09.29.11

Jose Reyes – A Worse Influence On Baseball Than Victor Conte, Steve Howe and Ruben Rivera Combined

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 6:07 pm by

OK, perhaps the above headline is a tad hysterical.  But so are many of the published reactions to Mets SS Jose Reyes’ ill-advised decision to bail on Wednesday’s season finale after just one at bat, in an effort to protect his NL-leading batting average. No national commentator put less thought or more manufactured outrage into his anti-Jose protests than ESPN.com’s Rob Parker, who argues that Reyes’ strategy was akin to taking “the easy way out”,  while also pointing out Ryan Braun still had every opportunity to claim the lead.

For sure, it was a selfish move. Forget about helping the Mets win a game — it was about Reyes trying to win a batting crown. Fair or not, it was a move his crosstown rival, Derek Jeter, never would have pulled.

That’s why some Mets fans who wanted Reyes back might be rethinking that right now, wondering if he’s the guy you really want to lead the Mets back to prominence.

Hey, bad enough that Jose’s not Ted Williams! It turns out he isn’t DEREK JETER, either. Because Derek Jeter is so far above individual honors and having any attention lavished upon himself rather than his teammates.  Hey, were you aware Derek Jeter actually went 5 for 5 during a game in which he also collected his 3000th hit?  Did you know he’s got more rings than Jose has fingers on one hand?  Did you know he’s got an edge?

Much as I’m distraught over Reyes’ early shower yesterday (so much so that I cannot possibly stand the thought of him scoring 100 runs and collecting 200 hits annually for the Mets over the next 7 years), I think we can all agree we are very lucky to receive lectures on integrity and professionalism from a man whose journalistic high water mark consists of being Skip Bayless’ televised punching bag.

Ahem. All of that said, it is very comforting to note there are persons capable of reasonable reactions to a baseball/fan relations faux pas that was something less than a war crime.  Enter the calm, collected voice of Faith & Fear In Flushing’s Jason Fry ;

 I have no particular gripe about Reyes protecting his lead. I know, I know, rather than sit on a .400 average, Ted Williams played both games of a doubleheader to close out the 1941 season, a feat that unfortunately came 70 years to the day before Jose’s cameo. But while that’s an ideal for how we’d like athletes to compete, the episode lives on in baseball lore because it’s exceptional — it was baseball practice even back then to sit on statistical leads, and leaders from Willie Wilson to Bernie Williams have not played or abbreviated closing days since then. (Shock your Yankee friends: Yes, Sainted Yankee Joe Torre aided and abetted such behavior before his current noble service as Bud Selig’s chief hat inspector.) Reyes is so much fun to watch on a baseball diamond that we imagine him playing the game on off-days, at night and possibly while he sleeps, but that isn’t true. It’s his vocation, and a long season of daily grinds, injuries and contract chatter had undoubtedly worn him down far more than we would guess.

I’ll put this one, reluctantly, on Terry Collins. Looking ahead to next year, he needs to work on the pageantry of player exits. The shame of Reyes’s departure was that the Citi Field faithful got no chance to give him a proper farewell, a problem compounded by the fact that many of them were there primarily for that reason. Terry should have acceded to Jose’s wishes and given the fans the moment they craved by having Jose run the bases, take his position for the top of the second, and then sending Justin Turner in to replace him. The fans would have had time to realize what was happening and cheered Reyes off the field. With the exception of his fetish for bunting, Terry’s done most everything right, so there’s no reason to make this A Thing. I wish it hadn’t happened, but it did, and the absence of Jose (hopefully for 18 weeks and not forever) and more Mets games to play dictates that we’re moving on, whether we like it or not.

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