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Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

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He's Still 'Jose' (not 'Reyes') to Me

A friend and I were discussing recent Met developments over the weekend. He referred to “Gil and Reyes,” as in he perceives an anti-New York bias inherent in Gil Hodges not making the generally worthless National Baseball Hall of Fame and Jose Reyes not finishing in the Top Ten of the National League MVP voting. What struck me in his communiqué was Gil was dependably “Gil” yet Jose had been relegated to last-name status.

No way, I said.

Yeah, he retorted. Jose’s a Miamian now, thus he’s Reyes.

Nah, I fired back. Argenis Reyes, if he’s around anywhere in 2012, he can be Reyes. Jose is Jose. Jose will always be Jose to me.

I didn’t high-hat Fonzie into Alfonzo. Darryl didn’t become Strawberry. Doc in his darkest pinstriped hours never became Gooden. Rico was always Rico. Melvin was always Melvin. And Tom Seaver never stopped being my favorite Met.

I’ll allow Jose a little latitude when the Marlins come to Citi Field for the first of their forty or fifty annual games against the Mets on April 24. He’s granted a leadoff base hit; what’s one more night without a no-hitter? He’s permitted to steal second and take third on the throw. I’m undecided on whether he may score.

Then he can go into a six-year slump against Met pitching. He can tear up the rest of the National League the rest of the time as long as it doesn’t do the Marlins much good. The Marlins can beat the Phillies, Braves and Nationals just as the Phillies, Braves and Nationals can beat the Marlins. They can all beat each other up while the Mets sweep the whole lot of them into oblivion.

That’s the plan, though I suspect it doesn’t have much fiber to it.

I also suspect that the longer Jose Reyes is an actively competitive ex-Met — not just a West Coast rumor along the lines of John Olerud in Seattle — I’ll decrease my simmering sentimentality bit by bit. Forty or fifty games a year against the same team will do that. But unlike Olerud (another free agent whose departure left me groping for my December bearings), Jose grew up on my watch. It’s one thing to wave goodbye to the professionals when you previously knew them as something else. Gary Carter the Dodger or Rusty Staub the Tiger were essentially returns to form from when they were Expos. But the guys I never knew as anything but Mets…that’s tough. Rico Brogna morphed into a Phillie and a Brave yet I never didn’t applaud him when he swung by Shea. He was always a Met to me.

Tug McGraw was always a Met before he was traded, thus his Phillie incarnation — a pretty significant phase of his career and their history — never really seemed demonic in my eyes. Same for Lenny Dykstra when he wore a Phillie uniform instead of an orange jumpsuit. I wanted the Mets who faced them as rivals to prevail against them but I couldn’t root against them in any substantive “enemy” sense. Same for Wally Backman as a Pirate/Phillie when both identities were rather nauseating to a Mets fan of that era.

I’d have preferred some Met who broke in as a Met and blossomed as a Met had remained a Met for an entire enjoyable career and then tipped his cap on his last day as a Met. But that’s never happened. I mean never — neither Ed Kranepool nor Ron Hodges went out on their own terms, and they’re the only Mets of length to not sign somewhere else at some point.

Why I expected homegrown multitime All-Star Jose Reyes would be that Met I’m not sure. Cap-tipping lifetime one-franchise players are pretty rare to begin with these days. The best I can hope for is the Mets won’t pretend for years on end that Jose Reyes didn’t exist as an essential part of them for nine seasons; that his image won’t be erased from every 50th anniversary montage; that his pictures aren’t all shoved in storage; that bloggers of 2023 or whenever aren’t forced to demand to know when he’ll be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame. The Mets can be chillingly Soviet that way.

Meanwhile, the Marlins of Miami are no more tenable as a taste than the Marlins of Florida, and a pox on Loria and the lot of them, but Jose is going to be Jose to me for a very long time. That much I know. When the Mets and Marlins are playing for low stakes, I’ll veer toward the Met on the mound, but a tiny bit of me won’t ever be not at least a smidgen happy when Jose gets the better of an isolated confrontation. Should they play for high stakes — meaningful games in September or a no-hitter on the line — that will almost certainly be a different story.

