Back in May I wondered what it would feel like when the number of Jose Reyes Mets highlights remaining were reduced to zero. Now we know.
Jose Reyes is no longer a Met. That’s awful enough right there, but of course it’s worse.
Jose Reyes is a Miami Marlin. Eighteen times a year, starting in late April, we’ll have to watch him take his accustomed spot on the field in an awful uniform next to the awful Hanley Ramirez. With the Mets of the foreseeable future put together from whatever can be scooped up from the factory floor, the Marlins are a good bet to win more of those games than they lose. Jose will beat us in some of them. He will drag his feet across third at the end of a head-first triple like a jet fighter getting arrested by the hook on the carrier deck. And then he’ll throw his arms out in joyous cruciform and do whatever the 2012 Marlins’ version of The Claw/Spotlight is, only this time David Wright will be standing there with a useless baseball looking glum.
It is going to suck. It sucks right now. Whatever you are — angry, sad, depressed, downhearted, blue, adrift — I’m feeling some pretty large measure of the same.
This is where the “yeah, but” comes in. You probably guessed that. But this isn’t your typical “yeah, but.”
I love Ruben Tejada — think he’ll be a star, even, and feel very sorry for him given all the stupid questions he’ll have to answer in Port St. Lucie. But he’s not Jose Reyes and I heartily wish he were going to become a star one defensive position to the right.
I trust Sandy Alderson and his front-office crew, but they’ve got a lot of desert to cross with nary an oasis in sight.
I do not trust the Wilpons, not one little bit. They give every indication of sticking around, with their worries and their lawyers and a commissioner to protect them. This protection comes at the expense of the rest of us.
Not much of a silver lining, is it? At the heart of these gray clouds you’ll find a bunch of black.
And yet here it is: The Marlins are going to give Jose Reyes six years and $106 million. In Sandy Alderson’s shoes, would you have done that even if you had the money? Thinking with your head instead of your broken heart, would you have done that?
I wouldn’t have.
The $106 million isn’t the problem as much as the sixth year. Five years for Jose is frankly scary. Six is insane. That makes this different from the Midnight Massacre, an indefensible trade driven by a culture clash and human pettiness. It makes it more like Darryl Strawberry heading west in the winter of 1990. It doesn’t make us feel any better, but that’s the fairer comparison here.
We cannot forget, on this day of misery, that every time Jose rounded first we held our breath a little. We asked the baseball gods to please not have him grab at his hamstring again. It happened way too often — in Jose’s stats we see a glorious four-year run, sandwiched by an uncertain beginning plagued by hamstring woes, a 2009 season lost to them, a merely OK 2010 season and then last year. And last year, we must remember, was really a tale of two seasons. Reyes I was the stuff of clapping your hand to your head and turning to hug your neighbor while screaming “Didja see THAT???!!!” But then Jose hurt his hamstring again, and when he came back for Reyes II, he was cautious and tentative and merely OK.
So how many years of Reyes I do the Marlins get, and how many years of Reyes II? In the last year of his new deal, he’ll be 34 years old. If he’s still a Marlin, it’s a good bet they’ll wish he weren’t. This is the Marlins’ Pedro contract, a premium paid by way of apology to their fans and as a beacon for other free agents. That Pedro contract didn’t work out so well. Worse, it was followed by other Omar Minaya specials that didn’t work out too well either. Those contracts are one of the reasons the current Mets are in their current mess.
But I’ve overcomplicated it. Again: Would you have given Jose Reyes six years and $106 million? If you would have, fine. I wouldn’t have. I thought that and said that, and being this sad and pissed and everything else won’t allow me to forget that that’s where I stood.
And given that, I’m not upset about some of the other things tormenting Mets fans. I don’t care that the Mets didn’t make a counteroffer, because there was no genuine counteroffer to be made. The Mets weren’t going to go six years, so they didn’t. The Mets probably weren’t going to go above $100 million, so they didn’t. Hearing that they’d offered four years and incentives to get Jose to $90 million wouldn’t have made Jose reconsider, or let me sleep any more soundly. The fewer lame gestures to paper over unpleasant truths, the better.
And forget the fact that under the new CBA, the draft-pick compensation is lousy. I didn’t want the Mets to trade Jose Reyes in July and neither did you and no one seriously advocated that they should, so no one is allowed to pretend otherwise.
Beyond that, well, lots of people think the Wilpons should sell the team. That’s an interesting one. The contrast between baseball’s treatment of the McCourts and the Wilpons is certainly thought-provoking, yes. But here, I’m torn. For one thing, it’s not a small thing to say people should be stripped of their property after a generation of being pretty good stewards overall. But I distrust the Wilpons enough to be willing to explore that. The real problem for me — and perhaps for Bud Selig — is not knowing whether the Wilpons’ current financial woes are the stuff of another year, or a few years, or forever.
If the Wilpons can settle the Madoff mess sometime this spring for somewhere north of $100 million, presumably the team’s payrolls can return to more-accustomed levels relatively soon, with a much smarter crew in charge of the checkbook. In that case, our crying for them to sell is raw emotion and strikes me as unfair, and no doubt strikes the commissioner’s office as chum for generations of very expensive lawyers.
If these penurious ways are to be the Mets’ fate forever, that makes me want to lie down in the road. I can’t stand the idea of Grant-De Roulet II. The thought of trying to raise Joshua as a Mets fan amid that level of pain makes me want to walk away from everything, and that idea terrifies me. I doubt Bud Selig’s feelings on the subject are quite that intense, but I’m sure he doesn’t want that either. Having New York’s National League franchise be a charity ward is not in the best interests of the game.
But what if the future of the Mets is somewhere in the messy middle between those two extremes? Well, then what the hell do you do?
But sadly, we have plenty of time to explore that one further. I’ll set a reminder for June, when the Mets’ latest losing streak is playing second fiddle to scenarios about what the inevitable trade of David Wright will bring. For now, I’m left with this: How will I greet Jose Reyes, Miami Marlin?
No, not when I first see him against us — when that happens, I’m going to cheer myself hoarse, giving him the ovation he deserved and didn’t get because of Terry Collins’ final-day pooch-screwing. I mean after that. I wish Jose the best, but the best for Jose means our task is even harder for the next six years. And yet I don’t want Jose to be Darryl Strawberry, though I think that’s more likely than six years of mid-Aughtsian glory. If the Marlins’ deal winds up looking wise, we are embittered. If it winds up looking dumb, Jose and baseball and all of us are diminished.
Like I said, today sucks.