By Ernie Palladino
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The women’s groups who decry domestic violence should picket Citi Field the first time he shows up. Those who can’t bring themselves to sit in the stands as long as the 33-year-old wears a Mets uniform should sell their tickets; burn them, even.
The moral issues involved are obvious. Nothing new there. Alleged wife-beater gets a second chance. Same old, same old.
But at some point, we need to get past the immorality of Reyes and consider what he can do for his team. Like it or not, he’s a Met now. Not only that, but both sides seem pretty excited about it. After all, it took general manager Sandy Alderson something short of a New York minute to sign him after he became a free agent at 1 p.m. Saturday.
So let us consider now what Reyes could mean to Terry Collins’ lineup once he returns from a a short minor league stint to get his swing in order.
His enthusiasm alone should help. At least it had better. This is a lineup that went life-and-death in two of the four games in Atlanta against the second-worst team in the majors.
When a team relies on Kelly Johnson to smack an 11th-inning homer to win a 1-0 game, it is truly in trouble. Add to that the lineup’s production of just over three runs per game over the last 12, and it’s a wonder that they had ever crept to within two games of the Nationals heading into Sunday’s series-ending 5-2 loss in Atlanta.
Reyes won’t join the club in time to help out in the upcoming series in Washington. But count on Collins to throw him right into the breach when he does return from Short-A Brooklyn within the next week and change.
He might see some use as a leadoff hitter, a position sorely needing a boost in light of Curtis Granderson’s .219 BA. The six leadoff homers are nice, but Granderson simply hasn’t set the table well enough this year.
Reyes always had some pop — he held the Mets’ record for leadoff homers before Granderson broke it with his 17th career shot June 16 in Pittsburgh. But it’s the contact that allowed him to lead the league in batting average in 2011 they really need.
With the majors’ worst record of hitting with runners in scoring position (.210), the Mets need Reyes to at least approximate the average that hovered between .296 and .274 in the years since he departed Flushing. Besides, giving Granderson an additional day off or perhaps an occasional move down the lineup could help spring his bat back to life.
Then there’s the third base situation. Given his experience at third, Reyes could provide an upgrade to Wilmer Flores. And that doesn’t even speak to his ability to rest Asdrubal Cabrera at his natural shortstop position, or Neil Walker at second.
And given the current mess in left field, what with Alejandro De Aza not hitting, Michael Conforto in Triple-A Las Vegas, and untested call-up Brandon Nimmo out there now, Reyes could provide some much-needed spot help.
As distasteful as this signing was to the many idealistic fans who believe pro teams should rise above the typical “win at all costs” mentality, there is much to like about the signing, too. It all depends on how much Reyes has left in the tank.
If he can still pump out a few key hits, steal a few key bases and make a few big plays in the field, redemption will find Reyes sooner than later. So, too, will he fall back into the fans’ good graces.
In the meantime, the women’s groups should raise their voices. Those who value women’s lives should show their displeasure.
But they must also remember that nothing they do changes reality. Reyes is here now. And he’s here for a reason that has nothing to do with an organization’s moral attitude.
He’s here because Alderson and Collins believe he can help the Mets win.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino