To be estranged from your favorite Met is strange. I know. I've been sort of on the outs with mine since last September.
I still wear my three REYES 7 t-shirts; my overpriced Jose Reyes button is still affixed to my plush home run apple; no Met has been elevated above him in my esteem, official or otherwise. Yet Jose Reyes and I haven't communicated much since things unraveled. I haven't lit up at the thought of him, haven't embraced the sight of him, haven't Jose-Jose-Jose'd hardly at all. And Jose hasn't really reached out to me.
Is there hope for us yet?
The annual day of renewal is at hand, so the benefit of the doubt must be issued. On Opening Day, Jose Reyes will bat first in Miami and I will put my hands together and he will take it from there. There's no point going to bed angry at your favorite Met and emerging from hibernation in the same old snit. I've been down on Jose since September, down in a way I didn't think was possible, down for reasons I can fathom but don't like doing.
The Mets as an institution did not do themselves proud when last they played for money and honor. You can count on one hand the individuals who bathed themselves in glory and have enough fingers left over to tell Jimmy Rollins what he can do with his portfolio of predictions and pronouncements. We were laid waste by a teamwide epidemic, but with the exception of a certain undevastatable lefthanded pitcher who doesn't live here anymore, nobody was more of a poster child for determined underachievement than Jose Reyes.
My favorite Met sparked everything good about the Mets in 2006, just as he had since coming to the big leagues in 2003. If, in between, he wasn't as polished as some would have liked, it was just a matter of time, I swore it was. He was a work in progress, like young Jed Bartlet in the “Two Cathedrals” episode of The West Wing when Mrs. Landingham told him that he missed a spot.
I didn't miss it. I just haven't gotten to it yet.
Jose got to it by '06 and in the first half of '07 he was on it but good. Then he got off it. The National League Player of the Month for April was nowhere to be found come September. It wasn't that he sucked (which he did), it's that he was almost on a mission to suck. He swung mindlessly, he ran recklessly if at all and he…he just wasn't Jose Reyes anymore. He was some time-marking pod person counting down to when he could ditch this stupid game and this stupid team and go hunting and fishing and maybe gravedigging. He comported himself like a latter-day Richie Hebner, for crissake.
I look at certain Met holdovers and I cringe a little for this year given how last year became last year and whatever troubling dispatch has wafted north from St. Lucie. Has Delgado completely fallen apart? What to make of Wagner's back? Beltran's limbs? Is the perpetual cold shoulder vis-à-vis being the one guy with the potential to fill the fifth-starter role yet never again given a chance going to catch up to Heilman? Is Ollie's arm OK? His head? Will Wright, as blameless as a Met could be as everything around him withered, have the strength to start it up and carry that weight again? Or will he be reduced to churning out quotes about how we're all out there giving it our best, Willie knows what he's doing, my circuits are fine, this does not compute? Contrary to how it looks sometimes, even David Wright is human.
Jose Reyes is way too human, it turns out. Jose Reyes has months, maybe even halves of seasons when he's not superhuman, when he's not the whirling dervish of home-to-third legend, when he's not beating out ground balls because he appears interested only in beating it out of town. He's having a nice March — every time I see a highlight, he's diving into something — but he had a fantastic early 2007 and in the end it amounted to a hill of nothing. No, it was worse than nothing. It was alarming the way he phoned it in on offense and wasn't nearly enough of an Ordoñez to make it up on defense. I was alarmed. I wonder if he was.
Does all that just go away now? I've seen him interviewed. He's smiling the Jose smile. He says everything is fine, everything is dandy. He looks a good bit like the Jose Reyes with whom I fell truly, deeply, madly in baseball love five summers ago. But I stare hard and I see the Jose Reyes from a September to dismember and I struggle to see the leadoff hitter of my dreams and the man who's gonna get on first base enough to get us back to first place enough.
Come back Monday, Jose. Come back for real. All will be forgotten and forgiven if you do.