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Jose Reyes, the Mets, emotion and buying time

I've been busy with the Yankees this week (here's my column on Derek Jeter), but it's hard not to notice how the Mets keep hanging in there, as Jose Reyes led them last night to a victory in Atlanta.

The Mets stand at 33-34. The Braves, Brewers and Cardinals (the latter two tied for the NL Central lead) are all 38-30, which means the Mets are 4 1/2 games out of the NL wild-card lead. The Diamondbacks (37-31), Reds (36-33) and Pirates (33-33) all lead the Mets, putting Terry Collins' group in sixth place in the wild-card chase.

If today were July 31 and you were Sandy Alderson, would you sell, buy or stand pat? 

I don't think that "buying" is a bona fide option, but I wouldn't sell. This is a likeable Mets team, at this juncture. It's clearly connecting with a large segment of Mets fans, and no one more than Reyes.

With Ike Davis and David Wright set to return at some point - and possibly Johan Santana, but I wouldn't bank on that - this Mets team has earned the right to play it out some more, and the fan base has more than earned the right to enjoy a playoff bid, no matter how much of a longshot quest it may be.

Which brings us to an additional benefit to this strategy, one upon which Joel Sherman has touched this past week: The emotion surrounding Reyes' future.

It is, of course, off the charts. It's a combination of Reyes' brilliant season and Mets' fans anger toward the Wilpons and consequential fear that Reyes will be playing elsewhere next season.

It is, within the context of running a baseball team, not healthy. Sure, you want your fan base to feel passionate. But you sure as heck don't want to feel so beholden to them.

By letting the season play out with their roster intact, the Mets would buy time on the Reyes referendum. To a degree, it would be a no-lose proposition.

1) If Reyes continued to dominate and the Mets crept over .500 and beyond, then the Mets would give their fans a meaningful September (or at least, the first couple of weeks of September). 

2) If Reyes fizzled, then the most fickle fans - and we know that's a sizeable contingent - would say, "Oh, right, we forgot! We hate Reyes! He's not clutch! He always stinks in September!"

With Scenario Two, the pressure on the Mets to commit a ginormous contract to Reyes would decrease.

With Scenario One? Well, that pressure would still exist, but at least Alderson would have (theoretically) gained some credibility with fans: "Hey, I kept us in contention even though your incompetent owners gave me no money. I hired a good manager, found some good items at Filene's Basement and helped institute a culture of accountability. So trust me here, will ya?"

Maybe Alderson, heading a big-market club for the first time, will decide to make a serious plunge for Reyes. And maybe ownership actually can produce the funds for such a plunge. I remain skeptical on both fronts, but never say never.

What I think I know is, a July trade of Reyes - while he is still thriving - is more likely to occur in a high-emotion setting than simply waiting until the end of the year. No matter how good the return might be on a Reyes trade.

And that's the downside to this scenario - that a year from now, Reyes will be somewhere else, the Mets will be mediocre and their fans will say, "You know what? We should've traded Reyes for a haul when we had the opportunity," and not be satisfied with the two compensatory draft picks.

For the Mets, they'll try to put out that fire if and when it comes. But they have enough fires at the moment.

(Although, just to complete this thought, I'd expect Alderson and company to at least find out what they could get for Reyes in July. No harm in listening.)


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