By Rich Coutinho
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From the moment the Mets arrived in spring training, Terry Collins was singing the praises of the his lineup, giving particular notice to the trio of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay, who finally seemed healthy and ready to contribute.
When Bay went down in the final week of March, the Mets skipper put on a brave front -- but knew deep down his offensive "Big Bang Theory" had taken a hit.
Don't think for a moment Jason Bay's return and the Mets' 4-game winning streak are mutually exclusive events. The offensive cause-and-effect of his return to the Mets' lineup cannot be overstated.
When all 5 players are healthy, there may be no better offensive quintet in the league than Reyes, Beltran, Bay, David Wright, and Ike Davis. I think a healthy Bay will especially help David Wright and Ike Davis. There is simply no break in the middle of that lineup. And when you consider how much sizzle Jose Reyes is providing on the bases these days, it is fairly easy to figure out why the Mets have won 4 in a row.
Think about this past weekend when both Davis and Wright went yard against the Diamondbacks. Understand that navigating through this Mets lineup is a chore for most pitchers. I'll be the first to admit the Diamondbacks are one of the "weak sisters" of the National League, but according to the experts, so are the Mets.
"His presence is huge," said Davis, "because if they get past Jason, and that's a big if, I get to face a pitcher who has just had to deal with Wright, Beltran, and then Bay. And I am reaping the benefit of that."
But it isn't just Bay's presence in the lineup that has lifted the Mets -- he is, simply put, one of the most respected voices in that clubhouse -- and a great teammate.
"The first day he returned was a big lift for us," says Collins. "It is because Jason takes his responsibility as a veteran player very seriously. Out younger players like Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Josh Thole missed his leadership and that is part of what makes Bay so special."
We all know that Bay's first year in New York was disappointing -- to say the least -- but nobody was more disappointed than Bay.
"The thing that irked me the most," said the Mets left fielder, "was that I missed so many games, because just look at the back of my baseball card; I do not miss games."
Bay is absolutely right about that. The back of his card also depicts a player who has been an RBI machine over the past few years. And his teammates are well aware of that fact.
"When I heard we got Jason Bay, I was so excited because I knew what kind of run producer he has been." said Beltran. "Last year, he was hurt and I can certainly sympathize with him on that, but now that he is back, you just watch how our offense will get going."
Those words proved to be prophetic ones from Beltran -- and music to the ears of Met fans.
As for Collins' "Big Bang Theory," the jury is still out. But considering the last 4 games, there is certainly evidence the Mets manager may have known exactly what he was talking about back in Port St. Lucie.
Agree? Disagree? Let Coutinho know in the comments below...
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