Keidel: Mets – Don’t Throw Jose Away

By Jason Keidel
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I will make an admission to those of you who bleed orange and blue…

Maybe as much as a third of the Yankees’ fan base are front-running, J.Crew, wine-and-cheese chumps who only go to games because it’s trendy and daddy can afford the ticket. None of them can name a game or a player prior to 1996. Ask who Ron Hassey is and they will likely say a senator from Indiana. As a fan since ’77 ( the year I turned 8 ) I’d like to think I’m not one of them, as I endured the desolate epoch called the 1980s and emerged a fan in the 1990s.

But you, the Queens Crew, the Mets/Jets Shea Stadium legion who have suffered sporting torture for decades, a total of one title since Woodstock, are a true fans.

And thus I think of Jose Reyes, the lightning bug on the bases, who’s leading the league in everything short of English diction. He was born and bred a Metropolitan, a pup who plays with a puppy’s glee. He is, more than anyone on the squad, the reason most of you watch the Mets.

Yet he will not be a Met after this season, if not after July 31.

As a native New Yorker, sports fan, and sportswriter (who happens to work for the flagship station of the Mets) it’s natural for me to ponder the Mets’ shortstop. And, like many of you, I’ve often changed my mind on the matter. And I think I’ve finally arrived at a reasoned, final stance.

Keep Jose Reyes.

Spend the extra dough; cough up the cash for the cachet. Keep the best player on your team who’s also playing like the best player in the National League. As oxymoronic as it sounds, he costs you nothing but money, which, in the Mets’ dubious monetary world, means more than it used to, in the Year of Madoff.

Reyes holds the high card and the club knows it.  He and his agent have assumed the perfect posture, as well, forwarding Sandy Alderson’s overtures straight to voicemail. Speaking of overtures, the Mets’ GM has implied on more than one occasion that he plans to take a machete to the team’s payroll, which is not the road to enlightenment or endearment for those of you who crowbar open your wallets for those pricey, Pepsi Porch seats.
Alderson, whose résumé is longer than the Magna Carta, the oddest hybrid of military officer, Harvard Law, and baseball lifer, speaks in scripted platitudes about the club’s approach to Reyes, but we all know he’ll be a bear in the bull market. The former Marine’s marching orders may come from up high, handcuffed by lawsuits and the like.

So as Reyes hangs a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his locker, next to his Spalding glove and scalding bat, he collects not just hits but also dollars and PR points by saying with his disarming smile and dense Dominican accent that he’s just here to “play beisbol” and will worry about money after the Mets make their predictably early and ugly exit from the season before the change of seasons.

Perhaps Irving Picard precludes the Mets from making a righteous play for their best player. I don’t know. I do know that you, who pay the freight despite the increasing chasm between team sports and their patrons, who are increasingly forgotten and taken for granted, don’t buy a beer or hit the John when Reyes wields the bat. And that means something. He’s got charm and a grin as wide and smooth as the Harlem River on a calm summer day

Many of you make very valid assertions about Reyes. He’s won nothing. His next big hit will be his first. He’s been injured more than anyone would expect for such a strong, young man.  He is – not coincidentally – having his best year during his contract year. And he’s not worth Carl Crawford money. Hell, Crawford isn’t worth Crawford money.

What large contract isn’t frontloaded? Did you really think Pedro Martinez would pitch like Pedro for four years? Of course not. But the two years he pitched on guts gave the team much needed moxie. He became the de facto logo for a team lacking mojo, losing many miles off his fastball yet still, somehow, beguiling batters. Yes, Pedro was worth every penny.

The Yankees just belched $51 million for a .260 hitter. I don’t care if his name is Derek Jeter. Yes, I know, Captain America and five rings and Yankee Pride and blah, blah, blah. He’s still a .260 hitter and now half the player Reyes is. If the Yankees can give their most cherished player (who isn’t even the fourth best player on his own team) an embellished legacy contract, a slap on the rear for years of great cheer, why can’t the other New York team – with all the perks and new parks and networks – do the same for a stud in his prime?

Forgive the agricultural metaphors, but there’s a reason they call the minor leagues a farm.  It’s there to be cultivated, planting athletic seeds so that the brass can walk the land with a large bag and pluck the best fruit for the majors, get the fans geeked up about them, sign them early, on the cheap, for the long-haul. Keep your young studs until they become old salt, wire-to-wire, as it were. Keep them from high school straight through to Old Timer’s Day. The Jeter way.

