There is a rumor that if you look up the phrase “sunk cost” in the dictionary, that there is a picture of Jason Bay next to the entry. That rumor may or may not be true but the sad reality is that Bay is that very thing and his continued presence on the roster is a hindrance to the Mets’ efforts to win games.
For those not familiar with the concept, a sunk cost is one that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Furthermore a sunk cost should play no role in future decisions if you are looking to make the best possible choices.
Let’s say you hate the opera. Your wife makes you buy two tickets because *she* likes to go. But on the night of the show, she gets called out of town on business. Now, you could go because you’ve already spent money on the tickets. Or you could go do something that you’d rather do, like go bowling or take a nap. It’s bad enough that you spent the money on the opera tickets. There’s no reason to compound the misery by actually going when there are other options that would make you much happier.
Jason Bay is the opera tickets, while going to see the show is continuing to give him at-bats. While it may seem like going to the show means that the money won’t have been spent in vain, all you are really doing is making a bad situation worse. The odds that this opera is the one that’s going to turn you into a fan are virtually non-existent. The odds that this is the time Bay will be productive might even be worse.
Mike Puma of the New York Post had this quote from Collins on Bay:
“If you sit [Bay] down, it’s the same thing we talked about with not playing Ike Davis [when he was slumping],” Collins said after the game. “He’s just not going to get better [sitting on the bench]. It’s hard to do. He has not been able to get started because of the injuries, so we’ve got to get him started.”
Davis is in his mid-20s and last year put up a .925 OPS. Bay is 33 and has put up the following OPS marks, starting in 2009: .921, .749, .703 and .556 this year. If you get lucky, he might rebound to last year’s mark. But the history books are just not filled with guys in their 30s who have stunk for three years straight magically regaining their past glory.
The Mets had the option of sending Davis to Buffalo to work out his problems and chose not to do it. Chances are they do not have that same option with Bay. The Mets paid a heavy price by playing Davis every day for three months when he was sub-replacement level. They survived because their pitching was outstanding. No one is calling the hurlers that now. Playing the 2012 version of Bay – his .164 AVG and 28.7 K% – when the Mets are struggling this bad is, in a word, insane.
If the Mets want to play a low-average, high-strikeout guy, they should just play Kirk Nieuwenhuis. At least he has a chance to get better. It would be wonderful if Bay could be a .900 OPS+ guy who balanced the lineup with his righty power. But that version of Bay isn’t walking through the door or into the batter’s box.
The latest scuttlebutt is that Bay has one more week to start producing or else he will be replaced by Mike Baxter in the starting lineup. Well, that’s something, I guess.
In the offseason following 2009, the Mets preferred Bay over Matt Holliday because Bay was a pull-hitter that they believed would not be spooked by the outfield dimensions at Citi Field and who would hit home runs. In the nearly three years since, Holliday has 68 HR to 23 for Bay. That’s not really fair to Bay, who has suffered from injuries in the interim. But Holliday has a .925 OPS since 2010, compared to a .703 mark for Bay.
But we cannot go back to December, 2009 and pursue Holliday instead of Bay. What the Mets can do is recognize he’s a sunk cost and stop putting Bay in the lineup to make outs. That was true at least since the middle of last year and it’s true today. Only now it finally seems about to happen. The guy who arrived with such fanfare with an eight-digit contract, is on the verge of being replaced by a guy making minimum wage.
And it’s the right decision.