Reyes was Wrong
Jose Reyes‘ baserunning gaffe from Friday night’s game was exactly that: a gaffe. Meaning, a blunder, or a foolish mistake.
It doesn’t matter that Bob Ojeda was a former MLBer and he supported this blunder, because there are former MLBers who, if you asked them, would say it was a dumb move.
And it doesn’t matter that Reyes’ own manager Terry Collins publicly supported Reyes’ decision to take a chance in that situation, because Collins, right now, has little choice but to support just about anything Reyes does, no matter how dumb it looks. It’s rare and unusual for a ballplayer to be performing at as high a level as Reyes is playing right now. Think about it: Reyes was just described as “the world’s greatest player” by Alex Rodriguez (who, ironically, many consider to be the world’s greatest player ever). On the heels of that kind of assessment, and the fact that Reyes is singlehandedly keeping the Mets relevant (and in turn helping to put fannies in the seats at Citi Field), can Collins do anything other than support Reyes?
Of course not. Imagine if Collins described Reyes’ decision as a bad one — and take into account we’re in the middle of the “Subway Series”; the press would have a field day and create a negative story out of it — even if the premise was tenuous. Collins is smart enough to know that right now, it doesn’t help anyone to rock the boat.
I guarantee that if Reyes was hitting, say, .275, the Mets were in midst of a losing streak rather than coming off of a winning streak, and were playing against the Astros instead of the Yankees, Collins would have at minimum said that Reyes made a bad decision. Possibly, Collins would have used it as the basis for another public blow-up about the Mets inability to play fundamentally sound baseball — because that baserunning goof was one of several mistakes by the Mets in the game.
I agree with the feeling that Reyes is overly aggressive and that’s part of what makes him who he is. But let’s break down what happened and turn this into a positive thing for young players and their coaches. Collins’ excuse for Reyes was that he was being “instinctive” and “not thinking about Beltran coming up at that moment”. Well, why not? When Jose is playing shortstop, he’s thinking about the game situation before each pitch, and anticipating several different scenarios, isn’t he? Baseball players at every level on down to little league know that one of the keys to playing defense is thinking about what to do with the ball before it is hit to you. You look at what’s happening in the game, consider who’s on base, the outs, the score, etc., and then try to think of all the possible decisions that could be made, so that if the ball IS hit to you, you don’t freeze or make the wrong decision.
Shouldn’t the same kind of thought go into baserunning? It’s not all that difficult to, before each pitch, consider the number of outs, the score, and who is on deck and think, “OK, in this situation it makes sense to take a chance if an opportunity presents itself,” or, “hmm, we have no outs, we’re down by two, Beltran is on deck, it might make sense to think before I leap”.
Because although Reyes could have scored more ways from third base than second base with less than two out, there were several other factors to consider. First, it was the 7th inning, so time and opportunities were running out quickly. Outs become much more precious when there are 8 left as opposed to, say, 18, and your team is down by two runs. And you know Mariano looms in the ‘pen so you could subtract three outs from that total. Beltran has been a hot hitter of late — hitting .370 over the last week and .346 overall with RISP. Maybe Beltran is walked intentionally with Jose on 2B and one out, and if so, that means the go-ahead run comes to the plate. And let’s also consider that with Reyes’ speed, he might have been able to steal third base or get there via wild pitch during Beltran’s at-bat. At minimum he would have been a distraction to the pitcher, possibly causing him to give Beltran a meatball and/or rattling him enough to allow the Mets to rally.
Understand something: I tend to promote overly aggressive play as a coach and enjoy it as a spectator, and I believe very strongly in putting pressure on the defense. But recklessness and aggressiveness are two different things, with a fine line separating them — one abandons thought and ignores the risks while the other is calculated and considers the balance of risk vs. reward. In this particular case, Reyes was reckless and operating without thought. He had already applied his aggressiveness by tagging up on that fly ball, and he could have applied it again from second base (i.e., in the form of a steal). The only reason he “got away with it” is because there is no one playing as well as he is, right now.