New York Mets Outfielder Jay Bruce is only one of the problems facing Terry Collins these days, but he is definitely the one that Collins is asked about the most. But, a realistic look at the player Bruce really is makes it easier to understand why Collins keeps running him out there.
Jay Bruce came to the New York Mets a month ago having played nine years in the big leagues. Over that span, he averaged nearly 30 home runs and 80 RBI. He’s a three-time All Star and a two time Silver Slugger Award winner in the National League. He’s also a everyday player who comes to the ballpark every expecting to play, and almost always is put in the lineup.
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And yet, with all this success behind him his six week “career” with the Mets has been nothing less than horrific. He was supposed to be the fail safe addition to the lineup for Yoenis Cespedes. That hasn’t happened. He was supposed to be a power force for a team that was having trouble scoring runs. That hasn’t happened either (4 HR 11 RBI). He was also supposed to be a stabilizing presence in a outfield that was being shuffled daily. But that hasn’t happened either because Bruce has needed prescribed mental health days during his prolonged drought.
So all of this is a given now and you are Collins and you have to take a lineup card to home plate every night You’re in the middle of a pennant race and you have a player who can help you – but he hasn’t so far. Do you keep the faith or make a change?
First, let’s get real. Jay Bruce is a career .247 hitter with more strikeouts (1233) than hits (1141). He is not Cespedes and he is not even Ryan Braun, who remains to be had in a trade with the Brewers. Bruce is (really) Curtis Granderson, a player more familiar to Mets fans. He’s a power hitting outfielder with a very modest batting average along with a better than average on base percentage, and not much else. And as such, he’s very prone to streaks both good and bad.
In other words, Collins understands Bruce and that’s why he keeps running him out there. He did the same thing with Granderson earlier in the year when he was stinking up the joint. Finally, Granderson turned a corner and began to make a contribution. But again, Granderson’s contribution is not exactly setting the world on fire.
The trouble for Bruce is that expectations are higher than he can deliver. Remember, he came here at the eleventh hour right at the deadline in much the same way that Cespedes arrived here last year, and we all know how that fairy tale went down. But as we’ve already said, Bruce is not Cespedes, he is Bruce.
And here’s the kicker. The Mets are winning in spite of Bruce. If that were not the case, Mets fans and probably Collins himself would have tagged him with the nickname “Jaybay” by now in memory of Jason Bay who will live in infamy as a colossal failure for the Mets. And most certainly, Bruce would have a seat on the bench more regularly than he does now.
The bigger question though seems to be more about Bruce himself because suddenly he is not the player he has been. He’s lost control of the strike zone completely and he is not hitting the mistakes that power hitters rely on. In other words, the age old question about whether or not he is “suited” for New York could become more important and relevant because Bruce appears to be his own worst enemy right now.
In all likelihood, Sandy Alderson grabbed the low hanging fruit when he traded for Jay Bruce. He was under pressure to “do something” to save his own neck, and at the last minute he did. Keeping that in perspective along with a realistic assessment of who Bruce really is as a ballplayer should stop the endless questions that Collins is being asked about Bruce.
Until someone better comes along, he’ll be in the lineup every day. End of story. Let’s move on.