My 2010 plans weren’t inexorably altered when I learned the Dodgers signed Argenis Reyes to a minor league contract, but upon doing a bit of checking, I now realize we’ve lost someone whose penchant for instant winning was unprecedented. We’ve lost a Met who was able to say, longer than any other Met, that he had been — as Willie Randolph might have put it — a winner his whole life…or at least the portion of his life that we cared about.
In short, Argenis Reyes was the best scratch-off lottery ticket we ever bought. We kept scratching and we kept winning.
I didn’t think my 2008 plans were inexorably altered either when the Mets called up the other Reyes two summers ago, but John Lennon advised us life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Argenis is what indeed happened to us in the middle of ’08 in a very fundamentally pleasing way.
Consider the indisputable evidence.
On July 3, 2008, the Mets placed shining light Luis Castillo on the 15-day Disabled List with a strained left hip flexor, though “chronic futility” might have been enough. To replace him, the Mets sent down to New Orleans (remember the Zephyrs?) and asked for a side of Argenis Reyes to go.
And go he did. On his first night as a Met, with his new team leading 11-1 in the seventh inning at St. Louis, Jerry Manuel inserted Reyes at second, replacing Damion Easley for the rest of the blowout. The Mets continued to lead 11-1 and put the game away. Argenis Reyes was 1-0.
The next night, in Philadelphia, Argenis Reyes sat and the Mets lost. Tsk.
The night after that, July 5, Argenis Reyes pinch-hit and the Mets won. Never mind that Argenis flied out. It’s a team game, and Argenis’s team was now 2-0.
Extra innings were required on July 6. In the tenth inning, Argenis pinch-hit again. He struck out. The Mets, though, would eventually come through. ‘Genny and the Mets were now 3-0.
A pattern was developing. Argenis Reyes pinch-hit again, on July 7. The Mets were up 10-7 in the ninth. Argenis grounded out to end the top of the inning. Then he left. Billy Wagner came in and gave up two runs, but the Mets hung on to win the damn thing, 10-9. They were now 4-0 in games in which Argenis Reyes participated.
There was no stopping these Mets…these Argenis Reyes Mets. He entered the next two games, against the Giant at Shea, as a pinch-hitter and stayed in for defense both times. He collected his first three hits in this pair of contests and the Mets shut out San Francisco twice. The Mets were 6-0 while under the influence of Argenis.
Manuel, giddy from himself replacing Randolph, was determined to go with the hottest of hands, the winningest winner who had been a winner his whole Met life. He started Argenis Reyes at second base on July 10. Guess what — the Mets won again. These were the 7-0 Mets and their newest sensation was the 7-0 Argenis Reyes. Granted, his height was listed at 5′ 11″, and that seemed generous, but did anybody ever stand taller sooner?
No time to ask. The Rockies rolled into town and found themselves the victim of a boulder dropping their head. Its name? Argenis Reyes, an 0-for-1 pinch-hitter on July 11, but an 8-for-8 Met as his boys won again, 2-1. The next day, a brilliant Saturday, was a spectacular kind of Argenis Reyes day. He started and recorded a base hit…exactly as many as the Rockies cobbled together off Pedro Martinez and the four Met relievers who followed him after Pedro had to leave with an injury. Argenis Reyes, however, wasn’t going anywhere. The Mets won 3-0 and Reyes had now played nine games in the majors without ever experiencing a loss.
Jerry, in his cocky gangsta mode, rested A. Reyes the next night and managed a win anyway. Then came the All-Star Break. Then came the game after, which the Mets won in the ninth inning at Cincinnati. It required a come-from-behind rally, generated when A. Reyes singled with one out, thereby lifting his batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage to .316 apiece. D. Wright then homered to tie the Reds 8-8. The Mets, with Reyes remaining in the game at second, came away victorious that July 17 evening, 10-8.
Did all good things have to end? Alas, yes. The Mets’ ten-game winning streak was snapped on July 18 despite Argenis Reyes’s deployment as a pinch-hitter. That was the first game in which Reyes played that his team lost. No word on whether he pricked a finger to see if he also now bled like any normal human.
From there, the Argenis Reyes story unravels. Short version for the likable little guy: He didn’t hit; he wasn’t that fantastic a second baseman; and the Mets stopped enjoying good fortune. The 2008 Mets came up painfully shy of a playoff spot. The 2009 Mets came to Citi Field unnoticeably shy of Argenis Reyes. Injuries to almost everybody, however, washed him ashore Flushing Bay in late June. He made it into nine games for the ’09 Mets. They lost seven of them. Then he was gone. Now he’s a Dodger.
But here’s the thing you’ve got to know: Argenis Reyes’s team won the first ten games in which he played. I can find no evidence of any other Met in 48 seasons being able to say the same thing. I looked. I checked long pre-2008 Met winning streaks and the Met debuts that coincided with the blossoming of those long Met winning streaks and came up Argenisless. Tom Paciorek had immediate impact almost as resounding as Reyes, but just missed the mark; his Mets lost their first game in July 1985, 1-0. Then they reeled off ten straight wins with a dash of Paciorek in the boxscore. But as Billy Joel put it, get it right the first time, that’s the main thing. Get it right the next time? That’s not the same thing.
Besides Paciorek, nobody comes incredibly close to the standard set by Argenis Reyes. The Mets were red hot when Willie Mays came over in 1972, but Willie played in only four consecutive victories to start his Met career. The Mets were white hot when Mike Piazza came over in 1998, but Mike played in only seven consecutive victories to start his Met career.
In this narrow but actual context, we can honestly say Willie Mays and Mike Piazza were no Argenis Reyeses and mean it completely as a compliment to Argenis.