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There Is No Replacement For Jose Reyes

There is an interesting juxtaposition among Mets fans that talk about things like trading Wright or letting Reyes walk.  The same people that justify this with statements about not competing for years and being in rebuilding mode seem offended that some (I’d say many) Mets fans suggest they’ll be much less interested in the Mets if Reyes leaves.

 

There’s always a lot of comparison, as well as attempts to avoid comparison, to the Yankees with the Mets.  They share a city and compete for the same entertainment dollar.   The common rhetoric among Mets fans is that the Yankees fans are front-running morons that only care about yelling about how many rings they’ve won and that Mets fans are truer fans that love the team, good or bad.   If a vastly diverse group of millions of Mets fans can agree on anything, it’s that Jose Reyes is a talented baseball player that’s fun to watch.   At what point does it stop being about watching your favorite players play your favorite game and start becoming about being a consistent winner?

 

What is baseball without the season, with the ups and downs of a 162 game scheduled filled with bad breaks and huge hits and the ebbs and flows of stress and emotion?  I don’t follow the Mets for optimal lineup constructions and high-value controlled commodities.  I watch the Mets because I love baseball and I’ve formed an attachment to the players that have worn the uniform year after year.  Jose Reyes is one of those players.  He’s a life-long Met and it’s hard to imagine him anywhere else.  The Mets have other good players, but there is something special about Jose Reyes and his fun-loving attitude.  Perhaps it’s the way he seems to love playing the game as much as we love watching him play it.

 

Sure it’s possible to make arguments about injury risks and long contracts that suggest perhaps giving Reyes too much money or too many years may be detrimental to the long term success of the franchise, but frankly I’d rather take my chances with Reyes.  Those risks exist with every player in every circumstance, and if you’re not going to take a chance with a fan-favorite and top of the line player at a sparse position, what are you even doing?   Reyes is already bordering on legendary Mets status, and that’s not something that comes along every day.   Mike Piazza came here when he was great, Dwight Gooden left in 1994 and Darryl Strawberry before him.  Ignoring that there is long-term financial value to having legends to invite back to Citi Field in the future, do we really want to let one walk away for what’s some kind of  ‘smart process of value contracts and prospect development’?  A couple more years and the Mets record book will be Jose Reyes’ biography, with a guest appearance by David Wright.

 

The Mets have struggled for years now with collapses followed by injuries followed by just about everything else.  Now you want to take the most exciting player on the team away too?   While I’ll always be a Mets fan, there comes a point when it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s easy to say that we need things to stabilize, for bad contracts to work their way off the payroll and for prospects to mature and contribute at the fraction of the cost, but in the meantime other teams are playing baseball and competing for the postseason and doing all sorts of wonderful things.  Taking seasons off is not the way to build a perennial contender.  Every year the Mets spend in rebuilding mode, defined by me as letting Reyes go and not replacing him with at least as much talent, is a year that customers find other ways to spend their entertainment dollar.  Some will go to the Yankees, some will switch to other sports.   Some will stop watching with their kids who will spend more time on video games, movies, or something else entirely.   Husbands will take their wives out to a nice dinner instead of to Citi Field, because maybe without Reyes, and winning, they don’t feel it’s worth the traffic and the rushing home from work.

 

Building a winner will eventually repair the damage, but even if you could guarantee repeated success it takes time to rebuild a fan base.  The Yankees had a healthy amount of fans show up, but even in 2000 they were 8th in total attendance.  The difference was that payrolls hadn’t yet skyrocketed to the levels they are at now.  The Yankees payroll in 2000 would be  the 13th highest payroll in 2011.  It was still possible for teams to maintain a rebuilding payroll and keep some talented stars while keeping revenues at or above payroll.  The way I see it, the Mets can’t easily get their payroll down that low, so they need to work on keeping revenues up.  Reyes can’t do it all by himself, but coupled with the right moves he could be the difference between the Mets raising attendance to 2.6 million or it dropping to 1.7.   Just in ticket prices alone, a swing like that more than pays Reyes salary per year.  Factor in revenue associated with advertising prices based on TV ratings and fans in the seats viewing them on the walls and it’s an even starker difference.   I find it hard to believe that having Jose Reyes playing baseball in New York can’t be profitable, and it’s certainly possible, even likely, that Jose Reyes can be a part of the success even four years from now.

