This is #2 of 5 Key Mets Players for the 2008 Season.
It seems like a bit of a recurring theme for these Key Mets, but it's valid. After a great 2006 season, these players regressed in similar spots in 2007.
Jose Reyes is a prime example of this.
In 2006, Reyes seemed to have the Baseball World at his fingertips. The season he put together led all of us to believe that he would only get better and better as his career progressed. To go along with his .300 BA, Jose boasted a .354 OBA, 19 HRs, 64 steals and a whopping 81 RBI out of the leadoff spot. He hit for the Cycle in June, 3 HRs in a game in August, and an exciting play pretty much on a daily basis. The smiles, the handshakes and the winning attitude permeated throughout the Mets dugout.
And in 2007, while the SB numbers remained lofty, it seemed like Reyes regressed.
After starting off April looking every bit like he was going to smash the career highs he'd set in '06, all of a sudden Reyes drifted into a funk, beginning at the end of May, that lasted through the remainder of the season. And suddenly, with Reyes not getting on base and creating havoc and runs, the rest of the team seemed rather lost. Even worse, it seemed like Reyes wasn't enjoying himself. There was the much-publicized benching by Willie Randolph in July after Reyes failed to run out a ground ball. Line drives were caught. He wasn't hitting grounders. His swing looked completely screwed up, like he was trying to uppercut the ball. This was a bad habit Reyes had gotten into earlier in his career. It had appeared he'd righted the problem, but fell into it again as he obviously became more frustrated in '07. I've made the argument that Reyes could have been slightly jealous over all the ink Endy Chavez got for his HR against the Yankees. Whether or not that's true, or just another of my cockamamie theories is moot at this point. Whatever it was, Reyes did very little of what he was expected to do in '07, and was a prime culprit of the lazy, listless play the team displayed at the end of the season.
His low moment, perhaps, could have been in the 9th inning of the September 25th game against Washington. With the Mets miserably trailing the Nationals 10-3, Reyes was seen laughing and smiling on the field as the team crumbled. Gary Cohen noticed this and promptly tore Reyes a new one on SNY. Howie Rose did the same on WFAN. How could Reyes be laughing when he's been the picture of lackluster play? Reyes came up in the last of the 9th and whacked a 3-run HR, leading to a furious 6-run rally, a day late and a run short. It was frustrating to watch, but when Reyes appeared to behave like a petulant moody teenager, it bordered on the unacceptable. On the final day of the season, Reyes was among those booed the loudest and the longest. And although I rarely condone booing your own players, this time, it was deserved.
Following the season, Reyes deservedly took a lot of heat for his performance. It was suggested that Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph needed to give Reyes a stern talking to about keeping his focus and remembering what his responsibility to the team is. The revelation that came out, echoed in a December New York Times article, was that Reyes was exhausted by the end of the season, but refused to sit, and refused to discuss his need to sit with his manager. The blame for this falls both on Willie and Reyes, Willie for not recognizing it and sitting Reyes for a day or two here and there, and Reyes for not being up front about it. When Reyes was tired, he lost focus, and when he lost focus, he made dumb mistakes and fell into bad habits.
Clearly, this can't repeat itself if the Mets are going to return to prominence in 2008.
Reyes, like most of the Mets position players, reported to camp early this year, and one of the encouraging signs we've seen out of him so far is accountability. That is, he's willing to admit to, and accept his role in last season's collapse. "I lost focus. That's Baseball," he says. "It happened at a bad time, and hopefully, it won't happen again."
True, but with all that's been said, by Willie, by Omar, and by Reyes himself, it's incumbent upon him to make sure that it won't happen again. Without Reyes providing the spark for this team, getting on base, being a smart baserunner and showing sound fundamentals, the Mets are screwed.
Jose Reyes knows what he has to do. Now he's got to shut up and do it.