When the Mets signed Jose Reyes in June, I was disappointed. I was disappointed in the team, and the circumstances that led to the signing occurring. It was possibly the most disappointed I had ever been in the Mets as a franchise, which is saying something, because they’re the New York Mets. I was almost appalled that the team would essentially use a domestic violence incident as leverage to get a player on the cheap. I couldn’t accept that the Mets would value baseball wins and losses over setting a moral precedent about an issue that is greatly bigger than this dumb game.
I didn’t come close to “quitting” on my Mets fandom like some did, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t at least think about taking a little while off from watching and spending money on this team.
I didn’t think I’d be able to root for Jose Reyes again. Despite growing up with him as one of my childhood idols—which should serve as a lesson to anyone who idolizes professional athletes—the appreciation I had grown for him had completely dissipated, and with good reason. How could I root for a man who allegedly put his hands around the neck of his wife and slammed her against a glass door? How could I allow myself to accept that?
Sure, there were people who loved the signing of Jose Reyes, and celebrated his return. And that’s their prerogative. There is no right or wrong opinion to have of Jose Reyes. People who are willing to accept that he’s been punished already and look past the incident, or who are willing to separate the man from the player, aren’t necessarily bad people. We don’t actually know what happened in that hotel room in Maui, and we shouldn’t label a man who’s actually never been proven guilty as “guilty.”
But that was not the view I wanted to take. There are too many disturbing truths about domestic violence to let “innocent until proven guilty” stand as valid here. The number of unreported incidents is scary; the number of offenders who are never disciplined is disgusting. Those truths make it exceedingly difficult to shrug this off as a likely “one-time mistake.” We don’t know if it is. Additionally, the fact that Reyes has never denied that he committed what he is accused of makes it difficult to also just plead ignorance because we don’t know what happened for certain.
Sure, maybe Reyes has worked on himself as a man since that incident last October. And that’s fantastic for him if he has. But I don’t know Reyes as a man. I don’t know if he actually has.
That’s why, when Reyes made his “triumphant” return to Flushing, getting a rousing standing ovation as people sung the “Jose” song in his first at-bat, I was just emotionally detached from the whole situation. When Reyes hit his first home run back in Mets blue and orange, I was dispassionate. When he hit two home runs in a game against the Nationals a few days later, I was sighing more than I was celebrating.
But then some time passed. I got more and more used to Jose Reyes being back in a Mets uniform. I stopped viewing him as a problem; I stopped viewing him a symbol of the tendency in our society to forgive heinous actions as long as the culprit can play a sport really well. I started viewing Reyes as just another Mets player. I wasn’t rooting for him yet, but my outrage and disappointment had ceased.
Then one day, out of almost nowhere, it happened. There was a game that the Mets played in Philadelphia back in July. Reyes came up in a huge spot in the seventh inning, with the game tied at 2-2. There were two outs, and runners on second and third. The game was very much on the line here. And it was at this moment that I realized what I was doing: I was rooting for Jose Reyes. I wanted Reyes to get a hit. He walked, and the Mets wound up not scoring that inning, and would go on to lose that game, 4-2.
But I had realized what had just happened. For a few moments, I had forgotten about everything Jose Reyes had done off the field. I was rooting for the player on the Mets to get a hit with runners in scoring position. I told myself that I wouldn’t root for Jose Reyes, but I was rooting for Jose Reyes. I had reached ambivalence. For whatever reason, it was so easy to forget what happened. But it was so hard to accept that I had forgotten.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, it happened again while the Mets were in Arizona. This time it was a little different. Reyes cracked a ball to center field. Diamondbacks center fielder Michael Bourn ran back to the wall, leaped, and missed the ball. It hit off the wall, and bounced away from Bourn.
When this happened, I almost leaped off my bed. I was excited, because I knew what this meant. It was a patented Jose Reyes triple! Just like the old days! Look at him run! Players with speed on the Mets—this is fun!
Again, I realized a few moments later what had just happened. Even if just for a brief moment, Jose Reyes had made me excited. It was easy to forget what happened. It was hard to accept that I had forgotten.
I don’t quite know what that means about me as a person, but I can only imagine that I'm not the only one this has happened to. I'm sure there are others who thought they weren't going to be able to feel anything toward Jose Reyes in the future, but have had moments where their earlier disdain has gone away.
I don’t think it makes anyone a bad person to want Reyes to do well and get excited when he does good things. After all, we just want our Mets to succeed. It’s human nature, and this is not a simple situation. If it were, everyone would be able to agree about it. Unfortunately, few actually do agree. This is very confusing; this is what makes it so difficult.
So yes, it is hard to watch this guy play baseball on TV in front of millions of children, knowing the reason why he’s here in the first place. It’s hard to support him. Some may be different, but for countless people, it is easy to forget. It’s incredibly simple to see the laundry and accept him as a Met.
The hardest part of all, though, may be the realization that this is not going away. Reyes will be on the Mets for the rest of this season, and there’s a good chance that the Mets pick up his option and bring him back for the 2017 season. We will continue to watch Jose Reyes for the foreseeable future. We will continue to be conflicted. This isn’t even close to being over.