The Curious Case Of Jose Reyes

Picture: YouTube.com

“How did a fan favorite become Public Enemy Number 1?”

If someone were to say that Jose Reyes is one of the most exciting players to ever don a Mets’ uniform, I wouldn’t argue with them.

If you’ve ever felt Shea Stadium shake and sway after a Reyes triple, I doubt you would argue either. Hell, you could make the argument that he was one of the BEST players to ever wear a jersey with the word Mets written on the front of it.

Jose Reyes was ELECTRIC.

The buzz he created just by taking a lead off first base was indescribable.

Notice how I’m referring to him in the past tense, even though he is currently a member of the Met organization.

In 2011, on the last day of the season, Jose Reyes laid down a bunt and beat it out for a base hit. He immediately took himself out of the game. The reason he cut his afternoon short was simple. With that hit he had secured the season’s batting title over Ryan Braun, and he didn’t want to risk losing it with further plate appearances.

Met fans spent a good deal of time arguing about the optics of a player doing such a thing while playing a team sport. But for the most part, the majority of the fan base had accepted the fact that September 29, 2011 would be the last time Jose Reyes would play baseball in a Met jersey.

Picture: Associated Press

It was time for Jose Reyes to be paid.

During Reyes’ initial tenure in Queens, the money was flowing. The Mets were routinely among the league leaders in payroll, and shelled out big bucks to proven superstars like Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, Carlos Delgado and Billy Wagner.

So why was it so unlikely the Mets would open the checkbook for a homegrown star?

Well, it turned out the Mets were signing players with ill-gotten gains. They were implicit in the biggest ponzi scheme in world history, and were simply reaping the benefits. Once Bernie Madoff was jailed, the Mets decided it would be preferable to operate as a small market team.

Just like that, it was over. Jose Reyes signed a multi-year deal with the Miami Marlins. Reyes’ departure was symbolic. It truly was the end of an era.

During Reyes’ first stint with New York they inconceivably only managed one playoff appearance. Sure, there were historic collapses, midnight firings, bare chested executives challenging players to fights and no-hitters, but one heartbreaking trip to the postseason was all they could manage.

It’s hard to look at that time period as anything other than a monumental disappointment.

With that being said, another big market team (Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees etc.) probably would have signed Jose Reyes when his rookie contract had expired.

In his first nine years with the team Jose Reyes hit .292 with 370 stolen bases and 740 runs scored. However, the Mets who were now operating as a small market team, did have reasons why they made David Wright their Evan Longoria instead of Jose Reyes.

First and foremost, it was the money. Owner Fred Wilpon stated publicly he would not give Jose Reyes “Carl Crawford money.” If you’re looking for a “baseball reason,” the team felt Reyes’ game was too dependent on his legs and his game would decline sharply the older he got.

As exciting as he was, the constant trips to the disabled list were frustrating. Also, you may remember the final day of the 2007 season, a game which would cap off one of the biggest collapses in baseball history. Reyes went 0-5 and was booed loudly after every at-bat.

Reyes hit .205 (24-for-117) in the final month, and .187 (14-for-75) from the day the Mets had their seven-game lead (Sept.12). Overall, he hit .255 after the break. He stole exactly zero bases over the last 15 games. He was benched by manager Willie Randolph for failing to run out a groundball in Houston, yet he did the same thing in the second to last game that season. Team officials were upset at his constant pouting and overall fade down the stretch.

Now was Jose Reyes solely responsible for that insane collapse? Not by a long shot. But let’s just say that the city didn’t riot after Reyes’ departure. A good section of the city did laugh when the team tried to sell the fanbase on Ruben Tejada as his replacement however. At the end of the day, Jose Reyes was a fan favorite who became a casualty of the Wilpons.

Fast forward to 2016.

Picture: Associated Press

The Mets were trying to follow up their improbable run to the World Series in 2015 with another postseason appearance, but were dealt a bad hand.

