armchairquarterblog

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on August 9, 2011 at 10:10 am

One hundred and twenty million dollars over six years is a steep investment for a ball club. Especially the New York Mets, whose owner faces a one billion dollar lawsuit stemming from a private investment.

That kind of money buys a superstar or a couple B-level players. Spend it on a pitcher and the guy contributes every fifth day. Spend it on position players and the impact is doubled on a daily basis.

In Flushing Meadow, N.Y., Mets’ General Manager Sandy Alderson and Manager Terry Collins are dwelling on these options. So is owner Fred Wilpon. The triumvirate will decide if shortstop Jose Reyes stays or goes.

Wilpon sounded like a miser this spring when he told New Yorker Magazine, “Jose Reyes won’t get Carl Crawford money from me,” alluding to the $140M the outfielder received from the Boston Red Sox. But lately, Wilpon sounds wiser. All the man seeks is a return on his investment. Can you blame him after what he’s gone through with Bernard Madoff?

For the second time this season (and seventh of his career), Reyes is on the disabled list, courtesy of his tender hamstrings. Every time he moves, he’s in sprint mode – leaving the batter’s box, pivoting before firing to first base or turning into fifth gear as he scampers for a triple.

And don’t think the Mets’ braintrust doesn’t wince every step of Reyes’ way. One tweak – and there have been many – and it’s Buffalo’s Reuben Tejada taking over at shortstop.

Mets’ brass has to think…“If we invest in Jose, will we get another Carlos Beltran, Mo Vaughn, Bobby Bonilla, Billy Wagner, Mike Cameron, Jason Bay, Luis Castillo or Johan Santana – top-flight players who underperformed or became physically fragile for most of their Met playing days?”

Reyes has been selected to four All-Star games. Three times, he was hurt and unable to play.

If Met scouts can pinpoint a right fielder and catcher with which to spend $140M, why not consider it? At least Tejada can field and run. And he’s young with no injury history. OK, he’ll hit .250 but so do a lot of MLB shortstops.

Look at the Mets record. The team is .500 WITH Reyes. In late July, the club was one game above the Nationals who were in the NL East cellar. So if you’re paying one player to win games, how do you justify paying Reyes big bucks? The Mets have a ton of heart and fail to quit, no matter how many of their starters began the season in Buffalo. But they aren’t winning. Or challenging the Phillies or Braves. They may hope for a wild card but at the moment, they’re 9 games back – a mountain climb when those red-hot clubs never lose.

But Reyes’s agent, Peter Greenburg sees it differently. In the New York Post, he said this: ““We’ve done studies and over the last four years, we feel Jose’s injury-proneness is a little bit exaggerated. Early in his career he had some hamstring problems. The hamstring tendon issue really was just a misdiagnosis for a while, unfortunately.”

Exaggerated?” “Early in his career…?”

No, Peter, it’s reality and it’s happening now. Once again No. 7 is missing in action from the Met lineup, which just can’t afford to lose another quality player.

Tony Gwynn, now a San Diego Padres radio announcer, said Reyes deserves big money because he’s a “game-changer.” Really? Last time I looked, he wasn’t a “standings-changer.”

In a muted endorsement, Collins said of his prized infielder: “He’s a leader and brings energy and fun to this team, besides his ability.”

OK, but he doesn’t bring wins in excess of losses. Or the post season. The smile, giggling and “claw” signal after reaching base are fan-friendly but winning is what really matters and the Mets aren’t doing it enough.

For the Mets’ braintrust, that, alone should be the determining factor.



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