Jose Reyes sits alone near his locker, his recognizable number seven jersey sitting beside him. He got that number from teammate Travis d’Arnaud upon his return to New York, after a four-plus year hiatus. The revival of Jose Reyes has come at a perfect time for the postseason-chasing New York Mets. This is where his career began, as a spark-plug table-setter at the top of what eventually became a potent Mets lineup. He was a game from the World Series in 2006. Now, he has the team charging forward, despite injuries.
The Revival of Jose Reyes
The Reyes of Years Past
Reyes was quick. He had style. Need a base stolen? Say no more. Triples? Easily. What became of Reyes after his days in Queens can be summed up in a word: unpredictable. After a huge contract from the Miami Marlins in their ill-fated run of 2012, Reyes went north of the border to Toronto, then found himself traded to the thin Colorado air for an All-Star shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki. That’s what Reyes used to be. An All-Star shortstop.
The Domestic Incident
Then came the accusations. The police report. A domestic incident involving THE Jose Reyes. The one always seemingly full of joy and smiles and passion on the baseball field. Because of the NFL instances, Reyes was placed under a microscope. He went from beloved to hated. He received punishment in the form of a 51-game suspension. He returned, and the Rockies didn’t want him, even after a stint at Triple-A.
And so the team that brought him into the Major Leagues took a flier on him. Despite the calls that he and the team would receive bad press, the Mets found that perhaps he was their answer to their third base conundrum. It is impossible to condone domestic violence of any sort. Reyes seemed ready to put it behind him. Others couldn’t. But what happened is only Reyes’ business, though others can certainly draw their own conclusions from what occurred.
There is no possible way to fully forgive Reyes for what he did. Yet, there is also no possible way the Mets are where they are without Reyes and his contributions. He lightened the mood immediately. He took over as a true lead-off hitter. He partnered with Yoenis Cespedes’ style and started wearing a bright-colored sleeve. He has handshakes with most every teammate, just as he had in the past.
Same City, New Player
What has changed since his first stint with the Metropolitans is the number usually seen next to his name in the position column: no longer is “6”, indicating shortstop, his positon; a “5”, indicating third base is now penciled in. That was his pal David Wright’s position. The hot corner. Ten years ago, it would have been very hard to imagine Reyes playing anywhere besides shortstop, especially third, where Wright had been such a fixture. But Wright’s bodily breakdown created the need for compromise, and after working hard to be Major League ready at third, Reyes sees his name at the top of the order playing third just about every day.
The Mets have 41 stolen bases as a team this season, 14th out of 15 National League teams. Reyes has had more steals than that four times in his career in a single season, including his career-high, league-leading 78 in 2007. Reyes has nine stolen bases this season, and most have come at clutch moments, even having two throws go into center field and moving Reyes to third. He has also hit four of the Mets 19 triples this season. His speed factor has supplemented the power that the Mets have showed as a team.
After the signing of Reyes, many Mets fans expressed disbelief and anger at him coming back to New York at such a point in his life, fighting off what had occurred months before. But for some fans, the only negative of the signing was his move to third. Wright had been THE guy for years, and fans loved watching Reyes and Wright play together earlier in their careers. What has come of this transaction is satisfaction; Reyes has performed better than expected, despite some questionable plays at third base. For what he was signed for, the Mets have gotten a solid option as they compete for October baseball.
The Revival of Reyes
Reyes was aware of the negative reaction he’d get by returning to New York. Fans in New York are relentless. He seems to have put that in his rear-view mirror and goes about business as usual. His excitement has certainly spread in the stretch run of the season, and his arm lock celebration with Asdrubal Cabrera, the current Mets player in Reyes’ old position, is evidence of his ever-evolving love for the game of baseball. His range may be hampered, and hitting not as prevalent as previous years, but his infectious attitude has been profound in its effects on younger Mets players. It also doesn’t seem as if Travis d’Arnaud minded giving up his number seven jersey to the man who’s worn the blue and orange “7” for 1,108 games.