 

There is never a guarantee that smart moves focused on the long term will lead to continued success.  There is no formula Sandy Alderson can follow that means the Mets will definitely be a perennial contender in 2014 and beyond.  Prospects, even highly touted ones, hurt themselves or flame out.  Free agent acquisitions that look like can’t misses age badly or under perform in a new environment.   Other teams in the division and/or league do a better job, or get luckier, in scouting and signing players and suddenly no one knows what the solution is for out-performing them.  It’s not hard to get into a cycle of suck like the Pittsburgh Pirates, constantly looking for All-Star prospects that maybe have a good year or two and than take off for greener pastures while the team struggles to even play at .500.  The best you can do is put yourself in a situation every year where the right set of circumstances gets you into the playoffs.  For the Mets that means keeping Jose Reyes.  It probably also means hoping Johan Santana stays on the field and is still pretty good at pitching, and that other players stay healthy as well.   It may be a long shot, but if you don’t keep yourself in the game you often miss opportunities.

 

I was at the game this year when Jose Reyes felt that first hamstring tightness and left the game.  It was a packed house for a Subway Series game, and Tejada jogging out to shortstop was like a punch in the gut.  I watched the rest of the game in a daze, barely caring about the result.   Reyes had such a great first half that there were road games in May that I was reminding myself to make sure I turned the game on in time, because Reyes would lead off and I might miss something special.  There are reasons to watch bad teams because even bad or average players hit for cycles, throw pitching gems, and smash home runs.  They can stage remarkable comebacks and rock opposing aces and there’s always the looming possibility that someone will throw that no-hitter.  Without Jose Reyes the chances of something magical happening go down.

 

Faith and Fear in Flushing, in an awards presentation to Jose Reyes, makes similar points and sums up my feelings pretty well in this quote.

except for habit and a lifetime of devotion, I can’t think of a good, rational reason to get squarely behind this team if you’re not on it.

November 10th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2012, Baseball, Citi Field, Mets
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Alderson: Mets Will Go Above And Beyond To Retain Reyes

It’s not all negative out there. 

By Centerfield / cranepoolforum.net

NEW YORK — Although it is not clear what it will take to retain Jose Reyes, the free-agent shortstop remains the Mets’ top priority this winter, and a recent interview with General Manager Sandy Alderson suggests that the Mets would be willing to surpass what the market bears in order to retain him.

November 1st, 2011 by Ceetar in 2012, Baseball, Mets
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Jose Reyes: An Easy Decision

This was originally a comment to a Mets Police post about ripping the Trade Reyes bandaid off, but I decided it deserved a post of it’s own. 

It’s really a simple decision.  Franchise players like Jose Reyes are very valuable, and it’d be especially silly to let him get away for anything but an absolute steal of a package, and even then I’d be reluctant.   This isn’t fantasy baseball; I, and other fans, develop emotional attachment to players and there is value and revenue in that.

Sign Reyes, and you keep a franchise player that the fanbase loves and will define and promote your franchise for, and this isn’t an exaggeration, 60+ years.  Keep one of the best players in the game at a premium position of which there is nothing close available on the market or in the minors. Finish the season at or above .500, regardless of if they can make a playoff push or not.   Have people believing 2012 will be better, that we’re already into year two of the ‘rebuilding’ process and things are good and people are buying season tickets.  The Mets (not the Wilpons) problem is not so much debt is it trying to get the revenue stream back above the level of what a competitive payroll is.  To do this they have to keep people interested in the Mets and coming to the park.  Who’s more interesting than Jose Reyes right now?

Or you can trade him or let him walk away, and finish below .500.  Show people that this is year one of the demolition process before rebuilding starts. Watch no one pay any attention to the Mets all offseason, and no one buy season tickets, or renew season tickets.  2.5million fans this year becomes 1.5million fans next year, and in 2013, and in 2014.. prices come down because no one’s going, revenue drops as a result, less demand on advertising space drops revenue there as well.  SNY becomes the Food Network; sure you’ll flip it on once in a while and see what’s cookin’, but it’s not worth DVRing.  In an age when it’s so very very easy to watch any team in the league, and with the Mets unwatchable, many fans start half-following the Giants or wherever Reyes ends up playing.  If MLB.TV existed when the Mets traded Seaver, how many Mets fans do you think would’ve purchased it to watch him pitch?  In 2013 the Mets sell out the Giants series at Citi with the stands awash of really faded Black Mets 7 shirts. The next series against the Phillies is empty, no one wants to see two bad teams play.  Citi Field feels empty without #7.

June 28th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, ceetar, Citi Field, Mets, Mets-Phillies rivalry
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League Leaders: Jose Reyes Watch

He’s second in hits in the league with 50. On pace for over 200.

Second in total bases behind Lance Berkman.

He leads the league in doubles. (Tied with Carlos Beltran at 12)

Has the most triples in the league with 6. (4th among active players)

Is 9th in batting average.

One off the league league for stolen bases.

Leads the league in extra base hits. 

He’s got an .855 OPS.

He’s only made two errors and is playing a great shortstop. (4th in Fielding Percentage)

Is only 27.  What team in their right mind would let someone like that get away?

May 11th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, Mets
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