Jose Reyes was home and when he left the press conference room at Citi Field late Tuesday afternoon, he embraced Jay Horwitz the longtime New York Mets head of media relations. It was like he never left home, and perhaps he should have never walked away at the time and take that lucrative contract with the Marlins.
Those close to the 33-year old infielder said he was never happy away from New York But the lucrative game of baseball, and the Mets not willing at the time to give Reyes that super contract, sent one of the most popular all-time Mets packing. And when Reyes left, the Mets did their best with Ruben Tejada at shortstop, a ticking time bomb in Jordanny Valdepsin, a parade of others and Wilmer Flores.
Now, at least for the moment, Flores has been dispatched to play second, first, and have a role off the bench, and Reyes will get some playing time as well in the infield and with some starts in center.
But one thing is certain: Mets fans, even manager Terry Collins should not expect this version of Jose Reyes to be the speedster, or guy who got on base and became the catalyst of a lineup. Reyes may still have something or two left and give the Mets a top of the lineup table setter that has been missing since he was gone.
So there he was three hours prior to game time.Many different faces among the media, and a roster of Mets that he never payed with. They embraced him, said Collins and Reyes was like his old self kidding and with that smile.
“I know there are some people who are going to hate me,” Reyes said when asked about any resentment of returning home, this after serving a Major League Baseball suspension for domestic violence abuse.
He was not asking for sympathy, but a second chance as many in sports and society have been granted. Reyes is no different from being a part of society and there are those on social media, many Mets and baseball fans, who will never forgive his actions of reportedly pushing his wife through a glass window in Hawaii.
“I put myself in that situation, like I’ve said before. But people who know me from the bottom of their heart, they know I’m not that kind of person. I’m a human being. Human beings make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. You have to learn from the mistakes.”
And with that, it was time to play baseball Travis d’Arnaud gave Reyes his old No. 7. Collins had Reyes, as planned in the leadoff spot and playing third. He is supposed to be the catalyst to a lineup that had trouble scoring runs, that is until the Chicago Cubs came to town and got swept in four games.
The Mets scored runs in those four games and hit the homerun ball,ten of them combined in two of the games. But Reyes was never a home run hitter during his first tenure in New York. He would spark the threat with a leadoff walk, hit, or bunt his way on.
Reyes put on that Mets uniform for the first time since 2011. But this is a different and older player and Mets fans can’t expect the same, nor does the manager Terry Collins. There were four at bats and he was not able to get on base, and was not a catalyst as the Mets lost to the Miami Marlins 5-2.
But it was good seeing old Number 7 again in the lineup, and to many, he should have never left town.
Third base is an adjustment and he did not get a play, except for receiving throw from D”Arnaud in the eighth on a Marlins steal.
He said: “When you go to your house and you go home, it doesn’t matter where you sleep. If you’re in the kitchen. Bathroom, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to feel comfortable, right? So this is my home.
Everywhere he (Collins) puts me, I’m going to be happy. I’m going to perform the best that I can to help this ballclub win a game every single day. Every time I step on the field.”
And if it does not work out, the Mets can release Reyes and say they gave him the chance. But if Reyes gets on base, the Mets with the fewest stolen bases in baseball can generate those runs that Reyes used to construct.
“He has enough time,” said Collins. “He knows what it’s like to play in the Major Leagues. He’ll calm down and get in the flow.” The manager was commenting about the first night of Jose Reyes back home.
“People have to understand when I was here, I was the guy who was stealing 60 bases,” Reyes said. Now I’m 33. But I can still run a little bit. Last year I stole 24 bases. That’s good. That’s something I’m going to bring to this ballclub. A little bit of speed. Like I said, people don’t get too crazy. Don’t expect that i’m going to steal 60 bases.”
He is the franchise all-time base steals leader, so naturally those expectations are there. But Reyes gave the proper answer and defended himself by saying, that time has passed and he is that different player. Maybe a little slower but still a team player even if his off field incident has tarnished the image.
And, Reyes did have some butterflies as they say, similar to a big league debut. The crowd just settled in and gave him a standing “O” in his first at bat, and some started that known chant of “Jose…Jose…Jose.”
It wasn’t loud, or like the Jose Reyes at bats that were standard when he made an impact at Shea Stadium and in the beginning years of Citi Field.
“I’m disappointed I didn’t get any hits either,” he said. “But it is what it is. Hopefully tomorrow, I get some opportunities. But I was ready. Today was a little bit different because it was my first game back. I was a little bit extra pumped. Tomorrow I think I’m going to be more settled down.
Reyes knows there is hate and said, “I’m a human being. We all make mistakes.” Yes, we all make mistakes in all walks of life, and for now Jose Reyes will hear the crowd again in New York, the good and bad.
And if he generates that excitement again, all is forgiven.
Comment Rich Mancuso [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso