Nuts, right? Why the heck would the Mets sign Jimmy Rollins?
Well, why wouldn’t they?
Nuts, right? Why the heck would the Mets sign Jimmy Rollins?
Well, why wouldn’t they?
On paper, Reyes was not even the third-best shortstop in the NL East going into 2010. Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins, and Yunel Escobar all had excellent seasons in 2009 while Jose spent most of the year on the DL. However, by the time 2010 ended, Jose had found his way back toward the top – though it was more due to drop-offs by the others than a great performance by Reyes.
Ramirez remained on his own planet, but Rollins was dogged by a nagging leg injury and Escobar shat the bed before ultimately being permanently sent to
Siberia Toronto. Meanwhile, Jose Reyes came back from a thyroid issue to play in 133 games, hitting .282 with 11 HR, 54 RBI, 30 SB, and 83 R. Two negative numbers jumped out, however: a .321 OBP and 10 times caught stealing. Looking at the final stat line, these numbers are disappointing and concerning, but one must consider the fact that Reyes was definitely, positively, not ready for MLB action when he returned to the lineup on April 5th.
For those who forgot, Reyes’ thyroid problem forced him to sit his butt on the couch for about a month. If you have never participated in athletics, please take my word for it: an athlete – no matter what level, no matter what age, no matter what shape – cannot be a couch potato for almost a month and then jump right back into world-class competition. It takes anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks to get into good shape (for any sport), but it only takes 2-3 weeks to fall out of shape. That’s not my opinion – it’s biological fact. Now, consider that in addition to needing to whip himself back into shape – i.e., to increase his lung capacity or “wind” – Reyes also had to get “back into the swing of things” (pardon the pun) in regard to throwing, hitting, and fielding.
But, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel were both making decisions based on their job security back in April, so once Reyes showed he could stay on the field for 9 straight innings, he was back in the lineup. All things considered, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Reyes faltered mightily until June; he was, after all, experiencing “spring training” during the first two months of the season in MLB games, rather than on a sunny field in Port St. Lucie.
So we should look at those final stats with a grain of salt. Further, we should look at his .314 AVG in June, .310 in July, and .302 in August. He once again slowed down in September with a .269 AVG, but he did have an .808 OPS that final month.
I have to admit, though, I’m a little concerned about that low OBP and the meager 31 walks he drew. Getting caught stealing could have been a combination of bad timing and not being in great running shape, but there is no excuse for the low walk total – plate discipline is something that can be an issue at first, but it should have improved over time. The only explanation I can hope for is a mental one; perhaps Reyes felt he had to be more than he could be, considering the team’s struggles, and in turn expanded his strike zone. We saw Reyes show good strike-zone judgment while Willie Randolph was his manager (and Rick Down his hitting coach), so we know he is capable of being a disciplined hitter. Whether we’ll see him return to that efficiency remains to be seen.
Guess what, folks – Jose Reyes ain’t young anymore. He is 27 years old now and will be 28 next June – the age when most players enter their prime years. After 130+ healthy games and the thyroid issue seemingly behind him, Reyes is primed for the best season of his career. The question is, will there be a strong influence on the bench reminding him to be patient and disciplined – the way he was under Randolph and Down? If so, Reyes could return to being one of the top 3 players in fantasy baseball, and one of the most dynamic offensive forces in “real” baseball (the game they play on grass and dirt, for team wins and losses). Without that discipline, Reyes may or may not be the second or third-best shortstop in the NL East (look out – Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa could be gaining on him).
“Shortstop” is the name of a greasy spoon diner right under the last stop of 1/9 train in Riverdale – whatever you order, keep it greasy and order seconds. Cheese fries are highly recommended, if I remember correctly.
“Shortstop” is also where the NL East is dominating the positional rankings in fantasy baseball:
Shortstop Rankings – National League
Sleeper – Rafael Furcal (.280-10-50) – If Furcal plays a full season and he is completely healthy, he is almost as productive as Jose Reyes. Don’t expect him to be healthy all season, but watch him post .300-15-65 with 50 SB and 110 runs scored if he is.
