By Jason Keidel
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They were born about six months apart, signed by the same team, and seemed ordained to become New York immortals. Like Derek Jeter before them, David Wright and Jose Reyes were meant to be icons. For the the same team, and the same town.
Not that long ago, Wright and Reyes were two of the best young players in the sport, both baseball neophytes with a sprawling, glittering future ahead of them.
It shows you how fickle fate can be. Wright, who’s had a very good career with the Mets, is now on the shelf with a mysterious spinal condition, still seeking his first World Series appearance, and clearly on the back-nine of his career. He was recently cleared to perform baseball activities, but his future is as vague as his injury.
His wingman in the field, leadoff man in the lineup, Reyes, the acrobatic shortstop with endless physical gifts, was supposed to be by his side for at least 15 years, racking up hits, awards, and championships.
Here we are, more than a decade removed from their first seasons, and neither has seen the results commensurate to their talents.
We know the death blow — Reyes leaving town with a batting title, nary a word from his home team, off to get his money in Miami. And it served as a microcosm of the Mets, who weren’t willing to give Reyes his big contract, yet cracked open the vault for Wright. Maybe Reyes wasn’t worth every penny he got, but his deal was reasonable enough, which only gave the Mets fan more headaches, and the absolute knowledge that if Reyes were a Yankee, he would not have gone anywhere.
Reyes has hopscotched the nation, from the Mets to Miami to Toronto, and has now been shipped to Colorado, a team trivialized as a atmospheric freak show, where every fly ball morphs into a grand slam. Hitters may cherish the thin air, but pitchers will sign almost anywhere else, which will almost always keep the Rockies in the lower rungs of their division. They are in last place now, 12 1/2 games and an eternity behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and world champion San Francisco Giants.
Wright has stayed home, and has been a fine player and finer citizen, the Mets’ captain and face of the franchise for years. There was a symbolism to Wright commandeering third base, the most transient place in team history.
But some quirk in the baseball cosmos has often kept him from October, a place the rival Yankees have owned for the bulk of his career.
Wright and Reyes have put up stats and made plenty of money. Reyes is a lifetime .291 hitter, while Wright is at .298. But the idea of them tethered forever was what made them so compelling, as a unit, while less magical apart. Maybe they couldn’t be members of a magical quartet like the Core Four, but Broadway is more than long enough to feature several acts.
We used to invoke their names with great respect, if not reverence. No matter how the Mets bungled their way to the end of every season, there was always comfort in knowing the left side of the infield was accounted for, for a long time.
To a New Yorker, every time you hear one you think of the other. And, together, they leave a certain void in your sports soul. Some natives thought the Reyes trade was just one part of a procession which would bring him back to the Big Apple. But that’s not going to happen.
There’s no point in fantasizing or romanticizing about Reyes and Wright reunited. That time is over. You can have a long career but only so much of it is charmed. The Mets once had two of the most charming and disarming players in the majors.
Now, it’s just alarming to see them grow old, without each other, and without a proper legacy.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel