New Red Sox player looks to pick up where Manny left off
Jason Bay is not Manny Ramirez, and you can interpret that any way you’d like. Not being Manny, though, doesn’t have to mean the Red Sox will experience an end to the awesome production that the longtime superstar brought. See, Bay is a darned good player in his own right.
Not being Manny does mean a lack of glamour, of attracting the stares, of the oohs and aahs that go along with being a 500-home run hitter, but it doesn’t mean that the Red Sox are losing so much offense that they’ll never get back on track offensively.
Bay, who was acquired from Pittsburgh in the deal that sent Ramirez to the Dodgers on Thursday, is quite a hitter in his own right. It’s just that playing in Pittsburgh isn’t especially conducive to attracting attention.
The 29-year-old (30 next month) Bay will replace Ramirez both in left field and, hopefully for the Sox, at the plate, and if he can adjust to American League pitching, Sox management fully expects him to pick up where the 36-year-old Ramirez left off before going out in a huff.
This season, the statistics of the pair were actually quite similar. Bay is batting .282 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI. Ramirez is at .299 with 20 home runs and 68 RBI. Bay’s OBP and slugging: .375 and .519. Ramirez .398 and .529.
Bay, who’ll be in uniform for tonight’s game against Oakland, can run. Ramirez won’t. Bay’s biggest challenge defensively will be to learn the left field wall at Fenway Park. He played three games there, in left field, with the Pirates in 2005.
That year was a watershed for Bay, a first-round draft pick of the Expos in 2000. A year after being named the N.L. Rookie of the Year, he made the first of two All-Star teams, en route to batting .302 with 32 home runs, 101 RBI and a .402 OBP. He played 162 games. He became the first Pirates player ever to hit .300 with at least 30 home runs, 40 doubles, 20 stolen bases, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI in the same season and was also the only major league player to accomplish that in 2005.
That season he was among the N.L. top 10 in batting, runs, hits, multi-hit games (54), total bases (335), doubles, walks, on-base percentage (.402) and slugging percentage (.559). He was ranked second in extra-base hits (82) behind Chicago's Derrek Lee (99) and finished fourth in batting average vs. left-handers (.347) and fourth in batting average with runners in scoring position (.346). And there was much more, including 21 straight stolen bases before finally getting caught in the last week of the season.
Durability has been a hallmark of the Canadian. He won’t be asking out of any games. He started the 2004 season on the DL because of off-season surgery, yet still came back to win the ROTY award. He played in 159 games in 2006 and dropped to 145 in ’07 after missing 13 games in September because of tendinitis in his right knee.
In 2006 he recorded the second-highest vote total amongst N.L. All-Stars (second only to Albert Pujols), becoming the first Pirates All-Star starter since Andy Van Slyke in 1993. Not surprising, since he was a player who hit home runs in six consecutive games in May, and hit 10 in a 10-game span. And, hey, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam pushed his candidacy when he toured Pittsburgh that summer.
Bay earned Player of the Month honors, the first Pirates player to do so since Barry Bonds in 1992. He also played in 307 straight games before being forced out with a right hamstring strain in August.
The Pirates were in a selling mode what with their usual poor performance this season, and after trading Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the Yankees, they decided to shed Bay, who’s earning $6 million this season and is under contract next season for $7.5 million.
“It's always a tough day when you trade a player and person in the caliber of Jason Bay," Pirates GM Neal Huntington told the media Thursday. "But with this move, we have returned four players that we believe will be here for many, many years in the future. It's another step forward. We continue to accumulate that depth, that talent that we need to be a sustainable championship-caliber organization."
Huntington said the deal had been discussed some time ago, but only yesterday it came together quickly once the Florida Marlins dropped out of the three-way trade scenario.
"It is something that took place relatively quickly," Huntington said, "but the groundwork had been laid a while ago."
For whatever reason, the Red Sox were dragging their feet in scheduling a conference call between the media and GM Theo Epstein late Thursday night when both the Pirates and Dodgers had completed theirs hours earlier.
Sox manager Terry Francona said Wednesday that he hopes his team can have a fresh start when it opens a three-game series with Oakland tonight at Fenway. He’d also like to think that the conclusion of the non-waiver trade period will allow his players to relax.
“I do think it helps,” he said of the passing of the deadline. “There’s probably some guys out there who worry that I haven’t even thought should be worried or have some concerns or read some things that I haven’t even thought to read … or read it and thought it was so stupid that it wasn’t worth talking to them. How it affects them I don’t know. Yeah, it’ll be good.”
The Patriot Ledger