Jose Reyes and the Cardinal Sports Sin

Only in sports are employees expected to do their jobs for the love of the profession. One of the worst things you can say about an athlete is that s/he only does it for the money. Suggest that to a player and you will be met with angry denials and protests that no, they do care about the game, they do want to win, their fans really are the greatest fans in the world.

We don't expect this from any other facet of the entertainment industry (and sports are one facet of that industry, even if that's difficult to keep in perspective at times). People would question your sanity if you demanded that Tom Cruise act in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol purely for the love of cinema. That's because people don't believe in their films the way they believe in their teams, which are attached to civic pride, tradition, and million other intractable emotional triggers.

I am sure there are other athletes out there who have said things as bad or worse than what Jose Reyes allegedly admitted to Marlins president David Samson. In case you missed it, Samson shared that Reyes confessed to him it wasn't the Marlins' organization and chances to win that attracted him to the team so much as the amount of money they were going to pay him.

Let's leave aside for a moment that Reyes' remarks were in a private conversation we never should have heard about. (Good job, Samson, airing your biggest star's dirty laundry before he's even played a game for you. That's some real Marlins brand of class.) Whether we should have heard this or not, there's no getting this toothpaste back in the tube. Knowing this, we can't unknow it. The sad fact is, we can only suppose that other players say such things, whereas we know for sure that Reyes did.

I don't begrudge Reyes earning as much money as he can when he can. Considering the nature of his game, who knows when his legs might blow up for good and his opportunity to earn big bucks is gone? Who reading this wouldn't leave their current job if a new one paid them slightly more money? Unless you decried the Mets taking advantage of poorer teams for the last 15 years (see: Piazza, Delgado, Santana), it's somewhat hypocritical of fans to now denounce a team like the Marlins for "buying" players or Reyes for being "greedy."

All this being said, Reyes' remarks don't paint him in the greatest light. It was not that long ago Reyes complained publicly that the Mets never gave him a formal offer, ascribing his signing in Miami to that lack of attention. He acted hurt that the Mets didn't make him feel loved in the free agent process, whereas the Marlins showed up at his doorstep with a jersey with his name on it the second he was no longer Mets property. The Mets were ripped to shreds in the press for stringing their fans along, for not showing due diligence that could have kept him in Queens. Maybe if they'd shown Reyes more love, everyone said, Reyes would still be a Met. Barring that, the front office should have been more honest about not "loving" him (because as we all know, the most successful front offices are the ones that telegraph their every move).

The truth was, all the Mets really needed to show Reyes was $1 more. Again, he's entitled to as much money as he can get as long as he can get it. But it's a bit shabby for Reyes to pretend he was looking for more love and affection from Sandy Alderson when he was looking for more money, period. Reyes seems like the kind of person who wants to be loved, and perhaps this was just the reaction of someone who couldn't stand the thought of being blamed by fans for leaving New York.

Of course, in order to look at this way, you have to assume Samson's account is accurate, which "sources close to Reyes" have already denied, according to Andy Martino of the Daily News. I'm not sure why Samson would pull such a damning quote out of thin air (or why he'd say it all,regardless of how true it is). So I'd guess the truth is somewhere in the middle: Reyes did feel genuinely slighted by the Mets' seeming inattention to him once he became a free agent, but he was going to follow the cash regardless. It's not that I fault him for either of these impulses; it's just that I'd rather not hear about them.

I always thought that no matter where Reyes wound up, he would remain a favorite of Mets fans. In light of these revelations, I'm not so sure. Chasing after the money remains a cardinal sports sin; just ask Mike Hampton. It is unfair, perhaps, but then so is losing one of your franchise's best home grown players to a team whose president jokes about conning a city into building a stadium. We can only take solace in the thought that, if history is any indication, Reyes will probably be a Marlin for two years tops before the franchise dismantles once more, then threatens to move to Las Vegas or San Antonio or the moon.

Right now, the relationship between Reyes and the Mets has the feel of the early stages of an ugly divorce, with fans the kids caught in the middle. All the stuff has been split up, mom's got a new boyfriend, dad's got his own place, and each parent keeps asking you about the other one when everyone involved is much better off just moving on.

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