McDonald: Mets Jose Reyes Playing Center Field Is No Slam Dunk

Much the same way home run apples and power starting pitching represent everything Mets, putting infielders in the outfield is an Amazin’ move that dates back a generation.

Remember the good old days when Keith Miller and Howard Johnson graced center field of Shea Stadium? Yeah, that didn’t go very well.

Then there was the Daniel Murphy experiment, when he was in left field when he came up. This was 2009 right during the birth of Twitter and the .GIF of him misplaying a fly ball in Philadelphia ran rampant on the new social media platform.

And don’t forget  when the Mets moved Todd Hundley to left and put Mike Piazza at first base. Okay, you may want to forget those.  

So you would think the Mets would have learned their lesson by now. But, here comes the news about Jose Reyes’s shiny new center fielder’s glove he is getting for Christmas.

No way Jose.

“Jose is going to have an opportunity to play a lot of different positions this year,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “Obviously it will depend on injury status and availability and so forth.”

Reyes, who is just happy to be playing in New York, seems to be ready.

“I’m ready to do whatever they ask me to do,” said Reyes at the Mets annual Holiday Party. “In the beginning, when I signed here last year, they told me the same thing — that they’ll put me in the outfield a little bit. It doesn’t happen last year, but maybe (in 2017), it’s gonna happen.”

Look, we get it. If David Wright comes back, Reyes has no place to play and he is the Mets’ best leadoff hitter. With both Azdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker back next season, you have to play Reyes somewhere.

With Yoenis Cespedes and (probably) Curtis Granderson on the corners, Reyes can play center.

Either that or you have him catch.

Now the last time Reyes played the outfield was in 2000 at Rookie Ball Kingsport. Because the Mets had Enrique Cruz manning short, Reyes was put out in left field. Although he said, he doesn’t remember how he played, he was never asked to move again. So you figure he wasn’t Juan Lagares in left.

“After that, I never played that position (again),” Reyes said. “We’re going to try in spring training and see what happens. In Kingsport, when I started to play, the first week I don’t play too much. They (didn’t) have a position for me. They had some good prospect (Cruz at shortstop).”

And that’s going to be the real trick here. It’s easier for a younger player to try and change position. That’s what the minors is all about, but when you have to do a position change in the big leagues, it becomes much more difficult. First, every mistake is magnified, since every play is televised. And secondly, you are teaching an old dog new tricks.

Last season, Reyes, after playing most of his career at short, moved over to third and performed pretty well. But there were times he looked lost out there and made his share of mistakes. But that was moving over to a position 30 feet away.

Now he will have to learn an entirely new position.

“It’s hard to remember for me because that’s 16 years ago. I don’t even know if I (got) any pop-ups,” said Reyes. “I’m looking forward to the experience. I’m just doing whatever this team needs me to do. I’m going to be open to do it.”

Now, unlike Miller, Johnson, and Murphy, Reyes is a better athlete and could do the Robin Yount transition. But remember, Yount is a Hall of Famer and the rare exception to the rule.

And one reason why the Mets want Reyes in center is because they don’t want to burn Curtis Granderson’s legs out there.

However, Reyes is 33 and not the same speedster as he used to be.

“I don’t have the same speed like I used to,” he said.”Right now my legs feel good. If I’m gonna play baseball, (and) worry that I’m gonna get hurt, I don’t produce the way that I want to. Injuries happen any way that you play,” said Reyes. “I’m looking forward to the new experience. We’ll see what happens.”

But don’t be shocked if it doesn’t take and don’t blame Jose if he can’t play center.  If this experiment doesn’t take, just chalk it up to a long line of Mets position change failures.



About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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