(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
They might not? Damn.
We continue our roundtable discussion about Reyes today with Reyes' legacy with the Mets as the topic. If we're lucky, this will have just been a premature discussion about Reyes when he ends up playing his entire career with the Mets and winning a couple of championships this decade.
In the event that we're unlucky and have seen the last Reyes appearance in a Mets uniform, what would his legacy with the team be upon leaving for greener pastures?
Eno Sarris: Jose Reyes will go down as the most exciting Met of the modern era.
We all only know what we've seen, and I was barely even baseball-conscious in 1986. Of the baseball that has happened since then, Professor Reyes stands atop the heap in terms of personality and play.
Beyond 1986 even. He owns the team record for triples, the second-most action-packed play in the game -- sure, an inside the park home run is by definition 25% more of a play. He owns that record by 37 over Mookie Wilson, another candidate for most exciting Met.
He also owns the record for most steals -- once again over Wilson. David Wright owns doubles, but there's Reyes in second. He's third in WAR (ahead of Carlos Beltran and behind Wright and Darryl Strawberry), but that's a boring stat. He has the fifth-highest contact percentage in team history (that stat doesn't go back far), and that might seem boring but it means he puts the ball in play and at least you get to see those dreads flap and those legs fly on the way to first.
Zoom into shortstops and it's a blowout. Bud Harrelson is second in WAR (but hit .235 for the Mets), and only Rey Ordonez, Kevin Elster and Jose Vizcaino managed to be above replacement in over 1000 PAs for the team. Rey might have been a picker, but he was anything but exciting with the bat.
Take those records, put him at one of the most important (and, for the Mets, historically difficult) positions on the field, and then add in his boisterous celebrations and funny jumbotron lessons: What you get is the most exciting Met in history.
Matthew Callan: I believe Jose Reyes has already risen to a pantheon of all-time great Mets, to be spoken of in the same company as Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, and (dare I say it) Tom Seaver. Apart from his statistical standing in team history--where he already owns several franchise records--he is one of the most beloved players to ever put on a Mets uniform. His style of play and infectious enthusiasm make him the kind of player about whom it is difficult to remain rational and unbiased. On the (hopefully small) chance he goes elsewhere this offseason, I foresee him receiving standing ovations from CitiField crowds upon his return for years to come.
How his Mets legacy is seen to the world at large, however, is a very different story. Reyes' time with the team came concurrently with some excruciatingly disappointing seasons: the shoulda-woulda-coulda of 2006, the collapse of 2007, and the last gasp of 2008. Reyes did far more to prevent these outcomes than cause them, and yet he is inextricably associated with them nonetheless. For many people, he was perceived as emblematic of all that was wrong with those teams, displaying a sense of arrogance that hadn't been earned. (In this case, arrogance = actually looking excited on a baseball diamond.) Sadly, I think there are more than a few Mets fans who might feel the same way, those who figure, We lost with him, we'll lose without him. I would expect that attitude to die down after he'd been gone for a week or so, and people realize how much he really meant to this team.
His ultimate legacy may have little to do with him. If Reyes is lost to another team willing to spend on him, his legacy will be that of the new, austere Mets, a team that plunged from free-spending, big-market heights to fall back with the likes of the Royals and the Pirates, teams that cannot afford to hang onto its homegrown talent. It will be less a marker in Reyes' legacy than one in the sad, crumbling legacy of the Wilpons.
Matthew Artus: Jose Reyes likely deserves every kind word said about him and will benefit down the road from playing with Carlos Beltran -- not because of the latter's ability, but because of Beltran's polarizing place amongst Mets fans. Whatever folks remember about Reyes, it will look half as egregious as what's said about Beltran.
I struggle to put Reyes in the pantheon of greatest Mets ever along with Seaver and Piazza as well as, to a lesser extent, Strawberry and Gooden. He won't be remembered as arguably the greatest hitter at his position like Piazza, nor one of the greatest to ever play like Seaver. His meteoric rise didn't culminate with a World Series win like Gooden's or Straw's, either. Matthew C. alludes to the misfortune that occurred concurrently with Reyes's tenure, and that matters, too. He was, far and away, the best of a star-crossed bunch, but will that leave him among the best to ever call Flushing home?
Well, yes, his record speaks for itself -- but the decision Reyes is about to make regarding his future will speak volumes, too. Think about Ken Griffey Jr., one of the most beloved players in Seattle Mariners history who could do no wrong as long as he kept smiling and kept swinging the sweetest stroke you'll ever see. He took the Cincinnati Reds' money over loyalty, cemented a reputation for his fragile health, and was pretty much presumed to be cursed by the baseball gods until his playing days ended. Mariners fans... hell, all baseball fans adore Griffey but with a twinge of regret. Of what could have been. Of "What would have happened if he had just stayed put?"
Or let's put this in a Mets perspective with one of my personal favorite players of all time: Todd Hundley. Hundley, the new Mets single-season home run king and then single-season home run king of catchers (since usurped by Javy Lopez), had just completed his second All-Star season after growing (albeit artifically) from a five-foot-nothing, 100-and-nothing afterthought into one of the best after the Worst Team Money Could Buy.
The Mets gave that up in favor of Piazza, which started with twinges of "Why didn't we stick with the homegrown guy?" but is now recalled in hindsight -- and, admittedly, even back in 1998 because of Hundley's elbow concerns which were addressed as often as you hear about Reyes's hamstring concerns now -- as the unquestionable right move. Piazza then lifted the Mets into the postseason. Hundley, for all his contributions, is remembered as nothing more than the sacrificial lamb that made Piazza's arrival possible.
Reyes's legacy with the Mets will always be remembered as a fond and great one, but his next decision will either open a new chapter or start writing the epilogue. And the latter always seems to wind up with melancholy endings for those we hold dearest.