Some people blame the poor season last year by Jason Bay on his move to Citi Field. Others blame it on the season-ending concussion that knocked him out of action before he could turn things around. Me, I have a different theory. Bay’s poor first season is a direct result of his uniform number.
Thanks to the wonderful site Mets By The Numbers, we see five hitters in the last decade have worn 44 with the Mets – Brady Clark, Lastings Milledge, Mike Cameron, Jay Bell and Jay Payton. Not exactly the company you want to keep. We can go back further but the results are even more depressing. Do John Cangelosi, Ryan Thompson, Tom Paciorek, Leroy Stanton and Harry Chiti bring back fond memories for you?
The best hitter to wear 44 for the Mets was Howard Johnson. And he wore the number for six days in 1991. After struggling the first five weeks of the season, Johnson switched from 20 to 44 on May 10th and kept the number until May 15th. He did well with the number, going .273/.407/.636 in 27 PA. But Johnson had the good sense to ditch the number after breaking out of his slump, and he went back to his familiar 20 for the rest of his Mets career.
When he was with the Pirates, Bay wore the number 38. When he was traded to the Red Sox, Bay switched over to number 44, perhaps because 38 was still closely associated with Curt Schilling. When Bay joined the Mets, he kept with 44, perhaps because 38 was being used by Fernando Nieve.
With Nieve gone, there is no reason for Bay not to switch back to what can be called his National League number. Only one Mets hitter in club history has worn that uniform number – do you have any guesses? It was in 1992 and he wore it for only half a season. Give up yet? It was Pat Howell.
Bay has a chance to reinvent himself with the Mets and bring dignity to the number for future hitters with the team. It’s a win-win situation.
So, please, Bay go back to uniform number 38. Your 2010 season will be forgiven if you do.