Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Joie de Vivre

This is #5 of 5 Key Mets Players for the 2010 season.
I know late June isn't exactly the time to start talking about Key Mets Players, but, you see, this is a special case.

I couldn't quite land on who the 5th and final Key Met should have been for the current season. There were too many players who held too important a role to pick just one. Plus there just wasn't enough excitement to really get it up. If the team was sort of haphazardly thrown together, then why exert more energy than necessary. The team was un-finished and my list went un-finished.

However, almost halfway through the season, it's clear who this 5th Key Met is. It's Jose Reyes.

Last season, after Reyes disappeared in May and didn't return, the sentiment towards Reyes, which was tenuous to begin with, seemed to be reaching an alarming level of negativity. Most people I spoke to were tired of Reyes being all sizzle and no steak, and basically considered this season his last chance. And when he came back from his injury and his Thyroid issue and struggled, the naysayers were ready to pounce. "How long before we can just say he sucks?" people were asking. "What sort of trade value do you think he has?"

But eventually, the switch flipped for Reyes. Sometime in late May, those popups turned into line drives, and those line drives started to find gaps, and suddenly, it's 2006 again and Reyes is flying all over the place, leaping and clapping and everything's right with the world. It was a more mature Reyes now, though. You could see it. After he hit a HR against Philadelphia on May 26th, a laser beam into the Mets bullpen, Reyes didn't get homer happy, as he used to do. Instead, that swing stayed level. He kept swinging for line drives, and getting them. Not surprisingly, with Reyes on base, the guys behind him started hitting too, and the end result is that the Mets have been winning games. This was the recipe. Jose Reyes gets on base, makes people sweaty and uncomfortable, and scores a bunch of runs, spurring the Mets on to victory.
More heartening, however, has been the role that Jose has taken on on this ballclub. Because he still exudes that same youthful energy that he's had his entire career, it's easy to forget that he's not a kid anymore. He turned 27 earlier this month, and he's now in his 8th season in the Major Leagues. He's a cornerstone of this era of the Mets, and I think he's begun to realize that. The handshakes and the dancing are still there, and Jose is still Jose, but it seems like he has become a clear leader on this team. You don't see him pop out of the dugout to high-five anyone, now he's staying down the stairs and waiting for people to come back to him. He's smiling, but he's keeping it amongst friends. I still think other players around the league probably don't like him, but that seems to affect him less and less. He's made errors, he's had bad days, but you don't see him pouting or throwing his glove anymore. The energy will probably never go away, but I'm really starting to believe that Reyes is maturing as a person, something we all knew he needed to do in order to succeed. It started when he admitted losing focus, admitted letting things get to him more than they should and letting his exuberance come before his performance. These are things that we're not seeing out of Jose Reyes this season. This season, all I've noticed is that once he came back, he offered no excuses, he's just shut up and played baseball. And as of late, he's been playing baseball pretty damn well.
When we started this blog, we said that Jose Reyes was the most Ballclub player in the Major Leagues, that is, he's the guy who not only plays well, but genuinely looks like he's having fun out there. But for a few seasons, that guy wasn't showing up. It looks like this guy is coming back now. We like that guy. The Mets did really well when he was around. I hope he stays a while.

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