It’s now officially time to mourn the loss of prime Jose Reyes, arguably the most exciting New York Mets positional player of all-time.The New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes — who is now 34-years-old and currently on the disabled list — is a shell of his former self.
That’s quite discouraging because there was a time, not so long ago, in which Jose Reyes’ former self was one heck of a player.
And I mean possibly the most exciting player in baseball at one point in time and a player that you just couldn’t take your eyes off, whether you were watching in person or on television.
Prime Jose Reyes is who I’m talking about. The 6-foot, Dominican Republic, leadoff, switch-hitting shortstop who came onto the scene at age 20 soon turned into a promising young shortstop in 2005 and became the talk of New York City. New Yorkers already had a fan favorite and media darling in New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to cheer for, going on a decade and by the time we moved into the mid-2000s, it was fully established that DJ was the Biggest Sports Star in the Largest Market in America.
Well, here came along this guy that played the same exact position as Jeter, in the same city, who was actually more thrilling to watch and, to the belief of many, was a more productive player at that point.
In his first full season as a starter in the big leagues in 2005, Reyes would go onto to lead the National League in triples (17), stolen bases (60) and at-bats (696) while delivering 190 hits, 24 doubles, 58 RBI and a .273 batting average.
A nice way to put baseball fans on the radar, but 2006 was the season where he ascended to one of baseball’s brightest stars.
I remember that 2006 season really vividly. Reyes, along with his infield teammate at third base in David Wright, was on track to become baseball’s next big thing. As a pair, the Mets’ future was in place.
Remember this Sports Illustrated cover of Reyes and Wright, with Mets’ stars Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca in July 2006? The 2006 Mets were World Series material that year and should have won the NL pennant, at least. (The Mets finished with an NL-best and tied for a major league-best 97-65 record but fell short in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals in heartbreaking fashion in Game 7 at Shea Stadium.)
Reyes was channeling a prime Ricky Henderson and Tim Raines on the bases, stealing with mind-blowing confidence and speed. The dude scared the mess out of teams whenever he was on the bases and for good reason since he led the NL in stolen bases (64) for the second consecutive season.
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Reyes was not just killing it on the bases, he was hitting at a high level by knocking in an NL-leading 17 triples (second year in a row), 30 doubles, scored 122 runs, totaled 194 hits, slapped 19 home runs and 81 RBI (which both would be his career-high), batted .300, submitted a OPS of .841 and drastically improved in the field to the point that led baseball experts to believe that he’ll be a Gold Glove winner someday.
During the 2006 campaign, Reyes became the first Mets player since Jesse Orosco in 1983 to win NL Player of the Week in two straight weeks. He also made his first NL All-Star team and took home a Silver Slugger Award.
In 2007, Reyes upped his stolen base total to a career-high 78 (NL-leading third year in a row), scored 117 runs, notched 191 hits, 36 doubles, 12 triples, 57 RBI, hit .280 and posted an OBP of .354 and a OPS of .775.
While the competition for “Best Shortstop in the Game” was picking up full steam by 2007 between Reyes, Jeter, Florida Marlins Hanley Ramirez, Philadelphia Phillies Jimmy Rollins and Baltimore Orioles Miguel Tejada, Reyes had arguably elevated his status as the best all-around shortstop in the game, who was easily going to get better.
Along with the Red Sox Manny Ramirez and David Oritz, and the Mariners Ichiro Suzuki, Reyes quickly became one of my favorite players. He was the most electrifying player in the game, with a bright personality and an alluring style of play.
While Jeter and his four rings were running things in the Bronx, Reyes had Queens side on lock, while on the verge of snatching NYC from Jeter as the Biggest New York Sports Star — with his teammate David Wright not far behind him.
Reyes once again led the National League in triples (19) in 2008, a year in which he also posted an NL-best 204 hits, hit 37 doubles, 68 RBI, stole 56 bases, batted .297 and connected on a .358 OBP and a .833 OPS.
At this point, Reyes was in a three-way National League battle for top shortstop with Hanley and Jimmy. In my humble view, No. 7 had a slim lead.
However, after an injury-riddled season in 2009, that led to him only participating in 36 games, Reyes play slipped as he returned for the 2010 season. Yes, he did make the All-Star team but the hype, the energy and the feel surrounding his game were never the same.
At this point, Hanley Ramirez had supplanted Reyes as the top NL shortstop, and from there it seemed like all the talk that was centered around him as one of the game’s best players just kind of evaporated. Even Jimmy Rollins, who took home NL MVP in 2007 and led the Phillies took a World Series title in 2008, had an argument over Reyes.
Throw Mr. November in the mix too, as he lifted the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title and stole the Big Apple spotlight from his crosstown counterpart.
No longer would I read stories from baseball writers or see analysts on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight debate about Reyes’ place amongst the games elites like Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano, Carl Crawford, Chase Utley and even his teammate David Wright.
He kind of went away from the public spotlight for a stretch.
He had an emergence in 2011 that saw him bat a career-high .337 that resulted in an NL batting title, led the NL in triples (16) for the fourth time, totaled 181 hits, 31 doubles, scored 101 runs, stole 39 bases, produced a career-high .877 OPS, made his fourth All-Star team and that season happened to be his last in a Mets uniform.
Reyes was a free agent in the offseason and he signed a 6-year, $136 million deal with the Miami Marlins. That was a clear sign to me that my Dominican buddy’s time at the top in the realm of baseball’s hierarchy had probably come to a screeching halt.
In his one year with the Marlins, Reyes season was respectable at best and then during the 2012 offseason, he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in a pretty big and surprising deal.
That trade truly signaled that Jose Reyes’s run as an All-Star/franchise caliber player was finished.
He found his way back to the Mets in 2016 but the vibe around him is not what it used to be. He’s still a key contributor for these present Mets, but Prime Jose Reyes was truly one of the best shortstops of my generation and the one I’ll remember most fondly.