but to know all the people that played this beforehand and the history of The Wall, to be able to play there, it’s pretty special.”