Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose…
My grandpa called me today to remind me of the fabled contract negotiation between Babe Ruth and the owner of the Yankees, in which the owner said, “you’re asking for more money than the president makes,” and Ruth responded, “I had a better year than he did.”
I took the above video parked in my self-upgraded Caesar’s Club seat at Citi Field on September 28, 2011. Please forgive my singing as I excitedly anticipated history – though Mets fans ended up with more history than we’d bargained for. I’d sworn off 2011 Mets games the week before following an awful performance against Washington, but had come to Citi Field on a whim, no doubt for the same reason as everyone else that day. It wasn’t about watching the geriatric Miguel Batista throw an improbable 123.-pitch complete game shutout. Fans flocked to Flushing to watch Jose Reyes. I wanted to document each at-bat of what I and thousands more knew would be an historic day for both Reyes and the Mets. What we didn’t know was that this would be our only chance to see Jose as he secured the first batting title in Mets history with a drag bunt, the final hit of his 2011 season and his Mets career, before he was removed for a pinch-runner. Just like that, he was gone far earlier than we fans wanted him to be – both from the game and, now, from a Mets uniform.
If only Terry Collins had left him in long enough for Jose to give us one more stolen base. After all, it was his speed that enticed us all as he emerged in 2003 a scrawny 19-year old making his major league debut for the Mets in Arlington. Maybe Jose could’ve stolen second base for us to put the icing on a deliciously bittersweet 2011 cake and torn his hamstring in the process, driving his value low enough that the Mets could’ve afforded him.
Then again, if Sandy Alderson was that reluctant to bring him back healthy, I imagine he might’ve paid an injured Reyes to sign elsewhere.
I’m not too mad at Jose Reyes. I don’t think many Mets fans are. He loves us guys. We know it would’ve been nice to see him stay a Met his whole career, or at least through one more contract. I understand, with his relatively fickle legs, Reyes’ decision to take the longest deal he could get. I believe (read: hope) that this was more about the length than the money. I wish the guy well – but not too well, at least for 18 games a year. Al Leiter said that when he returned to pitch against the Mets as (ironically) a Marlin in 2005, a fan told him, “Al, I love you, but I’m going to boo you.” Hopefully Mets fans have it in their hearts to cheer Jose just as they did Mike Piazza when he returned as an opposing player. After all, the last thing Jose ever heard during a Mets game was boos as Justin Turner came in to pinch-run for him.
Maybe this wouldn’t hurt so much if the Wilpons would just come out and say that they’re strapped for cash. But there is a fine line between smart and stingy, and sooner or later that point needs to be addressed. I agree with Alderson’s reluctance to offer Jose six years – I can’t remember who said it first, but it’s always better to let someone go too early than to hold onto them too long. There’s a decent chance that both the Mets and their fans will look kindly upon this move in the near future. But with Alderson never even having made a formal offer, this feels like a real slap in the face to Mets fans; he didn’t trade Reyes at the deadline and said repeatedly that keeping him was a top priority. Then, at least publicly and “formally,” he didn’t even try to.
Indeed, this is a tale of deceit more than one of disappointment. The Wilpons sounded like a broken record as they insisted that the money they lost/were losing in the Madoff fiasco would not affect the team’s payroll. Then Sandy Alderson used it as one of his many excuses for not even offering “top priority” Jose Reyes a contract. By definition, that’s called lying. The layman’s term involves male bovines and the fecal matter produced thereof.
The effects of losing Reyes will no doubt be felt deeper than losing his undeniable spark. Can Angel Pagan handle being the team’s catalyst? More importantly, will David Wright crack under the pressure of being the sole face of the franchise? Ever since the team began playing at Citi Field, it seems that Wright has tried too hard to have the role of hero dictate his performance, rather than letting his performance become the heroics. With his co-star Reyes now off to Mr. Loria’s Wonder Emporium, it’ll be a really tough time for Wright if he keeps pressing. That is, unless he also finds himself in a new uniform come 2012.
If Johan Santana, Ike Davis, Wright and Daniel Murphy are healthy and successful next season, it’ll be easy to root for what we have rather than dwelling on what we don’t. Here’s looking at you, Ruben Tejada. Between you, Murphy and Lucas Duda, Mets fans have a lot of promising youth to be excited about. Those front office guys can go… never mind.