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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Carpe Jose-em

Being of inferior genetic stock, I don’t have the faintest idea what it must be like to be a major-league baseball player, blessed with amazing hand-eye coordination and fast-twitch muscles and everything else I lack.

But I’m willing to edge not very far out on a limb to say this: It must be awesome being Jose Reyes.

There he was tonight, tripling twice and doubling and walking and stealing and coming home to score. He was everywhere, in perpetual motion, churning legs and flying hair and clapping hands. It must be a blast to be in there doing all that.

When Jose is really on — as he’s been for a happily long stretch now — he doesn’t so much hit balls as he attacks them, slashing at them with his bat and then lighting out after them on the basepaths. He’s around first before you’ve gotten beyond that initial instinctive YEAAAHHHHH!!!!! and you catch up with him making calculations as he nears second. With most balls in the gap, you assume a double and figure if everything breaks right the batter might wind up with a triple. With Jose it’s the opposite — you assume triple and hurriedly downgrade your expectations when you remember there’s a plodding runner stuck in front of him or a particularly rifle-armed outfielder behind him with bad intent. When he’s standing on second Jose tends to look pleased but also slightly disappointed, like a kid who got a nice piece of cake but saw the knife placed just on the wrong side of a perfect frosting rose. Jose on third is something different. It starts with the body hurtling to the ground, dreadlocks aloft, the toes stretched to drag in the dirt. We all know he shouldn’t be sliding head-first, that it’s as crazy for him to put his hands and wrists in harm’s way as it would be for a violinist to punch it up with some drunk at a bar. Yet, at the same time, it’s so cool, the way he locks on to the base as he goes by, using it like a fighter uses the arresting wire on a carrier’s deck. And then the look at the ump, daring him to deny what he’s just seen and all those people have just enjoyed. He gets the safe sign (unless Marvin Hudson is involved), but there’s still all this extra energy from his flywheel trip around the bases. So he has to clap, except when Jose claps he doesn’t clap like you or I clap — he whacks his hands together like a sugared-up kid with the biggest erasers in the world. Or he finds someone to point to. Or he just grins a million watts’ worth. Or maybe he tries out all three.

Two such Reyes trips to third would have been treat enough for most any night at Citi Field, but we also got Carlos Beltran as the undercard.

Beltran is an entirely different player to watch: expressionless where Reyes is exuberant, a quietly graceful machine where Reyes is a manic eruption of windmilling limbs. When Jose’s on he lunges at balls with an almost palpable hunger; when Beltran’s locked in he knows exactly what pitch he wants, identifies it and makes whatever minute adjustments are necessary to catch the ball with the fat part of his bat, employing his lethal swing as he has so many times before. Then he’s off, gliding to whatever his destination is and stopping there, mission accomplished.

None of this inspires Reyesian flights of fancy — if anything it plays into the hands of Beltran’s detractors, who register the absence of grimaces and fist pumps rather than the presence of well-machined execution. But I love to watch him nonetheless: I sometimes find myself surprised that a well-struck Beltran hit went as far as it did, because that sniper’s swing is so quietly perfect that it seems like it shouldn’t send a ball rocketing off into some distant corner of Citi Field, or sailing off to settle down above the Great Wall of Flushing. And seeing Beltran whole again — or as close as he can come these days — feels like a gift. The Mets haven’t been particularly lucky this year, but there has been this: Beltran is an everyday player where we wondered how much we’d have to hear he was resting, and we no longer worry about him when there’s a tricky bloop to right or an extra base that needs taking. He’ll get it and he’ll get there, and then he’ll be in there tomorrow.

There was more tonight, of course: one of Ike Davis’s patented blasts out of the yard; the delightful, unexpected sight of Jason Pridie lashing a game-changing three-run homer beyond the David Wright DMZ; and the oddity of having every Dodger intentional walk backfire soon after enduring every Giant intentional walk working to perfection. Not to mention that the 10-year-old who very capably delivered the first pitch — the son of a Red Hook firefighter killed on 9/11 — was named Chris Cannizzaro and yes he was named for the Mets catcher and yes he really is a fan. “Always hated the Yankees,” he explained coolly. Great all around, but watching Reyes and Beltran was best of all.

The Mets are having a confounding, which-way-is-up year, one in which there are encouraging stories but also too many holes to fill, at least for this campaign. I’ve been a fan long enough to know what’s coming. I understand that Beltran is in his final Mets campaign, and should bring back a decent prospect or two in the summertime, particularly if he’s still looking as sound then as he does now. I understand Reyes isn’t on base as often as he could be, that he’s lost time to injuries, and that he might be too expensive to bring back. But he remains a monster talent at a critical position, and he too might fetch a decent reward from some playoff contender on his way to free agency and a new home.

And perhaps that will be the right thing to do in both cases. Perhaps they will leave us and in two or three years we will love the players we got in return, young stars who have us giddy with the possibilities and whose names are front and center when we crow about the new core. That could happen, and we could be grateful it did. But oh, what a price. Carlos Beltran in Angels red would hurt, but Jose Reyes in San Francisco black and orange, only seen six times a year, might really break my heart.

I’ll savor every sweet swing and tumbling third-base-as-brake slide. We all should. But the more of them we see, the more we will have to wonder how many are left, and how we will feel when the answer is none.

13 comments to Carpe Jose-em

  • The opinion that Reyes should be traded- which is held by many Mets fans- is foolish.How could this guy be replaced at this or any point? Hes healthy and producing and I love watching him streak around those bases..Please dont be foolish fans. Hate your ownership fans, but not your top line performers..
    Rich P

  • Josh

    Oh, such beautiful, poetic writing.. but how can a recap of a Mets win make me this sad?