Shortstop Rankings – NL East
Sleeper – No one. If Ramirez, Reyes or Rollins get injured, their replacements won’t make a noticeable impact unless they are acquired by via trade.
Pitchers and catchers have yet to report … indeed, it’s not even Christmas yet … and the Mets – Phillies verbal rivalry has already begun.
Perhaps ignited by Cole Hamels’ admission that the Mets are “choke artists”, recently signed closer Francisco Rodriguez pronounced that his new Mets are “the team to beat”.
Unfortunately, that phrase was already used by Carlos Beltran, who whispered it last March. Beltran, of course, stole the words from Jimmy Rollins — who originally made the proclamation a year earlier.
The verbal sparring is wonderful for the media and exciting for some fans, as it helps to stoke the rivalry between the Mets and Phillies — which in turn sells tickets and newspapers and drives up the blog comments and website pageviews. A win-win for everyone in this down economy, in fact.
But the crux of the matter is this: for every Mets fan that gets riled up by K-Rod’s quote, there are another ten who wish the players in orange and blue would simply keep their mouth shut. The more the Mets talk, the more pathetic they look in the end, when they can’t close the deal.
Aside from the 1986 Mets, there haven’t been too many Flushing squads (if any) who had both the talent and the fortitude to see through such brazen declarations. Looking back, that cocky bunch spoiled us, and helped open the lid on big mouths in sports.
Today, however, the Mets do not have the talent to steamroll over the rest of baseball. It looks like they’ll have a good team, one that can compete for the NL East title. I’m not saying they won’t run away with the flag next year — I’m saying that right now, they don’t appear to have an exceptionally dominating team.
Further, K-Rod and J.J. Putz by themselves will not drastically change the mentality in the clubhouse. The Mets remain a leaderless team, and devoid of the “killer instinct” necessary to throw their opponents down to the ground and stomp on their necks. Again, it doesn’t mean they can’t win in ’09 — it simply means they don’t have any business making public announcements regarding winning or talking trash. Not yet, anyway.
In retrospect, Beltran’s utterance last spring was all-too-revealing. It was said off the cuff, after taking some BP, with a laugh, and seemed he was half-joking. From the Daily News:
“Let me tell you this: Without Santana, we felt as a team we have a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we’re going to win in our division. I have no doubt in that.
“We’ve got what it takes. We have good chemistry as a team. He fits great because he’s a great guy. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. Who doesn’t want to have him on any ballclub? Without him last year we did good, until the end of the season. So this year, to Jimmy Rollins, we are the team to beat.”
With that, Beltran walked off, amused and chuckling as he told unnerved P.R. man Jay Horwitz, “Have a happy day.”
Judging by what happened (again) in the last weeks of September, perhaps Beltran WAS joking.
The irony, of course, is that Beltran’s last at-bat of the 2006 NLCS — the one where an Adam Wainwright yellow hammer froze him and ended the Mets’ season — is symbolic of the team’s reputation as chokers, making Beltran’s quote all the more embarrassing now. More damaging is that not only did the Mets not deliver on Beltran’s preseason boast, but that they choked again.
So when Cole Hamels agreed that the Mets were “choke artists”, we fans really had no response — except to bow our heads and nod in agreement. And when K-Rod comes out and starts the cycle all over again, we Mets fans want to run and hide, cover our faces, muttering “please, not again!”.
It’s kind of like watching a TV show or a movie, and the lead character (Archie Bunker comes to mind) is about to say or do something you know he/she is going to regret — you yell at the screen, “no, don’t SAY IT!”. Or when you’re sitting around the Christmas tree, and conservative Uncle Bob has had too much egg nog, and he’s about to start talking politics with liberal cousin Joan. Some things should just be left unsaid, before everyone is embarrassed.
Don’t get me wrong — I love the idea of a rivalry between the Mets and Phillies. But let’s see it erupt on the field, not in the headlines. Instead of continuing to talk about how great and unbeatable you are, please, New York Mets, take a page from the Nike book and just do it.