Jose Reyes and Sandy Alderson’s Defining Mets Moment

wrightreyesYou remember the parting words. After the Mets infamously failed to make even a token hometown discount offer to the greatest shortstop in the team’s half century on the diamond, California import Sandy Alderson took the low road as GM.

“If you are asking whether I should have sent him a box of chocolates, perhaps I should have done that,” Alderson said. “On the other hand, the box of chocolates would have cost $106 million.”

Alderson’s decision not to pursue one half of the best everyday duo the Mets have ever developed left several holes on the team. It left them without a quality shortstop, a hole they still haven’t filled. It left them without a leadoff hitter (though Eric Young did a nice job in the second half of this season). It left them without a major marquee player – in an era of cliff-diving attendance, the year after that player won the only batting title in team history. And it left a hole in the Mets’ franchise karma, an ugly departure made worse by management, forming a neat trio with the historic banishments of Tom Seaver and Darryl Strawberry, for other reasons, in other eras.

It remains the defining moment of Sandy Alderson’s tenure in New York.

That’s just one fan’s opinion after four decades of studying the cultural ebb and flow of Flushing baseball. You read the signs, you look at the seats, you study the space between the lines, you judge the body language. You shift on the barstool, and you listen to the younger crowd. Something’s missing. The first call was Alderson’s worst.

Yet we read that the Toronto Blue Jays may be open to trading Reyes, now 30, during the off-season. The Mets, we know, need a shortstop. Why not the best SS in franchise history?

The smarter crowd knows better than to dream. Mets Police proclaims, knowingly, that “Jose Reyes is not coming back.” At Metsblog, Michael Baron and Matthew Cerrone dismissed the idea last month – and Matt noted that Alderson “had concerns about Jose’s style of play, how much he relied on his legs and his undisciplined approach to hitting” – which is hilarious, because he’d just watched him win the batting title and had only Ruben Tejada as a “replacement.”

But that’s Alderson. Many fans and bloggers praised his tough decision on Reyes, even when it clearly weakened the team, left holes at SS and in the lineup, crushed David Wright for a time – oh yes, it did, folks say what you will – and alienated half the fan base, particularly younger fans.

In the market for shortstops currently under discussion, there is none better than Reyes – this side of Troy Tulowitzki. Further, the Mets need to sell tickets with both revenue and ticket sales declining faster than a Sisk sinker. Yes, money is an obstacle – the Marlins and Blue Jays got the two $10M years of the back-loaded contract Sandy Alderson failed to even explore with Reyes. He’s owed more than $80M over four years, with a team option for a fifth – but consider that Toronto would probably eat some of the contract to move it.

And then consider Stephen Drew.

He is the likely replacement for Omar Quintanilla who replaced Ruben Tejada, who the Mets tried to sell as easily replacing the first batting champ in blue and orange. Same age but a lesser player, a compromise, a second best choice. Not even an impressive OBP for saberites. (And I just watch him boot one in the ALCS).

Like David Wright, Jose Reyes missed significant time this year with an injury – but that was the year after leading the NL in plate appearances while playing for an awful Miami team. He’s a step slower at minimum. the stolen bases are down. But he still went .296, 10 HR, 20 2B, .353 OBP in 93 games.

But he’s still Jose Reyes, the shortstop who came up with the third-baseman who is half of the dynamic duo – the original dual “faces of the franchise.” Yes there were two – when the franchise was better. They’re a little older, a little banged up. And they both play for big dollars. Bringing back Reyes won’t solve all the Mets problems, but it would fill the hole at shortstop. It would bring some fans back. And it might change the story and restore some of the missing faith with Mets fans – a loss that began with the “box of chocolates.”

Besides, the Mets may never start winning again until Alderson’s Error stops defining Alderson’s Era.