Yesterday afternoon in Toronto, David Wright knocked the 1,301st and 1,302nd hits of his illustrious career, moving him into sole possession of second place on the Mets’ all-time hit list. And while he has a good chance of surpassing Ed Kranepool’s franchise record of 1,418 this very year, the attention right now is turned to the man Wright just broke a tie for second with: the man whose 1,300th and final hit in the orange and blue will forever remain a controversy.
When Jose Reyes bunted himself to the batting title at the end of last season, we as Met fans tried to make excuses for him. “He really wanted to give the franchise its first…” “He’s been working hard all season; let him have this one…” “He’ll make it up to us next season when he comes back…” Turns out that was Reyes’s last act in a New York uniform. He bolted for Miami a couple months later with a goodbye mostly devoid of gratitude, and gradually, much like with my viewing of M. Night Shyamalan’s butchering of The Last Airbender a couple summers ago, we stopped trying to find the good within the sea of what was so wrong and accepted the display for what it was: a dud, through and through.
Even R.A. Dickey, so complimentary of his teammates in Wherever I Wind Up, thought there was something fishy about the way Reyes finished out his Mets career:
“To see a man who gives so much of himself, who plays with such passion, being a spectator as the final innings of the season came and went just doesn’t seem to be the right image. I would’ve much preferred to see him flying around second with braids flapping and sliding head-first into third. Now, that would’ve been a much more fitting ending for Jose Reyes.” (p. 294)
After Wright surpassed Reyes on the team’s hit list, Howie Rose and Josh Lewin on WFAN began talking about why Jose ordered his batting title grab-‘n’-go last year. They speculated that he already knew he wasn’t coming back to New York, which meant he wouldn’t have to answer to the fans over his bunt-on-and-out business. It’s interesting to wonder what would’ve happened if he had taken any of the other three options, either bunting and staying, swinging and staying, or swinging and bolting. Clearly, swing-and-stay would have been the best option if Mets fans had the choice. But Reyes chose bunt-and-bolt, a choice which damaged him in the eyes of Flushing fans the most. Even the swing-and-bolt choice, while it would have stung, would have been better: at least he would’ve done the honorable thing and given us his absolute all.
Reyes’s defection to South Beach conjures up another image of a famous athlete who a couple summers ago decided to “take his talents” down there. While it was hard and undesirable to make the connection in December, enough time has passed that we can start talking about Jose in LeBron terms.
I did not have a problem with the concept of LeBron James signing with the Miami Heat over the Cleveland Cavilers. In fact, I applaud him for at least having the decency to play out his contract before deciding to leave, as opposed to Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams holding their franchises hostage in order to force a trade. Free agents should be able to sign with whomever they want; in this regard, I accept that Jose Reyes took his talents to South Beach because it was his right to do so. But what did bother me about James’s move to Miami was the way he announced his Decision, ripping out his hometown’s heart in a national TV spectacle. That was unnecessary, ill-conceived, and it made Cleveland hate him. Caviler fans may miss LeBron James the athlete, but they sure as heck don’t miss LeBron James the man.
The same can be said about Jose Reyes in the eyes of Met fans: we may miss his skill, but the spectacle of his final act in an Amazin’ uniform, not to mention the way he whined about not getting an “official” offer from New York in the offseason, cast a long shadow over his many talents. His actions were, like James’s, unnecessary and ill-conceived, and they hurt our pride as fans of the New York Mets. So while we miss the way he helped us win ballgames, we do not miss Jose Reyes the man. This team is far better off without an attitude like that in the clubhouse.