NEW YORK -- It feels familiar. A free agent signs an expensive four-year deal with a Big Apple ball club and seemingly forgets how to hit. The player, a good guy who works hard, is suddenly powerless at the plate.
Jason Bay once was that floundering former free agent. Bay signed a 4-year, $65 million contract with the Mets in 2010, but after hitting .234 with a .687 OPS over 288 games, agreed, at just 33, to accept a buyout in 2013.
These days, the struggling slugger is the Yankees' Chase Headley, who is in the second season of a four-year, $52 million contract. Headley, 32, has not had an extra-base hit yet this season. After 86 at-bats.
"It is just a matter of time," Headley said. "If I keep throwing out the same swing -- especially that I had [Tuesday night] -- there will be plenty of extra-base hits."
Headley did have a hard RBI single in the second inning Tuesday night. It was in the gap, but the Royals' Jarrod Dyson cut it off, keeping Headley from reaching that Holy Grail at second base.
It is easy to make light of Headley's ineptitude by bringing up Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon, who, among many others, has more extra-base hits in 2016, or by pointing out that you, the reader, have as many extra-base hits as the Yankees' third baseman. But for the Bronx Bombers, it is no laughing matter.
For the moment, the Yankees are sticking with Headley. They have little alternative.
"We believe in him," Joe Giardi said. "He has a track record, too, and this is not who he is, so I’m going to be patient."
Girardi will have to be. The Yankees have Ronald Torreyes on the roster and Rob Refsnyder at Triple-A, but neither has ever been mentioned as an everyday third baseman.
Of course, Headley -- with his .174 average and three RBIs -- is not playing like an everyday third baseman.
Headley has no extra-base hits in his past 33 games, dating to last season, which is more than twice as long as any other such slump in his career.
San Diego's Alexi Amarista has the longest current streak, having played in 35 games without an extra-base hit. Amarista, though, is not supposed to be a power guy, and he's making $1.35 million. Headley -- who hit 31 home runs in 2012 -- will be paid $13 million this season.
Headley's 86 at-bats without an extra-base hit is 35 more than the Angels' Rafael Ortega, whose 51 at-bats rank as the second worst extra-base fail so far this season.
The scariest aspect of Headley's slump? The Yankees are at a loss to explain it. They say there is nothing physically wrong with him.
"I would [know something was wrong] if I saw him in the training room all the time, but he’s not, so physically he has no complaints besides hitting balls off his feet and those sort of things," Girardi said. "We haven’t had anything."
Headley will eventually pick up his first extra-base hit, but he has fallen so far behind, it's fair to ask if he will come close to even matching the modest 41 extra-base hits he notched last season. Headley had 29 doubles, 11 homers and a triple in 2015. It was a down year, but there was no indication he had so little left.
Just as with Bay, people who know Headley like him. They see his effort. They notice he isn't hiding from his troubles. But as the quarter pole of the season nears, he still has only singles to show for it.