Perfect. Perfect bookends to a perfect year. Waking up on July 4, 2008 to read that Jose Reyes reportedly engaged in a “heated” confrontation with Keith Hernandez on board the Mets' flight a few nights earlier from New York to St. Louis — Keith didn't like the way Jose reacted to his throwing error during the final Subway Series game and let it be known in the course of that day's telecast — could only remind the overwrought Mets fan that we'd been down the what's-up-with-Reyes? road almost exactly a year before.
It was on the field, not on a plane…and in plain view, not via conflicting accounts…that we saw Jose Reyes tap a weak grounder down the third base line in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park on July 6, 2007. Reyes thought it would go foul. He didn't run to first. Mike Lamb fielded the ball fair and threw him out by 80 or so feet. Willie Randolph immediately pulled him to teach him a lesson. Jose didn't look too happy about being schooled in so public a fashion, but he said more or less the right thing afterwards.
“It's my fault there,” Reyes declared in accepting his medicine, “but that thing can happen to anybody.”
Funny the things that happen to and around Reyes since then.
On a team for whom no more than half ever seems to go right, Jose Reyes' past year has veered to disaster far more often than not. That's taking into the good and wonderful stuff that's occurred since July 6, 2007: the All-Star laying on of hands by Willie Mays which seemed so appropriate in the emotion of the moment; the leadoff home run right out of the gate to open the second half, a sign — it seemed — that the momentary lapse of judgment in Houston was more molehill than Tal's Hill; the August crime spree of 17 consecutive successful steals, one of them setting the team record for thefts in a single season with more than a month to go; and this season's post-April statistical renaissance, culminating in current batting, on-base and slugging totals legitimately comparable to Jose's sainted 2006.
But who remembers any of that now? Now that Jose is…
• The guy who had to be benched because he didn't hustle;
• The guy who went into the tank in Philadelphia in late August and never climbed out for the balance of 2007;
• The guy who tried to steal third with Wright up and two out and there, hindsight says, went the season;
• The guy who didn't steal anything else except his paycheck the rest of the way;
• The guy whose intrinsic joy for the game was processed in too many quarters as chronic immaturity;
• The guy who celebrated too much or not enough;
• The guy who welcomed his new manager with a top-of-the-first tantrum;
• The guy who got himself picked off second by Andy Pettitte;
• And the guy who not only pulled Delgado off the bag on Melky Cabrera's grounder but took it out on his glove and his wristband on the field for all to see.
Now he's the guy who allegedly got into it with Keith Hernandez. I say allegedly because this was reported by the same beat writer who blew up Jerry Manuel's silly “fertilizer” remarks into a front-page scandal and I say allegedly because calmer, more reliable observers say that while Jose indeed expressed dismay to Keith and Keith took issue with Jose's interpretation, it didn't exactly amount to a Met melee among the clouds (I'm thinking it's telling that this happened Sunday night yet didn't make the paper in question 'til Friday).
But something did happen, and it happened to or around Reyes. Reyes worries about what somebody told him an announcer said. Reyes leans too far toward third. Reyes doesn't listen to Jerry Manuel. Reyes dances to his own beat without regard to consequence. Reyes raises his rabbit ears a little too high. Reyes runs to first now but didn't run then.
It's been quite a year for Jose Reyes since that Friday night in Houston. It is said as he goes, the Mets go. Over the last year, the Mets have gone nowhere.