So much for Peter Gammons’ claim that Jason Bay would “rather play in Beirut than Queens.” Tuesday the Mets introduced Bay as their new left fielder at a news conference at Citi Field (left). He said, “this is where I want to be.” Here are some highlights from the news conference:
Why the Mets?
“First of all, the chance to win. Regardless of what happened last year, you look at the players on this team and it’s a very good team. I think coming in, I offer a little bit of a fresh perspective as an outsider. I don’t really know what went on last year. I know a lot of guys got hurt. But from a straight talent standpoint, it’s a very good team. That was big — a chance to win. I was in a situation in Pittsburgh where I enjoyed my time, but we didn’t win. Then I went to Boston, and really found that winning was a big part of that. And the market and meaningful games (editor’s note-how about that nod to Fred Wilpon’s favorite saying?!), being in Boston, kind of feeling that, having that . . . the window for me to play is very short. If you don’t take advantage of it now, you may never get that. New York is one of those places that, regardless of what sport you play or what you do, it’s the center of everything. Like I said, there were a lot of reasons.”
Any concerns about hitting in spacious Citi Field?
“For those of you who don’t know, and I’m sure most of you do, Pittsburgh is very spacious as well, and you play half your games on the road. I’m not really concerned. It’s something that’s there, but you go out and I’m confident in the type of player I am. Ballpark or not, I’m still going to do what I do. So that had zero factor in anything in my decision.”
What about his supposedly suspect defense?
“Defensively, in Pittsburgh it was big there as well. The first few years there, I felt like I was a good outfielder. I got banged up a little bit in ‘07, then I went to Boston. There ain’t a lot of room to run around. It’s a challenge to go out there and prove to everyone that I can play pretty good defense. I’ve said before, I’m by no means Torii Hunter out there. I know that. But I still think I’m pretty good. It will be a chance to show everyone that I can be.”
Any concerns about coming to New York?
“There were no concerns. Obviously, right when the season ended and you get the free agency (exclusivity) period and all of a sudden that ends, the Mets were the first team, right from the get-go. My agent actually flew to New York and met with them. Very good, positive meeting. They were all along, after the Winter Meetings, there wasn’t probably a 48-hour window or something where we didn’t talk. So right from the get-go, they were very persistent. They wanted me. I really appreciated that. And then, basically, after the Winter Meetings, it probably seems like it took a long time, but after the Winter Meetings it took less than maybe a week or 10 days or something. We actually had agreed in principle before Christmas. There was a myriad of reasons — I don’t think any of us were even in the country; I was just in Canada, so it wasn’t that far — but to try to get this all done. It probably looks like it took a lot longer than it did. But in reality, it didn’t.”
What did you think of Gammons’ statement?
“I kind of heard about that around the way. It’s funny, maybe to my own detriment a little bit, we kind of cut off all contact until this was done. Basically, if I addressed everything that was false, I’d just be addressing that and not addressing the things that were true. There was a lot written. Where you come up with Beirut, I don’t know. … That’s the funny thing. No one refuted it. I never talked to anybody. No one knew my position on anything except for my family and my agent. People have opinions — that’s fine. To say those were my opinions and that’s the way I felt, that hurts a little bit. But, once again, you can’t control it and it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
(If I may just editorialize for a moment — why does anyone even listen to Gammons? He is lauded as the top baseball writer in the country, but have you ever really read his stuff? It’s unreadable. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Check out this 2001 article from the New York Press. And he makes these predictions and bold statements (like the Bay thing) that more often than not turn out completely wrong. Does Gammons just make this stuff up and pray he’s right? And I won’t even mention his Red Sox bias, because his Boston leaning often results in anti-Yankee bias, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Gammons is just awful).
Anyway, now that Bay is officially in the fold, maybe Omar Minaya can concentrate on other moves. The starting rotation is still in shambles, and Luis Castillo is still at second. There are conflicting reports as to whether the Mets and Red Sox spoke about a bad-contract swap of Castillo for Mike Lowell. It doesn’t make sense for the Sox — the money is the same, and they have Dustin Pedroia at second base. And whom would you rather have on the bench as a possible pinch hitter — Lowell or Castillo? The move wouldn’t be bad for the Mets. Lowell could play some first (although he hasn’t ever in the past), and spell Wright at third. Also, it would allow the Mets to finally sign Orlando Hudson, which would give the lineup a really nice power boost over the weak-hitting Castillo.