What if it were your daughter? Your sister? Your best friend?
What if it weren’t a woman you didn’t know?
Would you feel differently about the New York Mets’ decision to sign Jose Reyes?
Would you cheer? Would you clamor for his autograph? Would you celebrate his stolen bases, timely hitting and deft fielding?
In a hotel room in Hawaii in October, Reyes, once an All-Star shortstop for the Mets, allegedly grabbed his wife by the throat and shoved her into a glass door.
His wife was taken to a hospital. Reyes was arrested and charged.
But then, his wife refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and the charges were dropped.
Major League Baseball suspended Reyes for 52 games, a penalty completed in late May.
Now, just a few weeks later, the Mets have given Reyes a second chance, signing him to a minor-league contract. He played his first game back — for the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones — on Sunday, receiving a standing ovation and the familiar sing-song “Joseeeee Jose Jose Jose” chants. He was surrounded by fans, adults and children alike, seeking his autograph.
It was like the good old days.
Except it wasn’t.
I’ve been a Mets fan my entire life. I’ve gone to hundreds of games, spent thousands of dollars on tickets, food, jerseys and more. I’ve stuck with this team through very lean times, through very good times, through multiple collapses and surprising successes. I’ve seen the Mets organization make its share of bad decisions, bad moves and bad plays.
I’ve never been as angry and sad about baseball as I am right now.
What am I supposed to tell my daughter?
How do I explain to my 12-year-old that the Mets, whom she too has loved and rooted for her entire life, have rewarded a man who hurt his wife by giving him the privilege — and yes, it’s a privilege — or playing professional baseball again?
Some have said Reyes is “only human.” Others have said what he did was simply a mistake. People make mistakes, they say. Everyone is entitled to a second chance, they say. And besides, they say, Reyes can hit and run — and man, do the Mets need some help right now.
Hitting your wife isn’t like running a red light or speeding or cheating on a math test. Domestic violence isn’t just a mistake everyone makes. It’s not “only human” to shove a woman into a glass door. And those who commit this vile, horrific act should not be cheered or rewarded.
Jose Reyes should be able to get a job, to provide for his family. He should be able to prove to himself, his family, and all of us that he’ll never do anything to hurt his wife again. He’s getting counseling — and I applaud his efforts. Perhaps he’ll never hurt his wife again.
But that doesn’t mean he is somehow entitled to get back on a professional baseball field and do what he loves – and get cheered and paid for it. It doesn’t mean the Mets had to give him a pedestal and podium, allow him to wear their uniform, and represent them on the field and off. It doesn’t mean that the Mets had to make a move that teaches their youngest fans that they could be bullies, that they could be violent – and still be a professional baseball star. Could someone hire him for a position that doesn’t turn him into a symbol or a hero? Sure. But by signing Reyes, the Mets are saying he is worthy. And he’s not.
Ten years ago, Jose Reyes was one of my daughter’s favorite players. Boy, did we love watching him play. Then he disappointed me with off-field actions that deserve shame. Now my team has disappointed me, too, and I am left telling my daughter what Reyes did — so she can make an informed choice when she next goes to a baseball game.
I, for one, certainly won’t sing his name.
The Mets will always be my team. But we Mets fans deserve better. We deserve higher standards and more accountability. We deserve to pay for a product that we can be proud of, one that’s worth cheering for.
Indeed, perhaps we should all rethink whom we cheer for, whom we honor, whom we applaud.
After all, what if it were your daughter?
Randi F. Marshall is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.