  • Marc

    Joe Morgan, who I normally can’t stand listening to, said the best thing ever about Jose Reyes. He said (probably after Reyes hit a triple) “you know, the triple used to be the most exciting play in baseball. That was before Jose Reyes. Most of the time he goes in standing up without even a throw”

  • dmg

    jace, jose has his area of excellence, and you have yours. that fourth graf is packed with terrific descriptions and perfect similes. you are, as they say, in the zone, locked in.

    we all have resigned ourselves to the idea that these are reyes and beltran’s final days as mets. the head acknowledges the facts of the situation; the heart, not so much. i suppose this is one reason to go out to the ballpark — to see them while we still can in the home unis.

    but i was discussing this with fellow fans at work the other day, and we’d rather trade david wright than reyes. not that it ever would come down to that, but it’s a gauge of what reyes means to this team and to us.

  • Andee

    *I* haven’t resigned myself to losing Reyes. Like I said a couple of posts down, there’s no reason on earth for them to trade him unless they get something amazing in return, and no reason on earth for them not to make him a very nice offer before he files for FA, assuming he stays healthy and productive.

    Besides, as a poster on Amazin’ Avenue pointed out, the Giants have NEVER EVER made those kinds of deals. They signed Bonds as a free agent, aeons ago, and their midseason acquisitions tend to be of the Cody Ross/Aubrey Huff variety.

    Just because the media is chanting “fire sale, fire sale,” because they are almost all Yankees fans and want the Yankees to have New York all to themselves forever, doesn’t mean Sandy has to cave in and give them what they want.

  • Just occurred to me that Jose Reyes’s basepath brilliance was the best Met 80th birthday tribute to Willie Mays possible. The two have shared a link for some time.

    Not that Collector’s Cup Night isn’t stupid.

  • Beautiful writing, it would be sad to see Reyes go now that he’s healthy.

  • srt

    I know Sandy will be fielding offers for Reyes. I can only hope that given the fact he would be a 1/2 year rental, Alderson realizes what he gets back in return isn’t nearly enough for what he’s giving up. Can’t imagine the acquiring team getting Reyes to sign an extension, unless that team is on his short list. Why would he do that when he could have his pick of offers/teams at the end of the year?

    If Reyes is traded no matter what, then I believe it’s about the money and nothing but the money.

    Long live Jose Reyes in a Met uniform.
    Long live David Wright in a Met uniform.
    Long live watching the two of them man the left side of the IF for years to come.

  • NostraDennis

    “like a sugared-up kid with the biggest erasers in the world”

    I love it. Do they still make kids do that after class as punishment?

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    I’m sorry I don’t share the same feelings that you have. I’m angry that Reyes, Beltran and KRod, are all slated to go for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball but everything to do with the Wilpons’ financial mess that turned one of the most lucrative franchises in the majors to that of the Florida Marlins.

    These three are genuine stars and even Beltran seems to have a few seasons left to go thanks to his rejuvenated knees. Each can each play an important part in lifting us back to get back to contenders in 2012 with a few smart trades, signings and call ups. The Mets simply do not have players in reserve anywhere near such talent to replace them nor will the change in personnel fill holes at other positions.

    Over the past winter Sandy Alderson said 2011 would be a transition year with new players being brought in to make the change for those better days ahead. So what does he do? He brings in the likes of Carrasco (sent down to the minors despite signing a two-year contract), Boyer (whom D.J. joined down on the farm), Young (who pitches well when not injured – he was unable to start tonight after stiffness all week required two injections), Cappuano, Byrdak, Harris, Hairston, Eamus and Hu. Hu will always be remembered for his ninth inning, pinch hit sacrifice fly but only Buchholz has performed consistently over the first fifth of the season (again, Young being injured).

    Expect the same caliber of stalwart players to don the orange and blue in 2012 because the money saved by the carting off of these players along the expiring contracts to Perez and Castillo isn’t going to be re-invested in good players but to pay off the Wilpon’s debt.

    Jose, Carlos and KRod should be deemed as important cogs for the following season, not important cogs of a fire sale for this one. Reyes and Beltran asking for too much money and/or too long a contract is one thing, however, getting rid of them without even an attempt at negotiation is another.

    “Sell The Team”.

  • […] 6. Jose Reyes tripled. It was pretty great. […]

  • Flip D.

    You’re right of course; we’ll all miss Reyes if/when he’s gone. Things I won’t miss, though, are his too frequent lapses in concentration and lack of patience at the plate. The two most recent examples of the former: getting picked off at first by the catcher and laying back on an easy ground ball hit by a runner who’s good-not-great speed was unknown/forgotten by Jose. Of course, when he plays like this, we all completely and happily forget. When he’s not locked in, though, boy, do we get sick of his flailing at 3-0 pitches in his eyes or 3-1’s in the dirt.

    Do we want him gone? Of course not. Is he the most exciting player we’ve had since Nails? And then some! Will he get us to the Promised Land? Not without a lot of help and there’s none forthcoming, thanks to Madoff. I just had to point out that the excitement he engenders in us is somewhat counter-balanced by the frustration we must endure, as well.

    Jason, thanks for mentioning Beltran in this piece and juxtaposing him with Reyes. Just because his style is the polar opposite doesn’t mean he’s any less inspiring to watch. That, and I agree with those of you here, including Jason, who say that Carlos gets judged WAAAY to harshly. When you look at what he’s done while here, as well as the way he has conducted himself, the guys been a great player for us and a class act, IMHO. So unfair how he’s been treated by some fans and some media.