In the upcoming months, New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes could command more than $100 million for a contract of up to seven years. The front office in Flushing may balk at those numbers, but unless the Mets are prepared to make Reyes an offer that will keep him in Queens for the rest of his career, they shouldn’t make him an offer at all. The Mets have never given their fans a hometown discount; Jose Reyes shouldn’t give one to the Mets.
From 2007 to 2010, I was a Mets season-ticket holder. The perks were minimal: for my annual investment in baseball’s most disappointing franchise, my dividends included glossy media guides filled with information more easily accessible on the Internet, a leather mousepad shaped like home plate, and a wood-and-metal pen-holder that looked like a prop from a theatrical adaptation of Babbitt.
The games themselves were rather joyless affairs. The 2007 team played tentatively, terrified of defeat, collectively spooked by an Adam Wainwright curveball. The 2008 team was even worse, carrying the additional burden of the collapse of the 2007 team. The teams in 2009 and 2010? Well, they were just bad.
In those years, there was often only one reason to go to a Mets game. Jose Reyes wasn’t always the best player on the field. He wasn’t always on the field at all. But when he was there, in Shea Stadium or at Citi Field, Jose Reyes often looked like the only person in the entire stadium — players, fans, Mr. Met — who was having any fun at all.
Forgive me for going a bit purple and off SABR here, but fun is important, especially for the Mets, a franchise that cannot really promise championships, playoff appearances, or even seasons in which fans aren't embarrassed to wear Mets hats on the subway.
Even if the Mets think they don't need Jose Reyes' bat or glove — though to be clear, they absolutely do — the team's fans need his personality and energy. Washington doesn’t need a leadoff man who records his own at-bat music. Milwaukee will survive without mid-inning video lessons from “The Jose Reyes Spanish Academy.” Nobody in Philadelphia deserves an elaborate personalized handshake from one of the most beloved Mets of all time.
Of course, signing Jose Reyes means locking up an enormously talented baseball player for his prime years. But the mere suggestion that Reyes should take less money or years to play for the Mets is absurd. Hometown discounts have a sentimental attraction but the Mets have done little to earn the sentimentality of their fans. The only places where it’s more expensive for a fan to enjoy a baseball game are Boston and the Bronx. And the teams that play there win.
If the biggest-of-big-market Mets can’t “afford” Reyes, it will be due only to how unwisely they’ve spent all the money their fans have given them for tickets, food, beer, parking, and pink “Mrs. Wright” t-shirts. The Mets may ultimately decide that Jose Reyes isn't worth “their” money, but a team without him isn’t worth mine.
David Parker is a writer in New York. His work has appeared in the Awl, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Politico and the Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter @dap99
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