It has all seemed to happen so fast. There has obviously been no shortage of Jose Reyes and what is he going to do columns written this season. Trying to predict or speculate what his future with the Mets will be is something that will rage on all season. Today, one thing became definitive: that Jose will not be negotiating with the team during the season. While I still believe, the Mets have a shot to sign him and that he will be with the team through the end of the season, today’s announcement sent me on a stroll down memory lane.
I would not say that I get overly philosophical or reflective, but there are some times, such as being an uncle and turning 28 years old that I become astonished with how fast time goes. In August of 2006, three days apart, the New York Mets bought out arbitration and a few years of free agency for their two homegrown stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright. Combined with the success of the team, the struggles of the Phillies, and the lack of a Yankees championship with their core getting older, this was a time for the Mets to move to the forefront of the area baseball scene.
While the Mets fell short ultimately in 2006 in the NLCS, the foundation was laid that started and ended with having two cornerstone, fan-favorite, terrific baseball players locked up to great contracts to solidify the left side of the infield for the next decade at least. If you polled a Mets fan, including myself, during this time period, it was probably about as a good as you had felt about a Mets situation in 20 years. With a very good team around them mixed with veterans and stars, predictions would range from annual playoff appearances to being in the mix for the World Series every year.
Not to mention, if you asked a Mets fan, what the contract situations for Reyes and Wright would be in 2011, most would assume that they would each have a Jeter-type deal and be Mets for life.
Everything I described in the previous few paragraphs is exactly why games are not won in baseball preview booklet or columns or through predictions. Since the 2006 season, the Mets have made zero World Series appearances. They are on their third manager. The Phillies have won a World Series, every division title since, and are basically the toast of the National League and MLB. The Yankees have also picked up a title in this span.
And of course, Reyes and Wright are operating under the same contracts with Reyes’ set to expire at the end of this year, and Wright with a year and club option left.
While Mets fans have become desensitized to the pain following several late-season collapses combined with the last two lost seasons, when you actually put this all in writing, it is quite depressing. The construction of the 2006 team was not perfect, but not many people would believe that the Mets could only get one playoff appearance during the span till now.
The unfortunate thing that happens when expectations are not met in sports is the questions that follow. Jose Reyes was questioned over the last few seasons after being riddled with injuries and inconsistencies. David Wright has been questioned as being a guy who is better served as being second banana for a top team. From contract till now, Wright has made every All-Star game, won 2 Gold Gloves, and two Silver Sluggers, while Reyes has made two All-Star games and led the NL in hits one time.
The whole thing has been like a rocky relationship with a girl. When you look at the big picture, there have been some great moments, but have the negatives outweighed the positives? At the same time, though, going through the day in and day out of this relationship, could you imagine being without these two players on the team?
The questions that will be debated about this version of the Mets are the wonder if too much was placed on the backs of these two players, and if they were as good as they were made out to be?
My feeling is a bit of frustration and the feeling of unfinished business. These two have been on this team for so long now that they seem like grizzled vets, but they are still under 30 years old. Reyes is playing at an elite level this season, but is it just a one year mirage or has he put it all together? Wright, for me, is a guy that needs to be surrounded with another big-time player, but still an All-Star level player.
With a new regime in place, and some other young players (Ike, Pelfrey, Niese) to go along with veterans (Santana, Beltran, K-Rod), maybe there are some other faces on the franchise, but this is Reyes’ and Wright’s team. Just as questions arise and finger-pointing starts when losing persists, the next reality is a core that gets broken up when a team with this payroll and these expectations continues to lose. While the blame is not completely on the backs of these two players, creating a new identity often comes next.
This is not all meant to be doom and gloom at finger-point at these two players, but the identity of the team has been pinned on them and the team has not gotten it done. The X-Factor of 2011 is Reyes will go into free agency first, and despite the past TEAM failures, he is playing at about as high a level as you can possibly play at, which will make life extremely interesting for Sandy and the front office as to whether they are ready to break the bank and not get the same discount they got last time on Reyes. Wright will follow after 2013, unless of course traded first.
Again, I know these two players are extremely talented guys that most teams would froth at the mouth for. The thoughts I have been pondering all day is whether it is in the Mets’ best interest to roll the dice and build long-term again with these two guys. Last time, it cost under 100 million dollars to lock both guys up. This time, you are looking at well over 200 million dollars combined.
Long story short, the stakes are much higher if the front office decides to do it again. That for me is the most painful part of this; not being able to take advantage of having cornerstone players locked up affordably with the money to spend elsewhere. No playoff appearances since 2006 is unacceptable.
Wright’s contract is a little bit down the road, and he is not in the limelight at the moment being on the DL, but there will be 7000 more Reyes articles before years end.
The new regime is regarded as cerebral and prepared in assessing a player’s worth. They were dealt an impossible situation in deciding whether to retain two beloved players. They will have to use every ounce of their ice cold player evaluating to try and get this decision right. While Mets fans will profess their adoration for both players, the front office will have the onus on them to determine the right course all with ownership financial uncertainty.
Reyes has made his bid for huge money, and it remains to be seen what Wright will do. Either way, this love affair has been filled with every up and down, and now it’s up to all sides to decide if they want to run this back once more.
The decision will shape the careers of Reyes, Wright, and the Alderson regime, as well as the next 10-15 years of the New York Mets