David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Jose Reyes endured a Citi Field experience like no other in Tuesday night's return to Flushing. It began with an uncomfortable dugout news conference, the air sucked up by questions asking him once again to detail the end of his relationship with the Mets.
"If they don't make me any offer, that means they don't want me to play here," Reyes said. "That's why I play for another team now."
After roughly 12 minutes of that dialogue, Reyes later took the field to the harassment of former fans behind the Marlins' dugout. A few sections away, others chanted, "Jo-se, Jo-se, Jo-se" as a reminder of better days, but the closest voices mocked Reyes for his injury history and DL stints.
"Traitor!" one fan yelled.
As for the long-awaited DiamondVision "tribute" to Reyes, that felt like watching a wedding video a year after the divorce. Not an amicable split, either. Reyes watched from the dugout rail with new BFF Hanley Ramirez at his side.
"He said I was going to cry today," Reyes said afterward. "That didn't happen."
When the screen finally flashed "Thanks for the Memories," the ratio of cheers to boos was about 50-50, and Reyes tipped his cap to the crowd before going down the steps.
"Whatever they do for me is fine," he said of the rough treatment during the Mets' 2-1 victory over the Marlins. "No hard feelings. I came here to play baseball."
But the booing eventually became the soundtrack for Reyes every time he touched the ball and the first thought among those at Citi Field must have been: Why did this have to happen? And secondly: Please, please, please don't let this happen to David Wright.
"That's good if they can bring David back because he's the face of the franchise," Reyes said. "He's a symbol there because of the way that he plays the game. He plays the game hard, the right way -- that's a symbol for the young players."
Reyes was quick to add, "But I don't make that decision. Talk to the owner of the New York Mets."
That's what still gnaws at Reyes in his weaker moments, those times like Monday night, when he was home on Long Island, catching a few innings of the Mets game. Reyes will never understand why the only team he had ever known -- the one that signed him as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic -- snubbed him in December.
Reyes plays the game hard, too. And what did that get him? Not even a phone call from the Mets before he signed that six-year, $106-million deal with the Marlins. Truth is, the Wilpons were paralyzed by the Madoff mess, which wasn't resolved until mid-March, and were unwilling to go anywhere near $100 million.
"It's too late to think about that," Reyes said. "I know they have all those kinds of problems and I feel sorry for them. But this is a business, man."
The Mets don't need Reyes to remind them of that. The Wilpons are painfully aware of the economics involved in running a baseball team, as evidenced by their slashing $50 million from the payroll for the 2012 season. Reyes was a casualty of the Mets' financial distress, but that's probably not going to happen with Wright.
The Mets hold a $16-million option on Wright for next season, so as they continue to dig out from considerable debt, it's likely that will be picked up in negotiating an extension. As for how much, the going-rate is $100 million, established in February by the six-year deal signed by Ryan Zimmerman -- Wright's close buddy from Virginia Beach.
That irony can't be lost on Reyes, who in many ways lived in Wright's shadow. When Wright does get his $100 million -- a year after Reyes was turned down for the same amount -- that could re-open old wounds for the shortstop, even if he denies it now.
"That's not going to hurt me at all," Reyes said.
Maybe he's right. By the late innings Tuesday night, Reyes was more Marlin than Met, the video tribute just a memory of a memory. Good or bad didn't really seem to matter anymore.
"Some of the fans understand the situation," Wright said, "and others will never forgive him."