Last June, some smart guy wrote that it would be a mistake to bring Jose Reyes back to the Mets. That guy was rarely happier to be wrong. In face of major injuries to David Wright and Lucas Duda, along with nagging aches and pains to Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, Reyes proved just the tonic the floundering offense needed. At the same time, he was able to rehabilitate his image after his suspension for allegedly violating MLB’s domestic violence policy. For most of the summer, he was the Reyes we remembered from 2003 to 2011: smiling, inventing handshakes, playing terrifically at a new position, enjoying the game again. Toward the end of his run in Toronto and certainly during his short stint in Colorado, he had taken on the look of the hunted. The smile was replaced by a scowl and the exuberant play had given way to listlessness and torpor. Arriving back in New York – back “home” – seemed to revive him. It definitely revived the team. Reyes was one of the key components to a squad that had to roll hard from mid-August to the end of September in order to secure a Wild Card playoff spot. But if you look a little more closely at Reyes’s numbers down the stretch, you may see something slightly different.
After going four-for-five in an August 30 win over Miami, Reyes’s slash line stood at .300/.344/.493/.837. From that day to the end of the season, he lost 33 points off his batting average, 18 off his OBP and 50 off his slugging, ending the regular season at .267/.326/.443/.769. While the enthusiasm was still there, the skills were diminishing. He was able to contribute and still had his moments, of course – see the September 22 game vs. the Phillies at home – but overall, his decline was evident if you cared to look. In the heat of a playoff run, most of us were just enjoying the ride, not interested in looking any deeper at what was driving it. Now, we’re forced to look.
2017 began for Reyes with literally the worst stretch of his career. As of this writing, Reyes has gone five-for-fifty-three to begin the year. He has been dropped from the leadoff spot and hasn’t yet attempted a stolen base. His slash line 15 games into the season is almost too painful to type, but here it is: .094/.183/.132/.315. And this isn’t even discussing his egregious gaffes in the field and on the base paths in a painful loss to Philadelphia two nights ago. Worse yet, facing another bizarre domestic situation, he looks hunted again. The smile is infrequent, the dancin’ handshakes look forced. Yes, he’s a veteran who’s earned the benefit of the doubt. Terry Collins said as much, willing to give Reyes at least another 60 to 80 at bats to see if he can get straightened out. It remains to be seen whether or not he can.
We all saw how Willie Mays looked at the end of the line. I fear Jose Reyes may be at a similar point.
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