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When the New York Mets signed free agent Jason Bay, initially the optimistic Mets fan in me was ecstatic. A true RBI man and a doubles machine was on his way to New York to wear my team’s orange and blue. Even with the great statistics, Bay brought to the Mets something that scared me: The Fenway Effect.
What is the Fenway Effect? For the casual fan that does not know, it is the ability to turn a would-be out in any other Major League ballpark into a home run. Don’t believe me? Ask any Sox fan what happened on Oct. 2, 1978 and they’ll tell you how a measly fly ball forever connected Bucky “F——” Dent with Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth as the three named assassins. With this is mind, I rightfully thought the Fenway Effect applied to Jason Bay. After conducting much research, I found my hypothesis to be 100 percent inaccurate. In his 200 games for the Red Sox, the Effect simply did not apply to the two-time All Star.
The short leftfield and rightfield porches in Fenway Park have been known to swell hitters’ “sexy numbers,” enabling their home runs and RBI totals to elevate to levels they wouldn’t normally be at. Bay, however, had very similar numbers away from Fenway as he did in Fenway. In 260 at-bats in Fenway Park, in 2009, Bay compiled 71 hits, 18 doubles, 15 HRs, and 64 RBI. Contrast those numbers to those #44 had in away games, and they are only slightly better. In 271 at-bats away from the friendly confines of Fenway Park, Bay registered the same 71 hits, with 11 doubles, 21 HRs, and 55 RBI. True, other than his home run total, every other category is higher in Fenway, but his overall season statistics still remain consistent with his career averages. On average per 162 games, Bay has averaged 33 HR, 107 RBI, 34 Doubles and a .280 Batting Average. To help the argument that Fenway did not “fluff-up” his numbers, Bay had arguably his best season as a pro in 2006, with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
As a Mets fan, Bay’s 2005 and (especially) 2006 in Pittsburgh are reasons to be optimistic. In those two seasons, Bay averaged 33.5 HR, 105 RBI, 173 Hits, 36.5 Doubles and a .296 BA in the more spacious PNC Park, a field with dimensions similar to those in Bay’s new home, Citi Field.
As badly as I want to be pessimistic about the 2010 Mets season, Bay is keeping my thoughts optimistic. The season as a whole may be doomed for failure, but Bay is sure to be a ray of light in Citi Field this summer and has proved it already in his first few games as a Met. Although he is currently batting .261, Bay has not had any trouble finding the gaps in the Citi Field outfield, recording a double and a triple in his first six games.
The Red Sox, though, are destined to be in a AL East race come September, and filling the void in the middle of the lineup created with Bay’s departure may be difficult to do. The man Theo Epstein brought in to replace Bay was Mike Cameron. Cameron is most known for his stabilizing glove in the outfield and is not the offensive force that Bay proved to be. Cameron is all but a lock for his normal 23 HRs, 75 RBI, and .250 BA — numbers any team would be pleased with from a No. 7 hitter, but not ideal for a team looking for a power jolt. If I were the Red Sox organization and The Nation, I would quietly put a lot of my hope in Adrian Beltre.
While Beltre has fallen short of expectations since his MVP season in 2004 with the Dodgers, he has still put up better numbers than Cameron from 2005-2008, even while playing in the gi-normous Safeco Field. In his first four years with the Mariners, Beltre consistently averaged nearly 24 HRs and 88 RBI per season. The fact of the matter is that Adrian Beltre is not the 30/100 player the baseball world thought he would be, but entering Fenway Park at nearly 25/90 numbers is reason to be optimistic. Beltre has found no problem fitting in in Fenway, as he has put together an impressive first week, batting .400 with 8 RBI and a .450 SLG%. Unlike the Mets, the 2010 Boston Red Sox season will be one with many rays of light and Adrian Beltre very well may come shooting out from behind the clouds to be the brightest of them all.