Jacob deGrom was battling injury and was ultimately shut down. Steven Matz suffered the same fate. Matt Harvey was no longer the Dark Knight and underwent thoracic outlet surgery. Neil Walker was shut down for the season. Asdrubal Cabrera was hurt for a majority of the season.

Off-season bullpen acquisition Antonio Bastardo was atrocious. Terry Collins killed Jim Henderson. David Wright was shutdown after spinal stenosis related struggles. Yoenis Cespedes was dealing with injuries all year. Lucas Duda suffered a back injury which led the Mets to acquire James Loney to play first base.

Postseason hero, Daniel Murphy, was now playing for the Nationals, and ensured the NL East was out of reach for the Mets. Somehow, the Mets were still in the Wildcard hunt, but they needed help.

Enter Jose Reyes.

Reyes was arrested in October of 2015 after a physical altercation with his wife at the Four Seasons Resort Maui in Wailea, Hawaii. He allegedly grabbed his wife, Katherine, by the throat and pushed her into a sliding-glass door in their hotel room.

Major League Baseball suspended Reyes without pay through May 31 for violating its domestic abuse policy. Reyes forfeited $6.25 million in salary as a result of the suspension. Unable to trade Reyes, the Colorado Rockies placed him on waivers. The Rockies were responsible for 39 million dollars of his salary. Any team interested in picking up Reyes would only have to pay him the league minimum.

Enter the Mets.

Always looking for a bargain, the Mets signed Reyes to a minor league deal, and called him up to the big club ten days later.

The Mets wound up reaching the postseason that year, by way of the Wildcard. It was an amazing feat, given all the adversity they faced. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo burst on to the scene and delivered huge pitching performances down the stretch. Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon stepped right in for deGrom, Harvey and Matz, anchoring the starting rotation. It felt like Asdrubal Cabrera had a big hit every night.

It must be said that Jose Reyes was a huge part of that Wildcard run. His shoddy defense at third base aside, he became a catalyst for an offense that was completely dormant of times. He wound up leading the team in steals. He was right in the middle of number of rallies, and routinely came up big down the stretch.

Was it worth it?

It didn’t feel right. It was impossible to ignore the reasons which made this reunion possible.
The Mets placed money over morals. They acquired a player who threw his wife through a glass door simply because he was cheap.

A month after Connor Gillaspie hit a ball over the right field wall in the 2016 Wildcard Game, the Mets exercised Jose Reyes’ option.

Jose Reyes would be the Mets starting third baseman in 2017.

The move was sold to the fans as a placeholder until David Wright returned. Yet, strangely, just a week before, it was announced that David would be unable to resume ANY baseball activity until after the All-Star Break. Some placeholder.

As Met fans, we’ve become adept at reading between the lines. I think it’s important to take what the organization said at face value in this instance, however.

If money wasn’t the issue then you’d have to assume that the Mets did not attempt to offer Jose Reyes an extension, because “his game was too dependent on his legs, and his play would suffer later in his career.” I guess they forgot about that assessment when they signed him to be the everyday third baseman, “later in his career.”

Reyes rewarded the Mets with a 6-63 start to the season. Batting leadoff everyday, Reyes managed two base hits and only five runs.

“You’ve got to be very careful with a veteran and not make it look like you’re giving up on him,” Collins said. “That’s not going to happen here.”

Reyes was an automatic out at the plate and was awful defensively as well. Yet, in a year where they had designs on reaching the postseason for a third year in a row, they committed to playing Jose Reyes everyday.

“He’s earned the right to work his way out of it,” Collins said.

By the end of June, Jose Reyes was batting .193. It was around this time that Reyes decided he didn’t want to play third base anymore. Of course, the Mets catered to him. They immediately moved him to shortstop, blocking Amed Rosario’s promotion and causing Asdrubal Cabrera to demand a trade. R.J Short from CBS Sports does a great job of chronicling that whole situation here.

Before long, the season was over. Dealing with a rash of injuries, poor play and every other type of nonsense you could imagine, the Mets decided to become sellers at the trade deadline. They shipped away Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. Yet, for some reason, the Jose Reyes experiment continued. And it continued to effect much more than the Win-Loss record.

