David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
The trip from GQ photo shoot to All-Star to relative obscurity can be a surprisingly rapid descent. One minute, you're batting leadoff in front of Barry Bonds in the Midsummer Classic, as Jose Reyes did in 2007. The next, you're watching from a hotel room in Port St. Lucie after another grueling afternoon in the hydrotherapy pool.
Unlike Reyes, his GQ partner, David Wright made the All-Star team in 2008 and '09. But with the Mets falling short of the postseason for three straight years, and Wright's slow start this season, the face of the franchise has been looking up at the Phillies' Placido Polanco - a converted second baseman - in the All-Star voting with only a week left.
As a result, for all their accomplishments, the Mets' wonder twins are learning a valuable lesson in their late 20s. With the Phillies coming off consecutive World Series appearances, it's difficult clawing your way back to national prominence.
The Mets had five All-Stars in 2006, but four years later, Wright remains their lone chance to send a starting position player this season. Although much of that has to do with Wright's amazing resurgence - his 57 RBIs lead the NL - he's also needed the Mets to regain a level of respectability by climbing to 10 games over .500 at 41-31.
Not that Wright has ever taken his All-Star trips for granted. But after what he endured last season, both on a personal level as well as the team's overall misery, this one might hold special significance.
"You never know which one is going to be your last one," said Wright, who is 4-for-11 in his four All-Star Games. "It's something that if you told me when I was playing middle school or high school baseball that I'd have a chance to go to four All-Star Games, I would have signed up for that right away. Getting a chance to really be in the running and be a guy that's considered over the last four or five years, that means a lot to me."
Wright was second this week with 1,026,658 votes, less than 128,000 behind the front-running Polanco, and that was before the Mets staged their Lady Gaga-inspired pep rally for the third baseman Wednesday at Citi Field. The team was questioned for resorting to small-market methods to drum up the vote, but Wright, who admits to tracking the results to some degree, has been flattered by the efforts.
"Somebody told me that there's some New Yorkers that are trying to rally to get me in there, with campaign managers and stuff," Wright said. "That makes me feel very appreciative.
"I don't set my schedule to check the weekly results, but my friends and my family keeps me updated. You always get text messages that say someone voted 25 times for me. Of course you always want to go to the All-Star Game. It's an incredible honor, and hopefully I get that opportunity."
As for Reyes, he's a little more anxious to have the chance. He went 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base from the leadoff spot in the 2007 All-Star Game and hasn't returned after his back-to-back appearances (he didn't play in 2006 because of injury).
Some players shrug off their selections, and a few even bow out with phantom injuries, but Reyes still views it like a Little Leaguer. "I love it," he said. "I love playing with the guys from the other teams, talking to them, just being around them for a few days."
When Reyes was batting .211 on May 21, the idea of his earning a third All-Star trip seemed preposterous. He was having a difficult time just staying in the lineup. But since that low point, Reyes is hitting .382 (47-for-123) with a .429 on-base percentage, 28 runs scored and 18 RBIs in 29 games. He also has six doubles, four triples and six homers and is 10-for-11 in stolen-base attempts in that stretch.
As a result, Reyes has forced his way into All-Star consideration, especially with the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki - one slot ahead of Reyes in third place - out of the mix with a fractured left wrist. There's probably too much ground for Reyes (681,774) to make up on Hanley Ramirez (1,501,056) and Jimmy Rollins (1,205,832), and that will leave him at the mercy of NL manager Charlie Manuel.
"Right now, I'm not thinking about it," Reyes said. "I just want to do my job here. If I put up the numbers, I'll have a chance."