There are two strikes on Jason Bay, but he is still alive. It is one of many Citi Field nights, and Bay looks at the pitcher, taps the plate with his bat, and thinks: Slider in the dirt. Lay off it.

The guess is correct. A slider nearly bites his feet. It should be a wasted pitch - except Bay swings. He cannot believe he did it again.

He walks back toward the dugout, absorbing the boos. The young players who admire him see the frozen face, and hear the monotone voice. They think, as Josh Thole puts it, that Bay is "the same guy whether he goes 0-for-20, or 20-for-20." This is why the manager, Terry Collins, says Bay is "beloved by teammates."

But few realize that modeling professionalism for kids is one of Bay's most deeply-felt values, and that no one asked to stare for two years at failure can remain unmoved. A $66 million contract buys many things, but not a cure for this feeling.