Passing Judgment: The Demise of Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes 3Jose Reyes is one of the most exciting and electric players in all of baseball.  Being a Mets fan, I had the opportunity to watch him every day since he made his debut at 19-years old in 2003.  He came up with a lot of fanfare and certainly lived up to the hype as a franchise player.  Putting aside a forgettable 2004 season when he was injured and the Mets tried to make him a second baseman to accommodate Kaz Matsui, Reyes put up elite numbers between 2005-2008.  It is no coincidence that the Mets had a lot of success (despite only making the playoffs in 2006).  He was the catalyst for some very good teams while leading the league in many statistics and breaking team records along the way.

But in 2009, the injury bug really bit Reyes limiting him to only 36 games.  He would not be able to shake the injury bug for the remainder of his tenure on the Mets.  Despite having productive seasons the next two years including a National League batting title in 2011, Reyes still could not avoid multiple stints on the disabled list with various ailments in his legs.  For a player who relies so heavily on speed, this did not bode well for Reyes as he approached 30 years of age.

As a fan, I was very disappointed that the Mets did not even offer him a contract after the 2011 season.  Granted they would not have been able to match or exceed what the Marlins offered him because of the team’s financial struggles due to the Madoff scandal, but it seemed as though the Mets had no interest in retaining him.  Now just a couple years later, it is starting to sink in that it may have been one of the wisest decisions the Mets (intentionally or unintentionally) ever made.

Reyes did have a very good season in Miami in 2012 where he managed to stay healthy and played in 160 games.  But after he was traded to Toronto, the problems started up again.  He severely injured his ankle at the beginning of the 2013 season and missed several months.  He did come back and hit well, but it was plainly obvious that he was not the same player.  In 93 total games, he had only 15 stolen bases and no triples.  Why did I mention the fact he had no triples?  Because this is a player who has led the league in triples four times since 2005 and also had double-digit triples every year between 2005-2012 except for 2009.  Reyes smartly doesn’t try and hit home runs, but rather he is a gap-to-gap hitter who was known for accelerating around the bases and making triples look easy.  The fact that he had NONE in 2013 was alarming.

In spring training this year, Reyes missed some time with hamstring tightness but this was downplayed by Toronto’s management.  Even still, there were some doubts because he has had so many issues with his hamstrings over the years.  Then on Opening Day, Reyes couldn’t even make it past the first inning before being taken out of the game with hamstring tightness.  Once again, Reyes has landed on the disabled list and the fact remains that he is extremely fragile and will never be the same again.

I am not suggesting that Reyes will not continue to be a productive and valuable player.  He will only be 31 years old this year.  But he has been in the league for 11 years with a lot of miles on those legs, and we all know what happens to players like this when they turn the other side of 30.  Hamstring injuries are tough to gauge because they require sufficient time to heal and then additional time for a player to rehab.  It is only human nature for a player like Reyes to be more selective in his base stealing or choosing to leg out a triple as opposed to cruising in for a double.  The point is that if Reyes wants to have a prolonged career and remain healthy, he is going to have to sacrifice what helped made him so great.

I have no doubts that Reyes will be back at some point this season and will likely hit for a solid batting average and be an effective run creator and producer.  But his days of stealing bases and legging out triples are over.  It is a real shame too because he is one player that people would spend money specifically to see.  Now that he is on the shelf again, we will simply have to rely on You Tube and our memories to see the greatness that once was Jose Reyes.

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