MY GOODBYE TO JOSE REYES.
Tuesday night, I sat in the first row of the promenade reserved infield, leaned over the railing, held my breath and watched Jose Reyes on third base, a base he had obtained by getting a single and then strolling over to second on a throwing error and then, of course, stealing third base. This was after watching Jose Reyes make the Home Run Apple light up not once but twice, improbably, impossibly, twice – once was amazing but twice just felt supersonic.
And now he was doing what he does best, which is annoy pitchers as he dances while taking a healthy lead down the baseline. He is dancing down the third base line like he is going to steal home and he totally unnerves Aroldis Chapman, flame throwing Aroldis Chapman, and the fans who are in the ballpark erupt in a cheer without aid of scoreboard idiocy and I murmur, wouldn’t that be something? In this 3/4 empty ballpark on the second to last night of the season, wouldn’t that be something?
Wouldn’t that be something, indeed.
But watching Jose Reyes play day after day for the 7 years I have personally watched Jose Reyes play day after day has been something. He is infectious and electric. As goes Reyes, so go the Mets, and as stale a cliche as it was it was also 1000% true, for better and for worse. I loved the dancing and the handshaking and the triples and the base stealing, the claw and the spotlight and the dreadlocks and Profesor Reyes teaching us spanish, I loved watching him distract pitcher after pitcher as he would take a lead and he would dance back and forth and you can throw over to first or second as much as you like, he’s going and you can’t stop him. I loved watching Air Reyes as he leapt into the air to retrieve errant balls heading into the outfield, loved watching him zoom the balls back across the infield, 6-3 or 6-4-3, you are out, and that is Jose Reyes.
“We have Jose Reyes, and you don’t,” became our watchword at one point. I have sat next to fans at road games out of town who booed him one minute and the next were telling me that they had a tshirt at home with his name and number on it. He is the player every fan disses but in the next breath talks about having on their team next year. He is the guy that drives the Phillies and their fans bananas. He is not Derek Jeter, and we do not care. We don’t want him to be Derek Jeter. We want him to be Jose Reyes, and he is.
I am not going to talk about the things that I do not love, like injuries or errors, because that is not my job, that is not what I want to write about, because that is not interesting to me, because that is not what I am going to remember, because that is not what matters. I am going to remember Jose poised just off of first base and keeping Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard or Mark Teixeira on their toes. I am going to remember Jose sitting on the top step of the dugout, standing on the top step, being the first one up to congratulate whoever was coming back to the dugout. I am going to remember Jose and David Wright, cigars in hand, coming out to the fans the night the Mets clinched the NL East.
I was lucky I was there on the second to last day and not the last day, even though we have been there for the last days since 2006. (It was a day game; work is crazy; it is a holiday week; it is dumb to have all the final games be day games; fuck the Wilpons and MLB, you’re not getting any more money.) I spent the morning being angry at the Mets for pulling Jose, and then still being angry at the Mets for letting Jose take himself out: he answers to Terry Collins, and was there no one around that could have said, hey, I get it, but there are a lot of people here today and they came to see you and maybe we can do this better than the way you are asking us to do this. I also know that no matter what happened, if Jose Reyes had taken himself out of the game because there was an accident on the Grand Central Parkway and there was a burning school bus full of orphaned children and he ran to the burning bus and singlehandedly saved each and every child all we would read was how Derek Jeter would have done it differently. (Seriously sometimes I think the Mets front office says, “No matter how we play this we’re screwed, so fuck it, just do whatever you want, it won’t matter anyway.”)
And now I am doing the thing I didn’t want to do, which was write about the things I wasn’t interested in writing about. I do not want to write about what might happen next, because we don’t know, no one knows. I have gone from “He’ll be back” to “They don’t have the money” to a kind of calm acceptance. There is nothing I can do about it. TBF has gone through a similar continuum, but we both end at the same place, which is that it will be very hard for us to give the Mets any money for baseball tickets next year if Jose Reyes is not back. It will be hard to go to games, it will be hard to watch games, it will be hard to watch him with whatever other colors he has on his back — and of course, there is a continuum there as well, with pinstripes and South Philly red being a fate worse than baseball death.
I scored Tuesday’s game so carefully because I wanted to make sure I had that scorecard from the last night I saw Jose Reyes as a Met. Jose Reyes made me proud to be a Mets fan, made me cheer, made me scream, made me jump, made me love baseball even more.
Buena suerte y gracias, Jose. Muchas gracias.