Satellite radio is amazing. I have been living on the weekdays in Raleigh, NC and driving back to my wife in Charlottesville on the weekends, putting me in the car for a good eight hours a week in an area that is just slightly too far south for Howie Rose and the Mets to reach even when the sun sets. As part of my new-found love of satellite radio channel surfing, I have listened to more sports talk radio in the last four weeks than I have in my last four years. Apparently, while I had been ignoring all non-internet sports media, I had forgotten how ridiculous most of it was.
I think what surprised me the most was the lazy dismissals by several radio hosts on three different stations of Jose Reyes 2011 season as a mere contract year mirage (I am going to plead ignorance on the names of these trolls). Basically, the gist of their complaints was, Jose Reyes may be leading the league in batting average, hits, runs, and triples, but he’s playing for a new contract so, we should somehow weight this production so as to get his TRUE talent level. Most of us here in the Amazin’ Avenue community know how special a player Reyes is and anyone with an ounce of sense watching the 2011 Mets realizes that he is probably the main reason the team is even sniffing around the .500 mark. Yet, I’m afraid that this incredible performance will be overshadowed in the wider sports world by this new type of asterisk. (Our own Matthew Artus showed the idiocy of this assumption better than I ever could here.)
We’re all familiar with baseball’s many legendary asterisks. Roger Maris wasn’t the true single season home run king because he played more games in the season than Babe Ruth. Barry Bonds’ home runs don’t count because he was on any number of steroids. But, what is happening to Reyes beats them all. Reyes isn’t cheating, he isn’t taking advantage of any changes in the baseball rules, he is just playing better than almost any other player in the National League. Even if there is an ounce of truth in the critics’ speculation and Reyes is somehow playing better than he otherwise could/would, do we really want to dismiss or degrade these sorts of market incentives? Should we give a metaphorical asterisk to every player with some kind of incentive clauses in his contract?
Rather than celebrating Reyes’ incredible first half, though, these contract year haters are using this to denigrate him. Should Reyes wind up winning the MVP, I doubt that this will be that big of a deal in Reyes' legacy. But, in order to get to that point, Reyes will likely have to overcome this curious obstacle. A reputation for only playing when there’s an imminent payday on the horizon could very easily wind up being a factor in a close MVP vote. Would you really put it past the BBWAA members factor in such unproveable drivel when casting their votes? Let’s just hope that the writers focus on the on-field production and not on their need to create false storylines.