Jose Reyes speaks English way better than I’ll ever string together any of the eight sentences I learned in junior high and high school Spanish. He can answer any question any American reporter throws at him without pausing and the answer always makes sense.
Ask me anything in Spanish and I will tell you the same thing I would’ve told you in seventh grade: The eggs and fried potatoes are in the library.
Way back in 2003 when Jose was a teenage, then twenty-year-old rookie, he appeared reasonably comfortable in English conversation. As he’s matured, so has his ability to communicate. After seven years of Rey Ordoñez (who hid his language skills better than he stashed his multiple wives), I was surprised that a young, Hispanic shortstop spoke English that well.
Still, I notice that almost every response Jose gives, including Wednesday night when he was the obvious back-to-back guest of Matt Loughlin on MSG and Ed Coleman on ‘FAN, eventually includes the clause, “What can I say?”
I think he’s using it as you or I would “Know what I mean?” or “If you know what I’m saying” or the insidious “y’know?” Perhaps “What can I say?” is how he politely pauses without actually pausing so he can process the questions that he translates from English to Spanish in his head and then back to English so he can answer them in the same language they’ve been asked. Seeing as how he can do everything else that quick and that well, I imagine he’ll be conducting fluent interviews with the Japanese reporters pretty soon.
In Jose’s honor — for his game-winning hit in the eleventh and for the generally luminescent play since the season began — we should all use his phraseology. If it sounds stilted, what can I say?
Other than JOSE!, that is.
On a night when Cliff Floyd strained a rib-cage muscle (surprise, surprise), Jose Reyes was as fleet as a deer, as healthy as an ox and, what can I say?, as talented as Jose Reyes. Boy, if he can just stay away from everybody and everything that put the whammy on him these past couple of years, he’s gonna be fine and we’re gonna be great.
The best exchange of his interview sessions came between him and Loughlin. Matty asked whether at three-and-oh, he was looking for a certain kind of pitch or adjusting to the count, and Jose, without breaking stride (as has been his custom all season), explained that he saw the ball and he hit it.
Right there was the lost great, great, great, grandson of Wee Willie Keeler’s hit-’em-where-they-ain’t. And it didn’t at all come off as “I dunno what you’re talkin’ ’bout, man.” Jose knows. Jose knows more baseball than most players we’ve seen around here in ages. Whatever he knows works for him and for the team, so I’m not terribly concerned if he’s not sitting by his locker absorbing Moneyball and berating himself in two or more languages over his failure to accept a walk through eight games.
Would it be nice if his on-base percentage wasn’t exactly the same as his batting average? Sure. But as long as his batting average rides high (.342 at the moment), and he increases it in spots like the eleventh inning last night, he can get the walks when he gets the walks. (Jason Lane, incidentally, has a higher BA, .321, than OBP, .310. How is that even possible?)
Those who would fret that Reyes isn’t an optimal player because he doesn’t collect bases on balls remind me of an SNL game show sketch in which Dana Carvey as George Will was pitted against Jon Lovitz as Tommy Lasorda and Corbin Bernsen as Mike Schmidt. They were all supposed to be baseball experts, but every time Will opened his soporific mouth, the real baseball guys got annoyed. Lasorda and Schmidt wound up chasing him off the set and down the hall, pounding him with their gloves while Will said “ow” a lot.
Jose Reyes is a real baseball guy. Knock every piece of wood you can find that he remains a real healthy baseball guy. If he does that, there’s no telling what you can say about him.