The weight of it all finally got to Jose Reyes. The weight of expectations. The weight of scrutiny. The weight of criticism – not so much of his performance, but his behavior.
Sure, the New York Mets’ wondrously gifted shortstop was as culpable as any during the team’s historic collapse last season. But when conversations turned to Reyes, the chatter wasn’t about his lack of production during that fall, but his behavior.
Now we’re not talking Pacman Jones behavior here. We’re talking simply Jose being Jose. Displaying an exuberence beyond measure. A joy that oozed from every pore. And elaborate hand-shaking, arm-slapping, booty-bumping celebrations that punctuated every great play.
Internally, team executives and even some of his teammates looked down on the moves. They whispered that Reyes weren’t being professional, that his hystrionics showed an immaturity. Some local media were even more harsh. Last fall, I shared the set during one local show when one of the other panelists described Reyes as a “punk” for his antics.
The weight of it all finally got to him, and Reyes vowed he would be different. During spring training he promised to show us a new, more reserved Reyes, a more professional Reyes.
Thank goodness that didn’t last very long.
Jose Reyes is back, and I’m glad for it. The Mets are, too. He’s become the spark that lights the fire in New York.
Prior to tonight’s game against arch-rival Philadelphia, Reyes was 10 for his last 23 at bats. That rush included two homers, three RBIs and Reyes himself scored six runs.
Coincidentially (or not), the Mets won all five games, matching their longest win streak of 2007. The last four victories came against the Phillies, who humiliated them last fall by winning the division – and who’d won nine straight over the Mets before Jose became Jose again.
Prior to that, the pedestraian, professional Jose was playing pretty pedestraian baseball. So were the Mets. Now they’re 10-6.
The Jose we know would still be on the side of a milk carton had not teammate Carlos Beltran asked/ordered him last Tuesday to cut the crap (not sure how you say that en Espanol) and be himself.
Be himself. Beltran finally figured out that all of that holier-than-thou weight that finally got to his teammate was silly. Why do athletes have to be robots? Why do they have to conform to some old-school edict?
Don’t they just have to play? Play and respect the game? Play and play hard. Play and be a good teammate. Play and, for people like Reyes, be a leader.
Joese Reyes was all that. He was just all that a bit differently that some old-heads thought he should be.
Thank goodness he realized, with some prodding, that he should simply be Jose.