“I’m not sayin’ he should’ve killed her. But I understand.”
—Chris Rock on O.J. Simpson
Jon Niese threw one very bad pitch very early, Jay Bruce hit it very far and Saturday night’s ballgame was very over. Unfortunately another 8½ innings needed to be played and another 8½-thousand content-free words had to be needlessly issued via the flapping Red-tinged tongues of yappy Fox hounds Thom Brennaman and Sean Casey before the Mets could just leave all their runners on base and call it a night — a very blah night.
The Saturday Night at the Metsies miniseries, which began last weekend and runs for the next two weekends, is revealing itself as a prime-time disaster. Before Fox got its 7:15 PM hands on us, we were 8-1 on Saturday afternoons. Darkness, when enmeshed with Foxness, does not become us.
Nor, to go back to Friday night, does booing our left fielder when he’s going all out to haul in a deep, tailing fly ball, diving onto the warning track in his futile pursuit and inadvertently ramming his battle-scarred noggin into the base of the outfield wall to halt his skidding forward motion as the ball trickles away for an inside-the-park home run (Bruce’s, of course), leaving him to lay helplessly in the corner.
Jason Bay took a nasty spill and it elicited a nasty reception. The failure was jeered despite the effort involved in trying to execute a fairly hopeless catch. The result was loudly derided because who wants to fall behind when the bases had been empty and nothing traveled over a fence? And, quite clearly, the man in left was booed…and kept being booed while waiting to be medically attended to.
When the Mets got Bay on his feet and helped him off the field, there was some applause. Some, not a ton. Let’s say it wasn’t unanimous. Just as not everybody booed an injured Met at Citi Field, not everybody clapped in support of a banged-up Met who looked to have just courted another bout of head trauma. Brushing with broad strokes would be a mistake here.
Yet it’s clear two rules of baseball etiquette — unwritten Commandments, you might say — were breached by Mets fans or whoever goes to Mets games when they draw 34,716:
1) You don’t boo a guy when he is literally down;
2) You don’t not cheer a guy when they finally get him up.
It doesn’t matter that times have changed. It doesn’t matter that the main attraction at ballgames is apparently the electronic device in the palm of your hand. It doesn’t matter that Citi Field, like all modern fields, seems designed to detract from the traditional ballgame-going experience and certainly doesn’t nurture certain time-honored traditions. There are just things you don’t do and there are things you are compelled to do. There was poor behavior on both ends where Jason Bay’s second concussion in three seasons was concerned.
You don’t boo Jason Bay when he is down. And you don’t not cheer Jason Bay when he gets up.
It doesn’t matter that Jason Bay has been a deeply dug hole for tens of millions of dollars since 2010 and he’s owed tens of millions more through 2013.
It doesn’t matter that Jason Bay has shown next to no power and little production despite power and production being exactly the items for which he’s being handsomely compensated.
It doesn’t matter that Jason Bay has missed significant chunks of time in each of his three Met years to date — even managing to contract flu-like symptoms the moment he was restored to the active roster this season — meaning we always seem to be wishing him speedy recoveries and banking on his next fresh start to set everything right.
It doesn’t matter that while his performance has been utterly unlikable, his persona couldn’t be less worthy of bile and therefore Mets fans of decent upbringing can’t quite bring themselves to pour vitriol on his star-crossed coconut because Jason Bay is always hustling, always trying, always making the effort and never saying anything outwardly insulting (if not exactly saying anything inspiring).
It doesn’t matter that most of us have been trying our best to temper our criticism of him personally even as we legitimately excoriate his performance because Jason Bay doesn’t come off as a self-absorbed mercenary or a preening jerk, yet for all our thoughtful self-editing, he won’t return the favor and simply hit like he’s supposed to.
It doesn’t matter that every isolated now and then, he teases us with a taste of what we thought he’d do as a matter of course and then reverts to the Jason Bay form as we’ve come to know it.
It doesn’t matter that one game after Jason Bay helped the Mets sweep Tampa Bay, he immediately played a role in putting the Mets behind Cincinnati.
It doesn’t matter that when you see another player risk his well-being to make an impossible catch and then hurt himself, your instinct is to care deeply and support him wholeheartedly, yet somehow when it’s Jason Bay, you feel you’ve been around this cul-de-sac on multiple occasions, thus you’re incredibly frustrated just thinking about him and your empathetic baseball-fan instincts betray you.
None of it matters. Even if you don’t want to, you have to not boo Jason Bay when he appears to injure himself and you have to applaud Jason Bay when it is confirmed he hasn’t killed himself.
That’s just what you have to do — even for Jason Bay.