The Mets can trade Jose Reyes for players who aren’t nearly as good as Jose Reyes, or they can lose him to free agency and pick up draft picks who also won’t be nearly as good as Jose Reyes. Or they can sign him and show the Shea faithful that they give a damn, that your voice is heard. Don’t make Reyes pay because of Jason Bay.

It is one way to reverse the wretched handling of the team for the last few years, from building a park for the Mets and dedicating it to the Dodgers to pledging to take Pledge to Doc Gooden’s signature on a Citi Field wall to Tony Bernazard morphing into Mike Tyson to Omar Minaya accusing a reporter of doctoring the story about Bernazard because he was denied a job with the Mets to, well, hell, you get it…

Feel free to email me:

Can the Mets be persuaded to keep Reyes? Leave a comment below.

  • Paul D

    Mets can’t keep Reyes because they won’t pay market. He’ll get over a buck twenty for six to seven. Wilpon will throw-up at that figure for that many years. Reyes has already hinted that a hometown discount ain’t in the works. You ask me, and I know nobody is, but he’s not much of a loss. He’s shown time and again that he can’t take them home in September when it’s all on the line.

  • Byron Mason

    Good night Mr. Reyes! I love to hate this guy. He’s the most talented player the Mets have, the one guy they really and truly miss when he’s injured, and the one guy other teams can’t stand(in other words fear). But the bottle line for this team, and for the trio of everyday players that lead them when they were meaningful, is that we have zero world championships or NL pennants with them. Time to start over. With Beltran out the door with or without an offer, that leaves either Mr. Wright or Mr. Reyes that the Mets would keep. Reyes has the most value in a trade. Wright will be the Mets poor version of Donny Baseball. That puts us about 5-10 years from a championship! :..(

    • JK

      i respect that, Byron. But you know better than I do that whomever they get in a trade or in draft picks wont be as good as Reyes. If a team like Boston “rents” him without signing an extension, they won’t give the Mets much in return.

      Also, isn’t it fair to say that though you’re right that he’s won nothing, they didn’t lose BECAUSE of him. I just feel that you keep your most dynamic player, born and raised in your system, in his prime, even if you must overpay him.

  • Ivan A Rodrigzz

    qiven the a soriano and l james situations, i don’t think the mets should keep him. as much as i luv reyes, the mets should move NOW and qet young talent for him

    • JK

      I dig it, Ivan, but as I told Mr. Mason above, the Mets won’t get much in return. And why draft and develop your own stars if you don’t plan to keep them? What message does that send to season ticket holders?

  • JK

    That is technically accurate, Cyclone, and I was aware of it when I wrote it. But one would hope you dig the spirit of my missive. And I’m sure that after nearly 900 words you absorbed something more profound than a minute chronological exaggeration.

  • BrooklynCyclone

    Actually, we have two titles since Woodstock. The first one came two months after Woodstock.

  • dabooch

    The Jose’ conundrum can be equated to the lease is expiring on the BMW scenario. Initially you may have gotten a great deal with a small down payment and the monthly leasing rate was manageable. The lease is now ready to expire…end of conversation. How hard is that to understand? The good news is Jose’ will not be getting what he thinks he’s going to get. 140M is more realistically 115M or less, my friends these are bad times for everyone.

    • JK

      So are you saying the Mets can afford him, dude? Or are you saying anything over nine-digits dooms the negotiation?

  • JP

    I’m a Mets fan die hard at that. These are going to be the last days we see Jose Reyes with the Mets. We have new management, and what’s the line of thinking? Simple, straight out of the “MoneyBall” playbook. It’s a shame it really is.

    • JK

      Good point, JP. And I’d love someone to tell me when all these “MoneyBall” teams are racking up World Series rings. Boston can brand itself such, but they spend $165 million on players.

  • Kurt Spitzner

    As much as I hate to say it the Mets would be foolish not to sign him but at the same time I also think that financial constraints will preclude that from happening andwill be the fall of this franchise until the Einhorn generation kicks in.
    In my opinion,keeping Jose,Jose,Jose,Jose would be a smart financial move in the short and long run because even if most of the others leave there will still be a guy to watch and make things interesting until the financial debacle is over and possibly once some reasonable rebuilding can begin.Lowering ticket and food prices in the mean time would mean alot as well but srely once again I digress.

    • JK

      Right on, Kurt. If the Mets sell Beltran, K-Rod, and Reyes, what’s left? Would a fan pay five bucks to see such a team?

      • Kurt Spitzner

        I wouldn’t pay 5 cents!

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