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Jason Bay insists that he truly does not believe his problems with concussions were the real reason behind the sub-par numbers that he put up for three seasons with the New York Mets. Bay had trouble staying on the field during his three years in the Big Apple and the Mariners had him checked out by three different doctors prior to signing his one-year, $1-million deal to play here.
“I’ve had a lot of people, coaches, try to convince me that it has,” Bay said of concussions impacting his play, “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. It was never ‘Man, before I had that I was faster’…none of that. I had played for the first six years of my career, every day. And I think that was the hardest part. Understanding that. It had nothing to do with that (concussions). It was just the time away.”
So, I asked him, what can he do — if anything — to prevent concussions from sidelining him yet again in Seattle?
“I think right now it’s not more the reccurence, but the maintenance,” he said. “It’s basically the protocol. Guys get banged up all the time. If you look at football or any sport…football by definition, it should happen a hundred times a play. 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 pro-active about it. 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.
“So, I think it’s more the protocol. And we know more now, so we’re being extra cautious.”
Still, what is it about Seattle that leads Bay to believe he’ll have more success here than in New York?
“I think it’s just the fresh start,” he said. “I’ve had a few really good hitting coaches and sometimes with just a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh perspective, you kind of wipe the slate clean. Regardless of where I was going, whether it was here or anywhere else…that was kind of the number one thing I was looking forward to — starting over. You’re just kind of swimming upstream for so long that you’re not getting anywhere. And that’s basically it. Just trying to start fresh.”
Given how badly he fared with the Mets, I asked him what it was like on a daily basis off the field. Not just for him, but for his family as well.
“Itwas tough, obviously,” he said. “I’m not going to say it wasn’t. But I learned a lot about myself as a person, as a player. I tried to be the same guy. The same dad. The same husband. It’s not always easy. As for my teammates, I tried to be the same teammate. It speaks volumes. I can’t say that I was every single day. I guess the positive is that it wasa learning experience. Anybody can be a good guy when everything is going great. But when it’s not, you learn a lot about yourself. You can go in one of two directions. And I was very proud of myself that I kind of stood up, I owned it and I didn’t point fingers, nothing.
“I just put my head down, kept going and I ended up here.”
Bay said he wouldn’t be here just to “hold on” for one last season if he didn’t think he could do more.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik hopes to see more from Bay. For now, all the Mariners will say is that he’s going to play left field and help them out with his right-handed bat.
At first glance, the Bay acquisition could spell trouble for the playing time of Casper Wells, since he’s a guy who was used primarily in the outfield corners and against left-handed pitching.
But Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge are naturally going to see what Bay brings to the table first before commenting in toomuch detail about where he fits.
“Here’s a player that’s had a really nice career,” Zduriencik said. “He’s had a few struggles the last couple of years, there’s no question. There’s been injuries attached to that and other factors. Who knows what it is? I think when you just look at it, it’s a comfortable environment for a guy that’s looking for a bounceback year. He lives here. He’s from basically the Northwest, went to college here. All the arrows point that if anybody’s going to bounce back, this would be a good place for him to be able to do that.”
On a side note, I asked Zdureincik and assistant GM Jeff Kingston — who headed up the study that led to Safeco Field’s fences being moved in — how the re-configured ballpark might help Bay’s left field defense. Both agreed that, in theory, the smaller left field should help Bay’s range, but they say it’s too soon to tell for certain since nobody has played any games there yet.
“Now that it’s going to be a little shorter, well have to see how it plays when the season opens,” Zduriencik said. “It should play…obviously, it’s going to play shorter because it’s going to be a smaller park.”
The old fence has been removed from the ballpark and the new one is waiting to be installed. The teamis also proceeding with plans to install the new giant scoreboard beyond the center field bleachers. Today, we could see the support beams and panels already in-place.