Right now, it’s all speculative and rather unknown. I’ve had to deal with beloved ex-Mets regularly but not at this level in a very long time. Not at the “he’s my favorite” tier. That’s a tough tier to negotiate. I regularly rooted for Fonzie to take the measure of the Gl@v!nes and Trachsels when he was a Giant and they were boring.

If you could convince me all this was part of a master strategic plan to improve the franchise, OK. Sometimes players have to go so as to bring in better or different players. I was in mad love with Melvin Mora in 2000 yet understood the need for a dependable defensive shortstop (even if what we got was Mike Bordick). If someday a champagne-soaked Sandy Alderson can trace a championship to the meeting he had with his braintrust in the fall of 2011 when they knew letting Jose Reyes go would be painful but ultimately baseball-beneficial, I’ll gather all the hindsight at my disposal and retroactively praise the thought process to the high heavens.

But this is about ownership not having the money to keep their best player in his prime because they figured out a way to lose it. It’s not about roster maximization and I don’t believe it’s about not giving six years to a dicey hamstring risk. No way Jose would have gone had Bernie Madoff not come along. This used to be a large-market, big-league operation. For the time being, we’re condemned to Bisonmania.

You’re welcome to your spin. Mine is our franchise, the one to which we pledge our fealty, has been diminished. Jose Reyes’s departure isn’t the cause of that but a symptom of it. I don’t have any idea when this trend will be reversed. I hope it won’t be too long.

I do a lot of hoping as a Mets fan.

12 comments to He’s Still ‘Jose’ (not ‘Reyes’) to Me

  • I can’t do anything but cry.

  • InsidePitcher

    Amen!

  • dmg

    yesterday, at modell’s with my son. we’d already gotten the things we’d come for, but on our way out he sees a mets tshirt — 7 reyes — marked way down. last one in the store, dad. could we get it for old times sake?

    happy hanukkah, kid.

    i think it will come out eventually that the wilpons are not broke, that they could use the income from sny to more than cover the $70 million or whatever losses the team says it has. i think what’s looming larger is the settlement with the madoff trustee — north of $300 million, easy. in light of that, they are not just shifting resources around — using jose money to get better in some other direction — but purely shrinking payroll and competitiveness.

    sure it’s a tough situation for them, but it’s worse for us as fans. and the one thing they won’t do for mets fans is sell the team.

  • Andee

    I don’t think not signing Reyes has a whole lot to do with Madoff. I think it has a lot more to do with what happened before most of us ever heard Madoff’s name.

    The Pons have never wanted to admit that they didn’t have money to flush like the Steinbrenners did, that in fact, nobody in MLB but the Steinbrenners will *ever* have that kind of money. But the fact of the matter is, they never did.

    And yet, for a good 10 years they felt they had to keep up appearances; they were spurred by the trope of the local media that a New York team should never have to say, “That’s too rich for our blood.” No, no. They splurged like they were printing the stuff. Sometimes it paid off (Piazza, Beltran); most of the time it didn’t. It was never going to be sustainable. But the fans grew to expect that if we wanted a player, we would always have the high bid, no matter how high.

    How did we wind up with players like Bay and Santana (or for that matter, Beltran or Piazza) in the first place? Simple. When they became available, nobody else who needed them could afford them. (Even the Yankees passed on Beltran because of the asking price.) There’s usually one team each year of whom that’s true; for a few years, it was us, and now it isn’t.

    The Marlins are in that position right now; probably not forever, maybe not even for more than a year, but right now. Nobody bid on Jose seriously except them. Nobody. Not the Cardinals, not the Giants, not the Dodgers, not the Angels, not the Tigers, nobody. And all those teams, and more, could have used him. Every team has to weigh these things very carefully, because unless you are the Yankees, the wrong contract can sandbag you for years. I bet if the Cardinals could give back Matt Holliday’s contract now, they would; they’d probably still have Pujols.

  • I was thinking – it’s like Nomah and the Red Sox. They traded him and didn’t compete for his free agency, and then gave him a one-day contract so that he could retire as part of the Red Sox.

