*New York Mets OF Jason Bay (Trail, BC) has been looking for post-concussion answers this spring to get back to his former production numbers ... 2012 Canadians in College 2012 Canadians draft list Letters of Intent 2011 Canadians in the Minors
By Alexis Brudnicki
PORT St. LUCIE, Fla. -- The curse of the contract.
Since Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets on a four-year, $66 million deal in December of 2009, his performance has fallen well below what it was previously.
“Obviously it can always be better,” the 33-year-old said. “And in my case, it can definitely be better. I’ve been very candid with the fact that I’ve felt like I haven’t showed that I’m the player that I was three years ago. And that’s for whatever reason. I’m not pinpointing anything, it hasn’t happened.
“I really look forward to this year and doing that, just trying to get back to being myself and not doing anything more, but being the guy that I was for the first seven years of my career.”
Bay was National League Rookie of the Year in 2004 with the Pittsburgh Pirate and also represented the Bucs twice as an All-Star selection. With the Boston Red Sox, he got to experience the American League side of the All-Star Game in 2009, a year in which he was also pronounced a Silver Slugger.
The left fielder is also a three-time recipient of the Tip O’Neill award, an honour given to the top Canadian baseball player each year.
But Bay garnered all of these personal accolades before his time with the Mets; before his concussion two years ago, and before a rib injury left him sidelined at the beginning of last season.
Taking blame away from his injuries for his lack of success at the plate, Bay acknowledges that he has been his own worst enemy in trying to get back to the player he once was. Making adjustment after adjustment to his game, he lost sight of what made him successful in the first place.
“I think everybody is on a lot of levels,” Bay said of being his own arch nemesis. “You try to do some things. When you’re having success you don’t question what you’re doing. But then when you don’t, all of a sudden you’re kind of thinking, ‘Okay, what can I do? I’m going to try to do this a little better, this a little better,’ and then pretty soon you’ve done 15 different things and you don’t really know which one it is you’re doing now.
“You completely get away from what made you successful. It’s actually not a lack-of-trying thing, it’s kind of an over-trying thing. It’s not easy to try easier. That’s one thing I realized last year towards the end of the year. I tried to get back to what I’d always done and I kind of relaxed a little bit and played. That’s kind of the route I’m taking this year.”
Though Bay doesn’t blame his head injury as the catalyst of his temporary downfall, as many others have, he does acknowledge that he’s not sure how long the effects of his concussion actually lingered.
“I honestly don’t know,” Bay said of the effects. “And that’s the rough part about these things. You can’t just get an MRI, you can’t get an x-ray and be like, ‘Oh, you’re 50%.’ A lot of it depends on the individual and that’s been the big part. The other thing is that you can’t quantify everyone as being the same. Like, ‘Oh, so-and-so did what you did, he got hit in the head and he was back in a month.’ It doesn’t work like that.
“And that’s the frustrating part is that you have to go off of yourself and you want to play. Obviously we know a lot more than we did five or 10 years ago but it’s still very frustrating. I’d like to think the fact that I’ve gone through it once, I don’t say it helps me but at least I have a better understanding. Someone that’s going through it for the first time, it’s very deflating because you have no idea. You talk to a million people, you get a million different answers and it’s very tough.”
One of the people that Bay spoke to about his head injury was another Canadian and another victim of a concussion, Justin Morneau.
“I talked to Justin because we were going through it at the same time,” Bay said. “I had one and it was like, ‘I should be good in a little bit,’ and a month went by and it was like, ‘Man, I still have a headache.’ So I talked to the doctors here and it was kind of rest a little and then I wasn’t getting anywhere so I was a little more proactive and kind of went and saw another doctor and talked to some people and got a lot of the same answers. But at least you feel like you’re doing something about it rather than sitting around and waiting for something to happen.”
Morneau expressed similar feelings about his injury at the beginning of last season, though he believed it helped him learn how to be patient, both with the game and with himself.
“Patience is something you learn in this game,” Morneau said last May at Target Field. “When you go through injuries, you learn patience. And as much as you want to be out there you have to make sure that if it’s something you have surgery on or whatever it is, you need to take your time with it and make sure it’s better because you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any good if you’re not able to perform the way you should.”
Both British Columbia natives are hoping to get back to being the players they once were, and to perform up to the expectations they once set so high.