Monday, June 27, 2011

The Maturation Of Jose Reyes

As any Mets fan, let alone Jose Reyes fan, can attest to, the electric Mets SS is having a career year. I don’t usually like to use terms like that because it usually gives the impression that the one having a “career year” isn’t a good ballplayer. Mr. Reyes is a very good ballplayer, but most of us could never imagine him having a season like this. What is the genesis of this season?

There are a few opinions, all of which might be correct.

The most popular of these opinions is that for the first time in a few years Reyes is healthy. He has had neither leg issues nor thyroid issues that plagued him last year. He looks to be a couple of steps faster than a year ago, and by the accumulation of triples he’s hit this year, a Major League leading 14, that is a valid assumption.

Another valid opinion is that Reyes is in his walk year, and like many, he has his sights on a big payday at seasons’ end. I have never pictured Reyes as a money grub, but with the chance of making more money than he could have ever imagined as a 17 year old who used to use an old milk carton for a baseball glove, no one can blame him for wanting a fair market price. Reyes has still kept it real, by maintaining loyalty; loyalty to the Mets, and as importantly loyalty to his agent, Peter Greenberg, who could have been thrown by the wayside for Scott Boras.

Terry Collins. Reyes looks to be having more fun this year than any in recent history. Although no necessarily proven, I have always believed that Reyes didn’t enjoy playing for Randolph and his arrogance, or Manuel and his flip-flopping. With Collins, his intensity matches that of the flashy Mets shortstop. Reyes is on a mission, and that mission is not just money, but for the love of the game.

These points are all valid, but I believe the most important and most over-looked reason for Reyes break-out year is he is slowly becoming a leader on this team. Not the same type of leadership as Keith Hernandez displayed in the 80’s, no, a different type of leadership.

Reyes is now the old man of the infield with Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, Ike Davis, and Ruben Tejada all sharing time in the infield. In between innings, it is not out of the ordinary to see Reyes on the bench speaking with Tejada, Turner, or Murphy. This is maturation. Tejada has improved greatly as a Major League hitter this year, and I believe that Reyes’ mentoring has helped him; helped with the transition from AAA to the pros.

With Turner, especially when he was playing 2B, he would walk over to him in between pitches to go over strategy, or explain a situation.

The same with Murphy when he was playing 2B and struggling on the double play pivot. Reyes was there, constantly talking to him.

All this energy is rubbing off too. Granted, the Mets are only a .500 team, but his mates seem to love playing with him. Jose has always been the catalyst for this team, but when he gets on, no one is sitting on the bench. They are all on the top row, eager to see what he is going to do. It used to be just Reyes on the top step, the first one to congratulate a teammate after a homerun or key hit. Now the entire team is there to greet a player for a big play. Jose’s youthful exuberance has rubbed off on this team, and that is a plus.

Astonishingly Reyes is still behind Troy Tulowitski in the All Star voting, which would be a shame if Jose is elected to start, but I would gladly pay that price to see him take home the first MVP in Mets history.

Yes, Jose is having that great of a year, and yes, his maturation is a large reason for that. Jose keeps it simple. Jose keeps it real. Jose keeps it exciting.

As fans, let’s enjoy. Love him or hate him, come 2012, if he is wearing another uniform, he will sorely be missed. A talent such as his comes along once in a generation. Time to be thankful we’ve been able to enjoy it…especially this year.

Picture Source: ESPN

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