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Friday, September 30, 2011

Reyes: The pursuit of a batting title vs. avid fans

It was the final Met game of the season and the last of my 20-game ticket plan, a season ticket plan that I have purchased for at least the last decade, maybe longer.

Even though I am a sportswriter for a living, I am also a diehard Met fan. Purchasing that ticket plan and going to as many games as possible during the summer represents my vacation, my solace, my release.

On Wednesday, I debated whether I should go to the final game of the year. I was going alone. The weather looked grim at best. I almost bagged it entirely.

But then I remembered one thing. Not only was it the final game of the season, but it was also going to be the last game that one of my favorite Mets of all time, Jose Reyes, was going to be in a Met uniform.

Sure, there's still hope that Reyes will re-sign with the team, but the reality of the situation points to the talented All-Star shortstop playing somewhere else in 2012.

The Mets organization keep saying that they would love to have Reyes come back, but GM Sandy Alderson is also saying that the team will operate with a smaller payroll next year, probably in the $100 million range.

Well, the team is already on the hook for $25 million for Johan Santana and $16 million for Jason Bay. I'm no math wizard, but it doesn't leave a lot left over for the remaining 23 players and Reyes is going to demand $20 mill a year, there's even less. It seems to me that the Mets are grooming Ruben Tejada to be Reyes' low-priced permanent replacement.

So this could very well have been Reyes' last game as a Met. I then decided to go to the game and cheer for Reyes at every chance, every at-bat, every appearance.

When they announced the starting lineup, I loudly started the "Jose, Jose, Jose" chant and did so for the first inning, as he went out onto the field, as he made his first plate appearance.

And then, Reyes gets a bunt single, reaches first base and was quickly replaced for a pinch-runner. So much for the cheering him at every at-bat. He had one.

Immediately, I didn't know who made the decision to take Reyes out of the game. At first, I thought it was manager Terry Collins' decision. As much as I adore Collins as a manager (only the fourth real manager the franchise has ever enjoyed), I was livid that he took Reyes out.

I mean, it ruined the team's chances to compete that day. The lineup already resembled something that would be unaccepted at Class AAA Buffalo and now the leader of the team was out before the game even started.

And I was mad at Collins for denying the diehard Met fans (like me) a chance to cheer for Reyes as many times as possible.

But as I drove home from CitiField, I heard the post-game press conferences and realized it was Reyes who asked to come out, because he wanted the batting title.

And then, I got mad at Reyes. Because the batting title obviously meant more to him than giving the diehard Met fans one last chance to give him adoration.

I got mad because in pursuit of a batting title, Reyes forgot about his teammates, his manager and more importantly, the fans who came to see him and wanted to see his team end a disappointing season with a victory.

And I wondered whether Reyes was truly worthy of the adoration he received from fans, especially if he never thought about them when he opted out of the last game.

When Reyes was at his best, there was no more electrifying player in the game. There was nothing better than watching him dash around the bases in pursuit of a triple, then getting up and doing ''The Claw" in appreciation. Reyes got everyone going with a stolen base, a diving grab deep in the hole at short. His energy and level of excitement when he was not at the plate or in the field was also a joy, high jumping into a teammate, inventing a new greeting and handshake.

I loved the old "Profesor Reyes" clips on the scoreboard, teaching everyone how to speak Spanish. How else would I have known that "La tortuga es muy lenta," which translated means, "The turtle is very slow."

He was a joy to watch and I was so happy he was mine.

But now, I have a different feel, like I just sipped a glass of sour milk. I don't know what to think. I know Reyes doesn't think he did anything wrong and that's the main reason why I'm so pissed.

He shortchanged his team by being selfish and he stuck it to the fans that totally adored him for not playing for them.

It would be like Richard Kiley leaving his last performance of "Man of La Mancha" without singing "Impossible Dream." Or like Billy Joel stepping off stage at a concert after singing "Piano Man."

Jose Reyes gave us nine seasons, some of which were injury-plagued, but he left us with a lot of solid memories. I was there for his first home game in 2003 and I was there for his last game in 2011.

But if that's the way we're left to remember Reyes, then that's sad. Congrats, you got a batting title, the first Met to ever do so. But you disappointed a lot of people in the process, including perhaps literally the biggest fan he had. Literally, of course.

And just by the way Alderson is talking, I have to believe Reyes is going elsewhere and we're left to cheering for Ruben Tejada. He's a good player. But he's no Jose Reyes.


I cannot believe how fickle the Boston Red Sox are. They collapse down the stretch and they make Terry Francona the scapegoat? Fire Francona for what happened? Do you not remember that he was the guy who brought you a World Series title for the first time since like 1900-something and he then backed it up with another three years later?

I'm not a Red Sox fan by any means. Their pompous ''we're better than you'' attitude, which permeates from the front office to the players and definitely the fans, is downright annoying and sickening.

But Francona was the epitome of grace and class, no matter what was happening around him. He was someone you could root for among the "Red Sox Nation" madness. Now, they show him the door.

Well, he wasn't the one who signed John Lackey, Carl Crawford and Daisuke Matsusaka to ridiculous contract. He didn't break Kevin Youkilis' back and pull his groin. He didn't hurt Buckholtz. He didn't choke. The players did.

Just goes to show you how fickle people can be. Francona will land on his feet somewhere. As for the Red Sox, we all know how teams that blow huge leads in September fare after they blow it. Need proof? Look how good the Mets have been since the collapses in 2007 and 2008. They've been super.

The idea that Kobe Bryant announcing he would play in Italy would actually help the idiotic owners and players solve the ridiculous NBA lockout is just insane. One doesn't have anything to do with the other.

I had hopes that the Rams would be a playoff contender this year. Well, three weeks into the new season and so much for that. When do the pitchers and catchers report for spring training anyway? I shouldn't feel that way, because Wednesday night was the most thrilling night of baseball I've ever seen, but now, as the playoffs begin, there's really nothing to get excited about.

Well, maybe there is. My adopted home away from home, Milwaukee, is buzzing with Brewer fever, the first time since I was there as a student at Marquette in 1981 and 1982, with "Harvey's Wallbangers."

So, with that in mind, GO BREWERS!!!!


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