To some, the Jose Reyes they once adored, the bubbly kid who romped around Flushing with the catch-me-if-you-can smile, forever disappeared last Halloween in that Maui hotel room. As soon as Reyes showed up in that mug shot, put there by allegations of domestic abuse, the beloved former Met was gone, dead to those who can’t look past the face of a horrific and sometimes fatal epidemic, with its victims too often suffering in silence.
Nothing can be said to change that. No words from Reyes, Sandy Alderson or Jeff Wilpon will lighten that shade of darkness. The evil of such behavior is not open to debate. But as far as Reyes and the Mets are concerned, there is another chapter to what in the past year has been a tragic story. And if his former team, his former home, wants to open the door for Reyes, then it’s worth listening to that side, too.
As cynical as we can be in this game, we witnessed the better part of Reyes, up close, during his nine years with the Mets and beyond — right up to that Halloween night, when he was arrested and charged with the alleged abuse of his wife, Katherine. Those charges later were dropped when she refused to cooperate with prosecutors, but Reyes still was suspended 52 games by Major League Baseball as a result.
The gregarious personality that won over Mets Nation long before that, however, was infectious enough to convince the team’s decision-makers that Reyes could be that person again.
Without Reyes’ special relationship with the Mets, Wilpon and Alderson never would have agreed to sign him to a minor-league contract Saturday to help rejuvenate his career and his reputation. If this had been a different player with ability identical to Reyes’, in the same situation, we’re convinced Alderson wouldn’t even have made the phone call.
But in this instance, this one time, the Mets felt it was worth taking the risk, knowing full well the public ramifications.
After Reyes was put on release waivers by the Rockies on Thursday, Alderson sat down with him to discuss a potential return to the Mets, dwelling on the domestic-abuse allegations, and how they would need to move forward from here. The foundation, however, already was in place.
“It wasn’t simply a one-hour, offhand conversation,” Alderson said Saturday during a conference call. “It was within the context of having known him, having been in the organization for so many years. The fact that I do believe that he is a good person at heart. A good person that made a huge mistake, and a good person who deserves a second chance with conditions. And that I think is what we’ve established.”
It’s a leap of faith on Alderson’s part, and that’s why this is bigger than merely getting a speedy utility player with switch-hitting leadoff ability at a ridiculously bargain rate. Reyes had to be vetted by his former team, just as the Yankees did with Aroldis Chapman, who was acquired from the Reds in a December trade. Chapman still was under investigation for domestic-abuse allegations at the time of the deal, and Brian Cashman had little more than a police report and his own phone inquiries to go on. Chapman ended up with a 30-game suspension, serving 29 games because of a rainout. Reyes was banned for 52.
Did the Mets have to sign Reyes? The short answer is no. But from a baseball perspective, the signing makes perfect sense, and Alderson confirmed Saturday that the Mets did in fact have interest as soon as Reyes was designated for assignment June 15 by the Rockies. Alderson thought the Mets were uniquely qualified to give Reyes a second chance and that returning home might be the best motivation to help him become a better person and player.
“Trying to put aside issues of performance and talent, which is sort of bottom line what this is all about, we have done everything we can to consider the other issues and make ourselves comfortable that Jose understands the mistake he made and has taken responsibility for it,” Alderson said.
“But at the same time, he doesn’t deserve to be ostracized. Other people will have a different point of view . . . where somebody makes a mistake and you can throw away the key. That’s not how we’ve chosen to address this.”
You may strongly object to the Mets’ signing of Reyes, and we’ll agree there is unimpeachable moral footing to support that argument. But there is another personal element to this, a redemptive side, to go with the baseball ingredient Alderson mentioned. Plenty will choose to take that view, too.
But words won’t sway those opinions. From this point forward, starting Sunday in Brooklyn, Reyes and the Mets together have the opportunity to do more right than wrong. With so much at stake, it desperately needs to be the former.