Nostalgia is a product of dissatisfaction and rage. It’s a settling of grievances between the present and the past.
That’s Don DeLillo, in the great novel White Noise — and a quote that was uncomfortably top of mind as I watched the Mets make outs and drop balls and get whacked around by the Texas Rangers’ endless parade of sluggers. I thought of it not just because watching gigantic Rangers jog around the bases grew tiresome — it was also because I was still mesmerized by the footage of Jose Reyes in his first big-league game, eight years ago against these same Rangers.
He was the same, obviously, from the enormous grin and the slightly pop-eyed stare to the uniform and the number on the back, the number that at some point stopped being Ed Kranepool’s and became his. But not completely the same: He’s bigger, his arms are wreathed in tattoos, and the hair has exploded into a majestic, Predator avalanche of dreads.
As for the number and uniform, we’ll see. Possibly we’ll see very soon.
Rob Emproto, via my blog partner, makes a very good case for why a farewell to Reyes might be a wise strategic choice. All of us — including Rob himself, I know — can make the emotional case for why, at least in the medium term, it would be a horrible scar for a fan base that has no lack of them. It may come to head vs. heart for the front office and ownership. Or it may not — it may already be a foregone conclusion based on budgetary realities, in which case Sandy Alderson’s job is to maximize the return on Reyes.
If so, it is a task I do not envy him, since — as Gary and Ron noted — that return may be larger in July than it would be with a December IOU cashable next June. July, as Gary and Ron also noted, is suddenly very close.
The Mets are surprisingly OK for a team stripped of David Wright and Ike Davis and Johan Santana. But that won’t blind the front office to the qualifiers attached to that “OK” like barnacles, and it shouldn’t blind us, either. I suppose David could return and Ike could return and Johan could return and Beltran could stay healthy and effective and Gee and Niese and Tejada could continue to develop and Paulino and Turner and Murph and Capuano and K-Rod could remain productive and Bay and Hairston and Harris could see their fortunes turn for the better. All that could happen, but is it likely to? Or is it better to play the odds and turn arms dealer, looking to transform the useful, high-salaried veterans into prospects, or at least depth?
And if that’s the strategy, isn’t Reyes an obvious part of it?
That’s what I was thinking about instead of pondering how much Manny Acosta sucks, and that’s why the sight of Jose in that still-familiar uniform had an unexpected sting. Back then everything about the lithe, shorn young Jose amounted to possibilities, and the half-giddy knowledge that those possibilities were ours to hope came true. Now, the possibilities are different. They revolve around the knowledge that we may be watching the final acts as a Met for the still lithe, decidedly unshorn, still pretty young Jose. He is still ours, but soon — perhaps very soon — he will be someone else’s. Half-giddy has yielded to half-sick.
We know it will hurt, even if it wind up admitting it was a smart move in 2013 or 2014 or some date that seems impossible and science-fictiony now. We know it will hurt, but the hurt is still abstract, still something we hope to avoid.
And this is because we know, on some level, that it will hurt even more than we already fear it will.
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Assuming everybody hasn’t headed for a convenient stairwell to hang themselves, I wrote a guest column for Baseball Prospectus about how technology has struck down distance on a barrier to fandom, with some further ruminations on nostalgia. (I promise they’re far less depressing.) I’d be honored if you’d give it a read.