New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes (7) reacts after the...

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes (7) reacts after the final out in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics. (June 21, 2011) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

What you must understand, first of all, is that never, ever were Jose Reyes and the Mets going to agree on a long-term contract during this 2011 season. Whatever occurred between the two sides would constitute nothing more than a public-relations duel.

In that regard, give a slight edge to Reyes and his representatives, who by declining to take a meeting and listen to an offer, nicely played the "Let's focus on baseball" card and blocked the Mets from executing the "We offered him THIS MUCH and he turned it down!!!" trick.

So the two sides move forward, with July 31 the next stop on the Reyes-Mets bridge to nowhere. It'll likely be a quick, insignificant stop, Sandy Alderson intimated Tuesday, which prompted this response:

Are you sure?

Don't the Mets owe it to their fans -- if they're not contenders come the non-waivers trading deadline -- to seriously consider a Reyes trade?

"I think if we're in it, it would be hard for me to see us trading Jose Reyes," Alderson said, after divulging Reyes' respectful refusal to discuss dollars. "If we're out of it, I don't think being out of it dictates anything . . . whether we're winning or losing at the point, I think is a lot less relevant in Jose's case."

Alderson proceeded to call Reyes a "one-off," which was the general manager's politically correct way of saying, "We might actually want this guy back." As opposed to the likes of Carlos Beltran, Jason Isringhausen and Francisco Rodriguez, whom the Mets will quickly hock (or, in K-Rod's case, try to hock) if they fall out of the playoff race.

The Mets (35-38) lost to Oakland, 7-3, Tuesday night at Citi Field, their fourth loss in five games, dropping them six games (five in the loss column) behind Atlanta (42-33) in the NL wild-card race. Six more teams stand in front of the Mets.

"We've got to get back in the hunt, win some games and get over .500," Mets manager Terry Collins said yesterday afternoon. With two more home games against Oakland, a road swing through Texas and Detroit and then the Yankees at Citi Field, that won't be easy.

Which brings us back to Reyes and the Mets. Trading him is a tougher calculation not only because of his youth, talent and popularity, but also because if he departs via free agency, he'll bring back two amateur draft picks as compensation.

Any Reyes trade offer the Mets receive club officials automatically will weigh it against the value of those two draft picks. Because Reyes probably would be the highest-impact player in the industry, and with many contenders that could benefit from a shortstop upgrade, what the Mets get in return just might meet that bar.

And that should be the only calculation. Alderson said his "gut reaction" is that holding onto Reyes gives the Mets a better chance to retain him, but there's every reason to wonder whether the Mets really have the financial might to do so. If David Einhorn surprises us and throw in a few bucks, he can do that just as easily with Reyes having played for another team for a couple of months.

As for the fans . . . puh-leeze. If the Mets are eliminated by September, Citi Field will be a ghost town, with or without Reyes.

Alderson noted how quickly things can change in the game. How the A's endured a 10-game losing streak and, after beating the Mets, have won six straight and are very much alive.

He should remember that in these coming weeks. For as Alderson knows, the best public relations in baseball comes from putting together a winning baseball team. Trading Reyes might prove the best realistic means to that end.