    Maybe the Mets’ owners will be classy that way. One day.

  • Dak442

    I’ve really only ever rooted for three ex-Mets against us: Seaver, Kingman and Piazza. Two were traded because of management idiocy, and the other wasn’t offered any deal at all as he was “too old”. None left of his own accord.

    That’s probably why I won’t be rooting for Jose. After all he meant to the franchise, I won’t have ill will towards him like I did Strawberry; whatever, go ahead and have a nice life as long as it doesn’t affect us. But ultimately, HE left US. Did we make a herculean effort to keep him? No. But he could have stayed here. (Granted, it’s easy for me to encourage someone to leave $15 Mil or so on the table.)

    I hope Jose is happy, has a relatively productive career, and that the Marlins finish behind us every year we are competitive.

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    Meaningful games in Sept.? I am just hoping for meaningful games in June! Maybe the Marlins will be playinmg meaningful games in Sept., but they will not have the same meaning for us in 2012.

    I was at the Mets Holiday Sale in PSL on Sat. They were clearing out Reyes and Pagan stuff. I had a Reyes shirt in my hand, but I just could not come to terms to buy it.

    I guess I prefer to look to the future,than dwell in the past, no matter how bad the future looks.

    There were not alot of happy Met fans down at the Spring Training complex yesterday. Fact of the matter is there were not many Met fans there at all!

    Silence can say alot sometimes!

  • Jacobs27

    Jo-se, Jose, Jose, Jose!

  • Joe D.

    Hi Greg,

    TV rights and/or owning the network itself has been the savior enabling even supposedly once bankrupt teams like Los Angeles and Texas to still go after big free agent signings (shortsighted or not). We’ve learned the reason the Angels could afford to pay Puljos a quarter of a billion dollars over a ten year period was the selling their television rights to FOX for $150 million a year.

    This past season SNY generated $227.7 million in revenue. SNY is owned in part by the METS and though a separate business entitity, is it a valid argument to say SNY has nothing to do with the Mets financial situation? Or is it that Fred and Jeff are claiming a $70 million loss while the reality is that $70 million was more than offset from their share of the SNY profits?

    The reality is that the total financial sum associated with the Mets has to be diversified. That’s why so many find it doubtful that the Mets actually “lost” $70 million by being able to exclude SNY through legal and commonly used accounting practices. This allows them to truly claim SNY is a separate entity excluded from the daily operation of the club and that the team itself does not have the money to spend to improve it on the major league level. Yet in the past, the money made from SNY had to play a part enabling the Wilpons to invest in free agents, etc., just like YES does for the Yankees. So could it be now that the Wilpons are instead using those earnings to pay off debts not associated with the team? Television is where the big money is and the Wilpons have even refusing to part with any share of SNY which only adds fuel to this speculation of mine.

    So anyone still think the Mets actually lost $70 million this year? Does anyone think ownership didn’t break up a team that was making a run for last season’s post-season (prior to the season ending injuries) by getting rid of our closer and most valuable hitter, claiming the payroll and diminished revenue gave them no choice while, in turn, the Mets financial status (with SNY) is actually not in the red?

    Fred abd Jeff of course can do what they want with the money they earn – that is their right – but considering the television revenue that most all sports franchise make – either in the form of selling their television rights or operating their own cable stations – does the claim that ludicrous contracts paid to Santana, Bay, Krod, Beltran, Perez and Castillo and dwindling attendance put the team in the position it now faces still hold water?

    That’s why I contend the Wilpons sold out both the players and fans for personal financial problems not associated with the economic stability of the franchise.

    • Joe D.

      Made a slight typo – SNY racked in $177 million last year, not $277 million LOL. mere bag of shells as our favorite bus driver would say.

      If the Mets are majority owners, their share is at least $87.4 million – which, by coincidence(?), happens to be near the amount they claim to have lost this past season.

  • RoundRock Mets

    “I didn’t high-hat Fonzie into Alfonzo.”
    Miller’s Crossing reference. Nice.

  • Dave Koffer

    I still can’t believe he’s gone……horrible……devastating…..What do we do now???