Most teams, after selling at the trade deadline, look towards the future. The Mets could have played Gavin Cecchini, Wilmer Flores or TJ Rivera everyday at second down the stretch. Instead of properly assessing their young talent, they played Jose Reyes everyday. When Terry Collins was asked why they continued to play Reyes, his response was simply, “gotta get Reyes going.”

For the record, he did get going. He finished the season with a .246 average. He hit 15 homeruns and stole 24 bases. In a vacuum, that’s pretty impressive, given the abysmal start. In this instance however, that performance had dire consequences.

Despite the fact he ended the season with a -0.6 WAR, the Mets brought back Jose Reyes for the 2018 season. Despite the fact he was atrocious defensively, the Mets cited the fact “he can play everywhere,” as a reason to keep him on the 25 man roster.

Picture: sfgate.com

I am writing this during the 2018 All Star break. The Mets are 39-55 and tied for last place in the NL East with the rebuilding Miami Marlins. It is, unfortunately, another lost season.

Jose Reyes is playing everyday. The Reyes experiment in 2017 was downright ridiculous. Somehow, we’ve reached new levels of absurdity in 2018.

Reyes is the second worst player in the National League. He currently owns a -1.1 WAR. He’s been so bad that they post his career stats as opposed to his 2018 stats on the big board at Citi Field.

Jeff McNeil, a 26 year old infielder, is currently playing at Las Vegas. Before the promotion, McNeil dominated Binghamton competition this year, slashing .327/.402/.626. His 14 home runs were tied for the second-best in the Eastern League, (trailing only teammate Peter Alonso’s.) In 214 at-bats with Binghamton this season, he struck out just 23 times and drew 22 walks. McNeil entered Friday with a 1.081 OPS in 22 games since his promotion to Las Vegas.

Why is Jose Reyes on this team instead of Jeff McNeil? Am I missing something? There is clearly a mandate to play Jose Reyes, and it’s caused members of this organization to outright lie about it. Here are some examples.

Mickey Callaway was asked why Jose Reyes was playing everyday.
“He’s been playing pretty good baseball lately when we’ve put him in there, so I think he deserves to have a shot.”

REALLY? He’s hitting .181 and his defense is horrendous.

Mickey Callaway was asked why Jeff McNeil was in the minor leagues while Jose Reyes was starting at third base for the Mets.
“Jeff McNeil is predominantly a second baseman.”

REALLY? McNeil has played 406 minor league games defensively with 148 of them coming at third base. Dominic Smith had never played left field professionally before this year.

Oh, yes. Dominic Smith, who was the Mets’ number 2 prospect last year, is getting one or two at bats a week while playing out of position. Before that, Luis Guillorme suffered the same fate. “Gotta get Reyes going.”

After Callaway made those statements about McNeil, the team stated they wanted him to be a “super-utility” player. That night they started him in the outfield for Las Vegas. These developments came on the heels of rumors that Dominic Smith might get demoted. Would it surprise you if Jeff McNeil played once a week out of position while Jose Reyes plays everyday?

According to Mike Puma of the New York Post, Mets brass was considering parting ways with the former fan-favorite in June, but there was a catch. Given his history with the ball-club, the team wants Reyes to see a proper good-bye.

REALLY? You didn’t offer him an extension in his prime!

Is ownership forcing the manager to play Jose Reyes everyday? Can you think of another reason why he’s playing at all?

The Mets are easily the most dysfunctional team in the MLB. This Jose Reyes situation is all the proof you need.

Ownership was ensconced in the upper levels of the biggest ponzi scheme in world history. The fallout coincided with Jose Reyes’ free agency, so the Mets did not offer him a contract. Opportunity knocked in the form of Reyes throwing his wife through a door. Because he could be had cheaply, he has been with the team for three years in a row. His playing time prohibits the Mets from assessing young talent. His playing time hurts the team as he is no longer a productive player. Quite the opposite actually.

How dysfunctional is that?

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